Just before the New Year began, Barbara Maes took the helm as the new branch manager of the Rohnert Park-Cotati Regional Library. From tech advancements to the COVID crisis, libraries across the nation face new challenges to remain relevant. Barbara was kind enough to share her views on the future of the community library.
Community Voice: Let’s start with a little personal info. What's your background and how did you become interested in this field?
Barbara: I have a background in art museums and libraries. I am originally from Southern California and I have always had a love for both fields. I became interested in libraries when I did a school project on librarians, and I remembered all of the great memories I had of going to the library as a young child. I was a child that loved to read and did not have the means to buy all the books I wanted, so the library became a place I felt very comfortable. I got my B.A. in Museum Studies from California State Monterey Bay and my Masters in Library and Information Science from San Jose State. I have worked in all positions at the library, from someone that shelves the books, to the person that checks materials out to you, to the librarian and manager. I have worked at the Daly City Public Library as a Youth Services Manager, and I have worked at the San Francisco Public Library as a Branch Manager of the Visitacion Valley Branch. I love my job and what libraries (and library staff) mean to their communities.
Voice: What do you see as the role of libraries today? How have libraries evolved/changed with the times?
Barbara: The role of libraries is always evolving, and I think that is the beauty of the profession. Librarians and administrators are always looking for different ways to be present and useful in people’s everyday lives, so we are always challenging ourselves to figure out how to do that. Whether it is finding out ways to be more ADA accessible, creating sensory inclusive kits for children, offering free eBooks and eAudiobooks, giving out free museum passes, or having a Pride club for teens, the library strives to have something for everyone. The role of the library, in my opinion, is to provide lifelong learning for all that seek it. It is a way for anyone to come and connect with the rest of the world through film, internet, written word or human contact.
I will also say that the library building is often said to be the last bastion of democracy. We ask nothing of you to be in the building and everything is free to use. You do not need to buy a drink or talk to anyone to use the WiFi or a computer, and you can take home a book, wifi hotspot, or movie with just your library card (which is free). You can stay for as long as you like and get help from a friendly staff member if you need. Where else can you find this in the world today?
Voice: Specifically in Rohnert Park, what does the library do/provide to remain an active part of the community?
Barbara: That is a great question, and one that the library is really looking at coming out of pandemic limitations. Right now, the Rohnert Park-Cotati staff is looking at our service areas and reaching out to our contacts to reestablish what we can do with their organizations. Recently we took the BiblioBus to the Holiday Tree Lighting in Cotati, which was our first large outreach event since the library reopened. We are currently working on getting the BiblioBus on a regular route to Charles Street Village in Cotati, we will be attending a wellness event soon in Rohnert Park, and we recently collaborated with a professor from Sonoma State University to present a mental health program for teens. We are actively seeking meaningful partnerships within our communities, and getting back out into cities we serve to remind them of what the library has to offer.
Voice: What we can look forward to in 2022 at the local library?
Barbara: We just expanded library hours on January 3, 2022. We are now open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and Tuesdays-Wednesdays 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Our Friends of the Library will be having their first book sale since 2019 February 10-12, 2022, we have our popular Read to a Dog program back in person, and you will see staff and the new BiblioBus out at some events in Rohnert Park and Cotati soon!