Clark Chronicle

Books survive in a paperless community

Pasadena Central Library gets teens involved with a multimedia experience

The Peter Pan inspired fireplace provides a welcoming and cozy entrance to the Children's Wing.

The Peter Pan inspired fireplace provides a welcoming and cozy entrance to the Children's Wing.

Ioana Ciuperca

Ioana Ciuperca

The Peter Pan inspired fireplace provides a welcoming and cozy entrance to the Children's Wing.

Ioana Ciuperca, Staff Writer

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The Roman Numerals MCMXXV greet visitors as the steps to Pasadena Central Library reach toward the golden arches of the building. Walking through them transports you to a Renaissance-style courtyard, complementary to the wooden palace inside.

An architectural contest was held to determine the structure of the building, and in 1925, as represented by the Roman Numerals, a design was selected and construction began. Two years later, it became the impressive, four-story library that, along with the rest of the Civic Center, has won a place in the National Register of Historic Places.

Ioana Ciuperca

The Renaissance-inspired facade shows, in Roman Numerals, the year architects began its construction.

To many, this striking building has become a refuge for learning and silence. To me and the 75 other teen volunteers who dedicate their time there, it has become an outlet for giving back to the community.

As I walk through the aisles, the colorful spines of novels grazing my shoulders, my steps disrupt the revered silence, then are softened by the carpeted floor of the Children’s Wing. Aptly known as the “Peter Pan Room,” there is a magical quality to the Children’s Wing, as if you’ve left the library, headed towards the second star to the right, and made it to Neverland. This is all represented by the colossal fireplace, taller than most of the usual visitors of the wing, with carvings of Peter Pan characters on the mantel, as well as a pirate ship, presumably the Jolly Roger, on each side.

The rest of the room is not as immense, the tables and chairs fit for little kids, coming up to half the size of normal seating provisions. Towards the right of the room is an information desk, the miniature version of the ones in the Main Hall, and placed there is a blue binder: the volunteers’ holy grail. In it is a calendar of volunteer-oriented events, plenty of sign in sheets, and most importantly, the volunteer badges. Each time I step into the library, I don the blue badge around my neck, proclaiming me a teen volunteer, and I head to work.

Ioana Ciuperca

The library greets its visitors with reminders of upcoming events

“We had 72,934 people attend 3,100 library programs and events at 10 locations in 2017,” said Jane Gov, an employee at Pasadena Central Library for five years and head of the teen volunteers. Each month, she sends out an email on the many events hosted at the library, and the volunteers pick which events they would like to help with. For many, this monthly choice they have to make is easier than the choices they made in where to volunteer at. “I didn’t know where to start looking for volunteer locations,” said sophomore at Clark Magnet Alaina Joby. “I’ve always liked to read and write, and volunteering at the library gets me two hours for each book I read. Volunteering helps me to do what I love.”

My choice for the month of February was to volunteer at the monthly book sale hosted by the Friends of the Pasadena Public Library. The Friends program is a volunteer organization that raises money to support the library and the events held there. “We have members that donate yearly, a book sale the second Saturday of every month, and a book store,” said Mary Downey, Friends president for the past year and a half. During those book sales, the Friends cart in over 20 boxes full of used, donated books. They then have teen volunteers help with setup and cleanup.

Standing in the courtyard surrounded by cardboard boxes slowly being emptied by eager hands, I help to consolidate boxes that are gaining space for more books. I pull out books with pink tags on them, adding them to special boxes where they will be marked down to half of the already cheap price for next month.

Although the book sales are always a success at Central Library — an array of empty boxes strewn across the courtyard at the end of the day serve as proof — Downey can’t help but admit that the library has suffered over the years. “We know we are getting less books donated,” she said, “and I personally believe that Kindle has something to do with that.” The popularity of paperless reading has taken its toll on the library; however, Downey said that she  is optimistic that Central Library will not be replaced anytime soon. “There are other Friends groups at other libraries who only have book sales once or twice a year. We, on the other hand, have it once a month — that’s a big deal.”

The obtrusiveness of technology may seem like a thorn at the library’s side. On the contrary, it has actually helped the library evolve and reach a broader audience — namely, teens. Pasadena Library is the owner of a teens’ blog, created for and by teens, myself being one of them. The blog encourages teens to read, presenting them with a platform to share their opinions about books, read recaps on the events hosted, and receive recommendations on what to read next.

I volunteer as the copy editor for the blog. Every week I read through a book review and edit it for grammar or formatting errors. It’s my job to change the past tense words to present, italicize the book titles as well as make them bold, and add five spaces in front of paragraphs instead of hitting tab. This formatting is specific for WordPress, on which I add a new post, copy and paste the review in the text box, hyperlink the book to the library’s catalog, and present the reader with more recommendations for books reviewed similar to the current one. The review is then scheduled for Saturday 9 a.m., and the process is repeated the following week.

The teen blog is not only a space for teens to express themselves, it also presents them with a chance to connect with others in their community. Many times, an author will read a review written on their novel and contact the teen who wrote it, expressing their gratitude for the review. Other times, teens get to hear from other teens the events hosted at the library, and choose to participate next time an event is held. It encourages teens to get involved and be present in the community, virtually and in real life.

It is also acknowledged as a safe space for teens to be. “There is a big emphasis on mental health — which rises with each passing year,” Gov said. “Libraries are being recognized for their contributions to the community’s overall wellbeing.” This spans to the blog as well, which has posts on subjects such as emergency shelters, the Teen Line (which is a phone service connecting teens with other teens), and a workshop for Youth Mental First Aid.

The library itself has also undergone many changes in order to incorporate technology. “Just like any other place of service — especially a service dependent on city and community resources, we must stay relevant,” Gov said. “We recently replaced all our public access computers — newer, faster, larger models. We recently started offering youth and parents in the Children’s Room the service of borrowing Chromebooks. We are in the process of opening a new Innovation Lab giving our patrons access to new technologies like 3D printers and laser cutters as well as opening a new game room with access to video games and virtual reality. We even just launched a library app.”

The library is now an all-inclusive experience, making it easier for teens, and the rest of its patrons, to be informed and able to participate themselves, cementing the library’s popularity as it incorporates what would have been its competitor — the Internet. “Electronics is part of society, and we will grow and embrace it, but it does not change our purpose,” Gov said. “The library’s still an information center, giving our patrons access to resources and opportunities to engage — whether that’s with an innovative idea or with other people, to discover new things, and to bring equity to our community. The library space and all that happens inside and outside our library through outreaches all contribute to a more informed, enriched, and safe community.”

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Books survive in a paperless community