Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Coalition (Wilmont NC)
We had interesting and informative guests for our meeting, Sue Himmelrich, City Council member, Stephanie Archer, Branch Manager of Wilmont’s own Montana Ave. Branch (17th & Montana) and Patty Wong, Director of Library Services for the City of Santa Monica, and President of the American Library Association for 2021 – 2022.v
Alissa Finerman brought up the need to revamp spacing on Montana to help retail businesses, especially restaurants, suggesting the possibility of developing parklettes as has been done on Main St. This need was seconded by Kara Taub, Director of The Ten Women Gallery. Himmelrich suggested contacting Anju Gupta, Deputy city Manager, and Greg Morena, who is actively involved in this issue.
The Black Agenda and Obama Challenge was discussed, as well as the Independent Investigation of the SMPD response to the events of May 31. HImmelrich hghly recommended attending the Committee for Racial Justice, which has been meeting on the 1st Sunday’s of the month, in VA Ave. Park.
Re: State of the SM Public Library in these Covid days: Wilmont Board member Alissa Finerman was the interviewer ad began with a Gallup poll that showed Americans visited libraries more frequently than musical events, museums, and other cultural activities. SMPL is beginning curbside pickup of book placed on hold (see: smpl.org/curbside) and the return bins are now open for the return of books taken out before the Covid lockdown happened in mid-March. Stephanie outlined many ways in which the library is remaining active in spite of the physical buildings being shut down: ebook demand has doubled since march of last year; movies and music are available through Overdrive/ Libby and Hoopla. Alissa asked how does the library add to the community and Stephanie replied that a new vision is emerging of the library branches as neighborhood services locations. The libraries are providing many services, including online career development, high school scholarships, homework help (once in person, now virtually) , ESL, job searching, workforce development. Stephanie spoke of young kids brought to story time, who have fallen in love with the library—and the librarians have had the pleasure of watching these kids as they are growing up. When asked about Covid protection measures, Stephanie responded that redesigns are in the works to give the libraries proper spacing and plastic shields. Returned books are quarantined for 72 hours. Elizabeth van Denburgh, Wilmont Chair, asked about the budget cuts, which had a huge impact on the libraries. Out of the 5 library branches, on 3 will resume with partial hours when it is safe to do so. Pages who normally would restack the books have all been eliminated, and volunteer re-staffers are welcome. When asked how we can support the libraries, one method would be to join the Friends of SMPL and of course, to donate funds. It’s also possible to attend Board of Library Trustee meetings. Wong explained the library is completely funded by the General Fund, and even though we go after grants, there is little flexibility in the source of income for the libraries, 85% of costs are paying for staff. Wong hopes for revisions of the Personnel code in the future, especially toward the need for specialization in the Youth Services Team.
Mayor Kevin McKeown was also in attendance, but wanted to remain more in his role as a resident of Wilmont.