Ojai Valley Library Friends & Foundation, Inc. (OVLFF)
... a 501(c)(3) Corporation ...

 

In the News...

Click here to read an Ojai Valley News article about the surge in library usage.

Click here for an OVN article about SchooLinks, our after-school homework program.

Newsletter

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OVLFF Newsletter
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< from previous newsletters>
Friends Contemplate Adding a Meeting Room to the Ojai Library

By Jon Lambert


OVLFF is dedicated to building community support to advance, promote and ensure the public library's role as a vibrant center for lifelong learning and enrichment for Ojai Valley residents of all ages and backgrounds. On a per-capita basis the Ojai library is the most heavily used branch in the Ventura Library System. The library boasts over 17,000 library card holders and checks out over 130,000 items per year. Over thirty community and library-based programs and groups meet regularly in this facility of 5,200 square feet, initially built in 1928 and last expanded in1980.  Our library has truly become a nexus of Ojai’s cultural community. 

Yet the success of the library as a nexus has impacted on its more traditional role of a reading, learning and lending center due to the movement of people and the noise created by their interactions.  The facility is in need of a dedicated meeting space for these individuals and groups.

The Friends support our libraries both financially and through the encouragement of volunteer service.  We provide funds for book acquisition, support for specific programs and services (example: SchooLinks afterschool homework program, ESL), and capital improvements (example: Ojai Library’s Secret Garden).  Our funds are derived through voluntary donations (supporting members of the Friends), grants for specific activities and our used bookstore (Twice-Sold Tales). As an extension of our commitment to facilitating library use and to meet the need for an identified group meeting space the Friends has proposed the construction of a meeting room to be located on library property, connecting to the existing facility as a contiguous structure located on the rear (east) part of the macadam driveway currently between the library building and the Pacific West Bank.

The planned building would blend with the existing architectural style, would add approximately 650 square feet of meeting room space, and will conform to current ‘green’ building standards.  The new facility would be accessed, during library hours, through the library proper but could operate as a stand-alone venue accessible to the Ojai community after library hours. It is believed that the addition of such a space will enable the main body of our library to operate without the current ripples of disruptive noise and movement created by the numerous groups that now utilize the facility.

The Friends has submitted plans to the City Planning Commission for ‘preliminary review.’  This enables the commission to review and comment on the design. The OVLFF Board of Directors’ hope is to finance this building project from available funds.  If, after we place the project out for bid, we find the cost exceeds our reserve we will have to decide if we want to undertake a fund raising campaign to acquire the difference.  If you have an interest in the progress of this project and/or would like to view the current (under development) plans, contact Jon Lambert via the Board of Directors contact information in this newsletter.  We believe that the addition of a meeting room will enhance the library’s service to the community as well as providing a new community resource in downtown Ojai.

ED NOTE: THE BUILDING IS NOW OPEN (2017)
. THE MEETING ROOM IS ATTACHED TO THE TWICE-SOLD TALES USED BOOKSTORE ADJACENT TO THE OJAI LIBRARY. THE PROJECT WAS FULLY FINANCED BY OVLFF.
RESERVATIONS FOR USE OF THE ROOM CAN BE DONE AT THE FRONT DESK OF THE OJAI LIBRARY.

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SchooLinks Homework Centers - Our History

By Kit Willis, retired Ojai Library City Librarian

Did you know that Ojai Library’s homework center was one of the first of its kind in California?  The story of how this successful program came into existence is quite interesting, and involves the vision, fortitude, and hard work of a great many people in our community.

In 1995, local attorney Greg Herring formed the Ojai Valley Library Foundation with the goal of raising funds to augment library service in the Ojai Valley beyond what the limited public funding could provide. A foundation board was formed and several public meetings were held to determine priorities for future foundation programs and funding.  The greatest need, based on input from those public meetings, was for additional support for youth, especially in the after school hours.

Ojai Library staff gathered information from other California libraries about successful after school programs and learned about an innovative after school homework center offered at Oakland Public Library.  That program targeted students whose parents were not able to help them with their homework, either because they were working long hours, didn’t speak English, etc.  It utilized the existing library building, library staff, and library resources including reference books and computers, and required only one additional paid part time staff person who recruited, trained, and supervised teen and adult volunteer homework helpers.  The program was offered weekday afternoons on a drop-in basis to students from grades 1 through 12.

Based on this report, and with additional start-up information gleaned from Dr. Cynthia Mediavilla, a San Jose State University School of Library and Information professor, OVLF board members and Ojai Library staff enthusiastically began work to establish a homework center at Ojai Library for the 1996-1997 school year.  Board member Nita Whaley obtained a $20,000 grant to cover the program start-up costs of hiring a homework center supervisor, purchasing a state of the art computer and Internet connection, and funding other needed supplies and technical support.  Lisa Meeker, hired to start and run Ojai Library’s SchooLinks Homework Center, jumped into the new program with both feet, successfully taking the homework center through the many challenges of its first year of operation.

With Ojai Library’s homework center up and running, OVLF board members decided to expand the program to Meiners Oaks and Oak View Libraries in the 1997-1998 school year.  To that end, library staff obtained a “Library Services and Technology” grant of $40,000 from California State Library.  Lisa Meeker was promoted to the position of homework center coordinator and tasked with hiring three homework center supervisors, one for each homework center site.  She also did community outreach to promote the program and bring in volunteers, and served as a liaison between the libraries and schools.

In the absence of grant funding for the 1998-1999 school year, OVLF took over funding the Meiners Oaks and Oak View homework centers.  Ojai Library’s homework center and the homework center coordinator’s position were paid for out of a small reserve fund from Ojai Library’s special parcel tax. 

That year, OVLF started a satellite homework center at Topa Topa Elementary School with the help and support of the school staff and administration.   OVLF’s ultimate goal was to have a homework center at each public library and every Ojai Unified School District elementary school.  However, over the course of the school year it became apparent that the library-based homework center fit the needs of families and students in a way that the school-based homework center couldn’t.  Not bound by the many legal mandates affecting schools, libraries can offer homework help on a drop-in basis so students can get help on the days and at the times they need it without having to enroll and be bound by a set schedule.  Students also appreciate the change of scenery the library offers after a long day at school and the fact that the library homework center doesn’t do any skills assessment and thus isn’t perceived as “remedial.”  Based on these findings, OVLF revised their program goals and re-focused their energies on maintaining the three library-based homework centers.

In the 1999-2000 school year, with the three library-based centers running smoothly and no further plans for program expansion to the schools, the day-to-day supervision of the homework centers was turned over to the homework center supervisor at each site, with additional oversight, support, and promotion from each library’s manager and Ventura County Library support staff.  Around this time, OVLF merged with Ojai Valley Friends of the Library, forming Ojai Valley Library Friends and Foundation (OVLFF). The merger meant there would be ample funds, from membership dues and book sales, to support all three homework centers and to provide extras such as laptop computers and other supplies.  As part of the ongoing support, an OVLFF board member visits each site on a regular basis and submits reports to the board about the usage and needs of each center.

As SchooLinks heads into its 14th year of operation, OVLFF members certainly have good reason to be proud of this groundbreaking program that has been emulated by libraries throughout Ventura County and beyond.  Our Valley libraries were able to take a good idea and run with it, thanks to the concerted efforts of many, many good people in our community, and to OVLFF’s unflagging support.

ED NOTE: THE SCHOOLINKS PROGRAM CONTINUES TO BE AN EFFECTIVE TOOL IN SERVING THE YOUTH OF OUR OJAI COMMUNITIES. THE PROGRAM CONTINUES TO GROW IN NUMBER OF STUDENTS BEING SERVED AND IS FULLY FUNDED BY OVLFF.
 
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