Lafayette Library to celebrate 10 years in current facility
By Lou Fancher
At the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, there is bliss that, though often derived through books, first and foremost comes from the Lafayette community, as evidenced in conversations with a half-dozen people whose energy has been primary to the library’s success.
Celebrating the library’s 10th anniversary with a public party Nov. 9 that includes hula dancing, cake, author appearances, rocket building (with launches) and more, the opportunity to reflect and project into the future is irresistible. Beth Needel, the LLLC Foundation’s executive director, says in an interview that the event is “a giant thank-you to the citizens of Lafayette. We may express it in different ways, but we all just adore the library.”
Senior Librarian Vickie Sciacca says, “It’s become a hub of Lafayette, Every day, all the corners of it are filled.”
The library has been filled even more since the successful capital campaign that funded the $42.5 million eco-friendly building of more than 30,000 square feet opened Nov. 14, 2009, on Mount Diablo Boulevard. Home to the library, but also the Glenn Seaborg Learning Consortium (a partnership of Bay Area arts, cultural and educational organizations), the opening drew 10,000 people.
With roughly 4 million visits in the last 10 years, the foundation and Friends of the LLLC perform major roles, supporting close to 50% of operations during the library’s 58 hours of the seven days a week that it’s open and about 10,000 programs that have been enjoyed by 380,000 people during the last decade. Former Friends of the LLLC President Mary McCosker’s early dreams were of adequate spaces to house the Lafayette Historical Society’s archives, a retail Friends of the LLLC bookstore and hosting small-to-large community gatherings.
With those goals met, she says, “It’s a living building that supports and nurtures the people of Lafayette and surrounding areas. It’s not just books or DVDs or newspapers; it’s the people who use it for a variety of purposes.”
McCosker says every day at the library is memorable, but when pressed, she recalls an unforgettably poignant moment. Commenting on a woman’s tower of DVDs at checkout, the woman said her husband had had a stroke. While in the hospital, he struggled to speak. Finally, she realized he was worried about a library book due the next day. The stroke a year later prevents him from reading as often. They watch movies together instead.
The library remains a valued, essential resource. Similarly, Needel cites the images of children, arms embracing stacks of books almost as tall as they are themselves as favorite scenes.
With children’s books available in seven different languages, updated teen and technology centers, hands-on activities — 3D printing, sushi-making, robotics and more — and adult programs and events often attended by roughly 150 people — Needel says, “People coming in and using the library in ways that are meaningful — that’s exciting.”
Ellen Reintjes has been Coordinator of the Friends of the LLLC’s Wonders of the World museum docent lecture program since 2012. When it started, she was happy to see 30 people show up. The audience grew.
“On a 100-degree day, I was especially pleased that over 100 people made the effort to come to the program. To me, this is a testament to the public’s commitment to taking advantage of lifelong learning opportunities that public libraries can provide.”
Sciacca agrees that being responsive to all demographics will mean the library remains relevant.
“It’s important to pay attention to the growing number of retirees,” Sciacca says. “That’s a demographic that’s hugely invested. Libraries in general should be mindful of serving them.”
Sciacca recalls as wonderful a 2018 appearance by Betty Reid Soskin, a writer, civil rights activist and the oldest ranger in the National Park Service.
“Her life has evolved, she’s given back to her community. And what she’s done for women and people of color? The attention she’s brought to national parks? Her availability in the moment to share her life inspired so many different kinds of people,” Sciacca said.
Karen Mulvaney’s 15-year involvement includes serving as a founding and current board member and past board president. She and her family are major donors and believe a community’s strength, vibrancy and health are found in cornerstone places that serve the public.
“Even though originally it was a big, nearly inconceivable idea — too big, some thought — the LLLC continues to exceed everyone’s wildest dreams,” she said.
Mulvaney says the library facility upholds Lafayette community values through enriching, educational experiences, free and accessible resources and information available to everyone. Of course big dreamers like these don’t slam the breaks on imagination once the last brick is laid.
Robin Holt, on the library’s Communication Committee since 2005, holds fast to her fondest memory: “Locking the doors on the old library one last time on October 17, 2009, and (then later) marching behind a jazz band to the new library, culminating in the grand opening.”
Collectively, they speculate on more free and rental meeting spaces; increased interactive and indoor-outdoor activities; more volunteers; funding support, collaboration with community partners; and a “human being” library that would “lend” people with specific skills and knowledge to people seeking expertise in particular fields.
And literature? They say thrilling echoes of appearances by writers like Joyce Carol Oates, Cheryl Strayed, Louis Zamperini and others will be forever savored. But Needel brings it all home: “When I think about the library, it’s people, not books, who are first to come to mind. Watching the parade of people; there’s total oneness with the space.”