An excited crowd of nearly 6,000 visitors stood at the doors of the 54,000-square-foot Gilroy Library on Sixth Street on opening day, April 28, 2012. This month, the library is commemorating that memorable day with a 10-year anniversary celebration.
The events begin Sept. 23 with a Library Tips & Tricks presentation, a behind the scenes tour of the library, “Grab & Go” packets for the kids, and photo opportunities, complete with 10th anniversary props.
The fun continues Sept. 24, with a magic show presented by Germar the Magician. For all the history buffs, the Gilroy Historical Society presents an in-person visit with Kevin Akers, author of “The Dunnes of Brittas.”
In conjunction with the 10-year celebration, the library is also showcasing its newly refurbished patio.
“We’re excited that we will have a nice flow from the children’s programming right outside, and more room to set up craft tables,” said Sharon Kelly, supervising children’s librarian.
“We’ve added some shade structures to make sure that the space is more flexible and usable in our hotter months,” added Cassandra Wong, supervising librarian.
If not for the efforts of past library staff, and the community, there would be no cause for this 10-year celebration.
“Despite past extensive public discourse, three unsuccessful bids for competitive state library construction funds, and worries over the failing economy, the Gilroy City County voted to place a $37 million library bond measure on the ballot,” explained former supervising librarian Lani Yoshimura.
With a scant three months to campaign for the measure’s passage, the outlook was grim. But as Gilroy has done before, and will certainly do again, the community came together. The bond measure not only passed, but exceeded the two-thirds majority, garnering a 69.04 percent vote in favor of the bond.
“There were many extraordinary things about the campaign and the victory,” Yoshimura said. “It was a true miracle.”
Since 1910, when the first branch of the Gilroy library opened on Fifth Street, the dedication of every staff member to maintain the library’s mission of serving the community has never wavered.
“Our goal is to support holistically our entire community,” Wong said. “The staff do an amazing job at that.”
The statistics back up her statement. Over the past 10 years, close to 3 million visitors have passed through the library’s doors and nearly 50,000 library cards have been issued (the first 145 on opening day). More than 24,000 meals have been provided to children, 120 book sales and over 1,400 outreach events have taken place. When the pandemic hit, the library did not slow down, and provided 5,500 Covid-19 tests and masks to the community.
“It’s never a question of what needs to be done, it’s always a question of how we’re going to do it,” Wong said. “I’ve worked for the San Jose system, I’ve worked for the San Mateo system, and I’ve seen libraries with huge budgets, and I’ve seen libraries who must prioritize basic needs…this is the library that does it the best.”
And the patrons certainly appreciate their efforts, especially when it comes to the children.
“They tell us all the time how we’ve impacted their kids in literacy and education,” said Elizabeth Munoz-Rosas, services librarian II.
In addition to the countless programs and events offered by the library, this community staple is there for all those in need.
“They may need help with referrals, like a food program or some directive on housing, sometimes they don’t know where to go,” Munoz-Rosas said. “So, they turn to the library.”
For Wong, her focus is on every patron she encounters and how she is going to get them to feel empowered. Kelly B. Young, teen and adult services supervising librarian, added, “We put an effort into making it a place where people feel welcome and safe.”
When it comes to teen volunteers, the library has made a significant impact on their career choices.
“Many consider a career path in either education or librarianship or literacy, just from what they’ve seen here,” Young said.
“We have many of them who have graduated from college and come and tell us how working here has made such a difference,” Munoz-Rosas added.
Lucero Cortes Vitervo, 24, spent several years as a library volunteer and credits it as, “the place where I decided where I wanted to go college, and what I would study once I was there.”
“It’s the place where I submitted the job application for the job I have now, (software development associate),” Cortes Vitervo said. “And it’s the place I hope my sisters grow to cherish as much as I do.”
Palo Alto University Clinical Psychology student Josephine Sanchez began volunteering at the library in 2012 after attending the opening tour with her family.
“I am grateful for my family encouraging me to volunteer, and the library for having me as a volunteer, and then as an employee,” Sanchez said. “I have grown up with the librarians and library staff who have encouraged my educational journey and wished me the best in all my schoolwork.”
As for the future, Wong and her team continue to strive to ensure all people feel represented by utilizing Santa Clara County Library District’s strategic plan focusing on inclusivity, equity and diversity.
“The county’s providing staff so we can meet and recognize the needs in the community and build new programs and build on the strength of the programs we currently offer,” Munoz-Rosas said. “We’re just going to keep trying to do that.”
“Statistically speaking, our diversity statistics are changing, it’s very different and the library is primed to be that bridge for the families who’ve lived here for generations, to the people who are from places that traditionally haven’t had as much representation,” Wong said. “These are the new trends we must be receptive to, and the new community that is actively being built. And how do we serve those needs? Being part of that change and accepting and showing the community how to navigate that.”