The Altadena Library District election is Tuesday, November 5. There are three candidates vying for two seats on the Board of Trustees, and Altadenablog is presenting profiles of the candidates in their own words. Part I is candidate Steven S. Lamb. Part 2 will appear tomorrow, and Part 3 on Friday.
Find your polling place by going to lavote.net.
Years Altadena Resident: 46 years. I was born here, spent the first fourteen years of my life here and misspent a decade in Pasadena, and then moved back.
What are the challenges that the library district will face in the coming years?
The Library is at a major historical crossroads. Our beloved Boyd Georgi building, while one of the first designed to accommodate handicapped people in 1966, no longer meets the present minimum requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). It must either be remodeled or replaced. Remodeling it to meet the ADA will kick in energy, earthquake, and other governmental requirements, some that the present Altadena Library Board does not have on their radar. We don't really have a choice in this matter, if we keep the building. We may find replacement less expensive.
Beyond the building, the world is evolving. It's probable that in thirty years most books will not be stored on paper as physical objects. In the future, most books will be on some kind of electronic platform, perhaps one not even yet invented. The Altadena Library District should move its book focus to becoming a free Altadenan user service that grants unlimited access to the net, WiFi and teleconferencing for meetings. Some library districts in other states are doing this already. In this way ALL of Altadena's citizens, young, old, able-bodied and homebound, can actively participate in intellectual growth and community activities.
An area the Altadena Library District must develop a deeper focus on is going to be literacy. Our local schools are not doing such a great job, we have Latino and Asian adult immigrants who cannot fully participate without better reading and English language skills. At this point while we have the small Lucas Library devoted to this use, that program needs expansion.
I believe that we will probably need as a Library District to do more outreach. I am amazed as I meet people that they have no idea we have a Library District or that a major remodel is under consideration. The library will have to be a better communicator and community partner in the future, particularly because meeting the demands of the ADA will demand we raise millions of dollars.
What do you bring to the table to meet those challenges?
My entire life experience is in the Building Construction Industry as a professional and as a community volunteer in my "off" time. I have, through these years of experience, relationships with County officials and can go directly to them with questions about the library building projects (and indeed, already have and have identified issues the present Board is not looking at, or aware of.)
I spent a decade on the Altadena Library Board and I know how the pieces go together. I in the past advocated for targeted technology spending and for slowly raising the yearly levy in the Library tax and making it a ten year (rather than three year) tax, so the public would not grow tired of constantly being asked to have its taxes raised. In addition, while on the Altadena Library Board and since, I have studied current operations, building trends and future planning for libraries.
As an architectural historian and author, I regularly use university and special collection libraries and am aware of how those are evolving, and what we as a community can do to better serve our citizens. As one small example, the Avery Library at Colombia University digitizes and places on the Net all of its documents. Because the blueprints to my house were donated to Avery in the 1950's, I can sign on anywhere in the world and look at the original drawings and the letters between the client and architect. I don't have to go to New York City to look at them, or order expensive reproductions as I had to do even ten years ago. I believe collections in the future will be almost entirely electronic.
On the other hand, the social purposes of the library, while enhanced by teleconferencing, will be more important as touchstones of local community and personal gathering. Car clubs, mothers’ clubs, and dozens of meetings and programs will still be centered in libraries, I believe.
The Altadena Library is almost universally loved. The main library building was the last time that Altadena came together as a united community and together did something. The result is one of the best buildings of its generation in California. Our library, and all libraries, face a future that will be different from what we have known. Technology may make physical libraries relics of the past. As a community, we must have a serious conversation about what the future of our library system will be.
Will the library become a Altadena-wide free use Kindle/internet/WiFi provider? Will it house and preserve books as objects? Will it become a form of social service agency, a combination of these? The answers to those questions will require us to ask and answer: Should the District spend tens of millions on a building remodel, or on technology? Do the literacy program and its facilities need expansion?
My only opinion on these issues is that the District must in an honest, open, inclusive manner engage the Altadena Public in these decisions. The present Library Board attempts to keep its elections secret and actively discourages candidates from running; its chair acts as agent for some, making our Library a closed network.
The Altadena Library District needs people with skills in building construction and design, and I have those, but more importantly it needs people who are determined that Altadenans will be sought out and heard, that the light of day and openness will be the touchstones of the library. I have demonstrated in Altadena over decades of service, that I even invite to committees those who have opposite beliefs and agendas from myself. I don’t believe we can otherwise go forward together.
We have even more difficult decisions than the Altadenans of 1962-66 who put our present library together . We cannot exclude each other, either from elections or discussions, and move forward. I will work to keep the Library solvent, but more importantly I will work to bring us together, have all voices heard, and craft our future.