Just before the start of the new year, Barbara Maes took over as the new branch manager of the Rohnert Park-Cotati Regional Library. From technological advances to the COVID crisis, libraries across the country are facing new challenges to stay relevant. Barbara was kind enough to share her perspective on the future of the community library.
Voice of the community: Let’s start with a little personal info. What is your background and how did you get interested in this field?
Barbaric : I have a background in art museums and libraries. I’m originally from Southern California and have always had a love for both areas. I became interested in libraries when I did a school project on librarians, and I recalled all the fond memories I had of going to the library when I was young. I was a child who loved to read and couldn’t afford to buy all the books I wanted, so the library became a place where I felt very comfortable. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Museum Studies from California State, Monterey Bay and my Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from San Jose State. I’ve held every position in the library, from someone who puts the books away, to the person who checks the documents for you, to the librarian and manager. I worked at the Daly City Public Library as a youth services manager, and I 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 think is the role of libraries today? How have libraries evolved/changed over time?
Barbaric : The role of libraries is constantly changing, and I think that’s the beauty of the profession. Librarians and administrators are always looking for different ways to be present and helpful in people’s daily lives, so we always challenge ourselves to figure out how to do that. Whether it’s finding ways to be more ADA accessible, creating inclusive sensory kits for kids, offering free e-books and audiobooks, giving away free passes to museums or having a Pride club for teens, the library strives to have something for everyone. The role of the library, in my view, is to provide lifelong learning to all who seek it. It’s a way for everyone to come and connect with the rest of the world through cinema, the Internet, writing or human contact.
I will also say that it is often said that the library building is the last bastion of democracy. We don’t require you to be in the building and everything is free to use. You don’t need to buy a drink or talk to anyone to use Wi-Fi or a computer, and you can take home a book, Wi-Fi hotspot, or movie with just your library card (which is free). You can stay as long as you want and get help from a friendly staff member if you need it. Where else can you find that in the world today?
Voice: Specifically in Rohnert Park, what does the library do/provide to remain an active part of the community?
Barbaric : That’s a great question, and the library is seriously considering stepping outside the confines of the pandemic. At this time, Rohnert Park-Cotati staff are reviewing our service areas and reaching out to our contacts to re-establish what we can do with their organizations. Recently we took the BiblioBus to Holiday Tree Lighting in Cotati, which was our first big outreach event since the library reopened. We are currently working on putting the BiblioBus on a regular route to Charles Street Village in Cotati, we will soon be attending a wellness event in Rohnert Park, and we recently collaborated with a professor from Sonoma State University to present a mental health program for teenagers . We actively seek out meaningful partnerships within our communities and return to the cities we serve to remind them of what the library has to offer.
Voice: What can we expect in 2022 at the municipal library?
Barbaric : We just extended the library hours on January 3, 2022. We are now open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and Tuesdays and Wednesdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Our friends at the library will be holding their first book sale since 2019 From February 10-12, 2022 we have our popular in-person Read to a Dog program back, and you’ll soon see the staff and the new BiblioBus at select events in Rohnert Park and Cotati!