The Stockton-San Joaquin Public Library system has been much in the news this week following the recent resignation of head librarian Chris Freeman. Today, Freeman sent the following email in which he outlined accomplishments that occurred during his four-year tenure in Stockton:
“What with all the negative press I’m receiving for having resigned from my position (something people do everyday), I thought I’d drop you a line regarding some of the positive changes that took place at SSJCPL during my four year tenure there. Mind you, I’m not taking full credit for all of these achievements; most projects require a team of staff. However, I was doing my job as the leader of the Library in identifying areas where we could improve and then determining how we could bring those improvements to fruition. What follows is a summary of the improvements made to the Library of which I’m most proud.
“Over the past four years, open hours to the public have increased in five SSJCPL branches during a period of time when the Library budget was the lowest it had been for over a decade. Two of those branches, Angelou and Weston Ranch, actually added three days and two days of service respectively. That’s right, when I arrived in 2010, the Weston Ranch library was only open two days a week and Angelou three. Now they both offer five days of service to the public. Furthermore, every branch in the system now offers evening hours. When I arrived, not a single location, including the Chavez Central Library, was open later than 6 pm. And weekend hours? There weren’t many. Now every San Joaquin County branch is open at least one weekend day (some are open both) and, in the City of Stockton branches, schedules are staggered between the four libraries so that there is six day a week service across the City. Lastly, in 2010, when the worst of the budget cuts required the closure of the Fair Oaks Library, I was able to move the bulk of that collection into a reading room in the nearby Stribley Community Center so as to not completely deprive that part of town of library service.
“Another accomplishment of which I’m proud is having raised the professionalism of the staff throughout the library system. In 2010, the Lathrop and Mountain House libraries were both staffed purely by part-time, not-degreed employees. Today, every library in the system has at least one master’s degree-educated librarian, insuring the quality of service and management expertise that library users expect.
“The Library has increased its rate of overdue fine collection as a result of the deployment of credit/debit card payment capacity (something the Library did not offer prior to 2010) and as a result of some changes to overly lenient policy that allowed customers to carry balances for extended periods of time.
“The Library has also made improvements to the collections it offers the community. Today, library users can download digital eBooks and audiobooks from the SSJCPL website 24 hours a day from anywhere. The Library also recently began lending eReaders pre-loaded with as many as 15 titles in a variety of genres from which the reader can choose. A relatively small portion of the collection budget was used to join a two-state lending cooperative comprised of 55 public and academic libraries from which library users can borrow freely. This cooperative, because of its size and diversity, offers SSJCPL users access to over 11 million unique titles to complement the much smaller SSJCPL collection.
“At the time of my hire, San Joaquin County government was very interested in severing its agreement with the City of Stockton that allowed the City to manage County libraries. The County felt that there had been very little transparency from the City for several years. I played a large role in improving the relationship with the County, negotiating a new contract for the provision of library services, and creating transparency through the provision of financial and statistical data that the County had not received prior.
“Lastly, I, along with a team of Library staff, developed a new strategic plan for the Library that we completed earlier this month.”