Library marks its own page in history

Madelyn Finucane, 2, chooses the perfect book to look at in the children's area on the first floor of the new library Saturday.

Late prolific author Ray Bradbury, whose many books are featured on the shelves at the Gilroy Library, never went to college because he couldn’t afford it.
Instead, he spent three days a week at a public library for 10 years.
“I discovered me in the library…the library fueled all of my curiosities, from dinosaurs to ancient Egypt,” Bradbury once said. “Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.”
Bradbury, a huge proponent of the American public library system, died about a year ago. But if he had ventured into the sparkling $34 million Gilroy Library on a recent Tuesday afternoon one year after its grand opening, he would have been pleased to witness a building bustling with life.  
On the first floor of the 54,000-square-foot, two story building, a woman nursed her newborn baby on a padded chair as her two older sons explored the ample aisles of children’s books. A middle-aged man helped his daughter with her math homework at a table under a patch of afternoon sunlight peaking through the building’s tinted windows.
A woman checked out a stack of gardening books by scanning her convenient key chain library card into a self-checkout kiosk.
In the one year after the long-awaited, brand new Gilroy Library opened to the community April 28, 2012, approximately 600,000 items have been borrowed, 245,000 people have used the Internet, 5,500 people applied for library cards and 21,000 patrons participated in 870 library programs including story times, cooking classes, computer classes, book clubs, language tutoring and more, said Head Librarian Lani Yoshimura.
“This has truly become a place for the community,” Yoshimura beamed from her office.
It was a proud and historic occasion when the stunning new library opened, welcoming more than 6,000 patrons in one day.
“Gilroy takes the title in the central coast for the nicest library,” Assemblyman Luis Alejo said to a cheering crowd that April morning.
Approval for the building was passed by a bond measure in 2008 by a 70 percent margin – despite receiving no state funding. In the three-and-a-half years after that vote, locals waited anxiously as the City got to work demolishing the old library – built in 1975 in the same location – and began to build the new mecca for literature and learning.
The finished product is a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly building that could swallow the old building four times.
“We love it here, so we come about twice a week,” said Shauna Chen, 38, who read “A Chair for my Mother,” an illustrated children’s book about a family that saves up to buy a comfortable chair after a house fire destroys all their worldly possessions, to her two squirmy 4-year-old twin boys, Joshua and Caleb.
“We come straight here,” Joshua declared proudly, referring to the expansive children’s book area.
Another blonde boy, 8-year-old Ethan Dunckel, was lounging on his belly on one of the many cushioned benches in the children’s section, immersed in a graphic novel featuring Lego characters. The Luigi Aprea Elementary student said he loves the library too, for all the books he can find there.
“I know these are not real literature, but they help me read,” he said, gesturing to his book.
“And they can be funny sometimes,” he continued, pointing to the page. “See?”
A woman named Bonnie Baker, a professional tutor, played Bingo with two brothers from Antonio Del Buono Elementary School, 9-year-old Miguel Pineda and 7-year-old Gustavo Pineda, as a mental warm-up before helping the boys with their math and reading homework.
“This is a good, public location to meet,” Baker said. “Their school closes at 4:30 p.m. and we work together until 6 p.m., so we’re glad we have this space.”
Upstairs, all but five of the 30 public computers were occupied by an older crowd. A group of teens slogged through homework together in the teen study room, while a line formed at the reference desk nearby.
“We’re busier than ever,” said Kelly Young, adult reference librarian, between helping patrons.
Young has worked at the Gilroy library for more than seven years, and has seen it move from its old location on Sixth Street to its interim location on Monterey Street on the north end of downtown when library construction began, and then finally to the beautiful new building where she works now.
“We have room to grow here,” she said. “Some people point to our empty shelves, but I think that’s great. At our old building, we constantly had to get rid of old items when we got new ones. We don’t have to do that anymore.”
Even with ordering multiple copies of bestsellers, there are still some books Young said she just can’t keep on the shelves. These are the wildly popular “Hunger Games” trilogy and the popular – and controversial – “Shades of Grey” sensual novels for adult women.
Young and Yoshimura say the kinks they faced in the first few months of opening – namely, the problem reported by the Dispatch last June of raucous teens vandalizing property and being loud and foul – have settled down for the most part.
“We started handing out these,” Young said, indicating to a flyer that lists the rules of the library (no skateboards allowed inside, no running, etc.) and the consequences when someone does not follow the rules (expulsion, police involvement).
Nowadays, Young said she’ll occasionally refer to the flyer, but that overall, teen behavior has immensely improved.
Now that she’s not constantly policing teens, Young has been freed up to help patrons find what they are looking for.
“I love getting to know what people like, so I can start recommending things I think they’d like,” she said.
Yoshimura, meanwhile, continues to look ahead to the future of the Gilroy Library. She’s looking at expanding the facility’s digital collection, grow the English language programs and computer training classes already offered, and is excited for the kickoff of the annual Summer Reading Program.
“It’s been a wonderful year,” she said. “And we’re constantly moving forward to new and better ways to serve people.”