Los Altos Library Reading Buddies

Posted on January 31, 2017 by  
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Carter’s preferred snack is freeze-dried liver, “Clifford the Big Red Dog” is his favorite book and eating is featured prominently on his list of daily activities. Torrey likes bananas, “Henry and Mudge” stories and dressing up. Desi’s jam is bacon, “Madeline Finn and the Library Dog” and napping in the sunshine.

As profiled on their respective promotional bookmarks, each four-legged Reading Buddies participant boasts a distinct personality. But it’s the canines’ ability to listen without interrupting that consistently attracts the program’s two-legged participants – struggling readers who gain confidence by reading aloud to therapy animals. Saturday marked the post-holiday return of the free monthly drop-in sessions at the Los Altos main library.

“It is a wonderful program because all the volunteers, they bring their dogs,” said Jean Nei, acting children’s library supervisor at the main branch. “The children, especially the young readers, love to come to the library to read to the dogs.”

Here’s how it works: Children are paired with a volunteer and read aloud to that volunteer’s trained therapy pet. No one corrects pronunciation or becomes impatient awaiting the completion of a sentence. Some pets even cock their heads as if following the storyline.

The program is a popular Los Altos Library offering, drawing approximately 10-15 readers each month, Nei said. Some of the young participants don’t own pets, and the opportunity to read to a friendly furry ear is a novelty.

Certified Animal Behaviorist Julie Bond co-founded Reading Buddies in 2009 with Patty Guthrie, past vice president of Furry Friends Pet Assisted Therapy Services. The San Jose-based organization dispatches volunteers and their pets to libraries, retirement homes and hospitals, as well as to high school and college campuses during exam times.

Furry Friends pays monthly visits to more than 60 facilities throughout Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, including Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, The Forum Senior Living Retirement Home and De Anza College. While dogs and cats are the most common therapy animals, rabbits, guinea pigs, miniature horses and even llamas have put in appearances as well. All human and animal volunteers are evaluated and trained.

Three of Bond’s own dogs – all collies – have participated in Reading Buddies; Desi, a 6-year-old male Rough Collie, is her latest program companion. His claim to fame is actually his roommate Ozzie, a direct descendant of Lassie from the classic television series, according to his bookmark.

The effects of Reading Buddies’ low-stress environment are evident during follow-up sessions and through reports from students’ schools, Bond said. “This increases their fluency, and it increases their confidence,” she said. “It helps them speak up in class.”

Volunteer Reading Buddies publicist Maddie Elkin, 14, learned about the program a few years ago when she assisted with ushering participants from the library lobby to their assigned dog or cat within the Orchard Room. Afterward, she listened as the children read.

Reading Buddies meets 2:30 p.m. the fourth Saturday of each month at the Los Altos main library, 13 S. San Antonio Road. For more information, visit furryfriends.org


Library Cards Unlock Expensive Perks

Posted on August 17, 2016 by  
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BookmobileLos Altos Library patrons bagged a new perk last week when the Santa Clara County Library District added Rosetta Stone access for all of its users.

The digital language learning tool costs individual users $189 if they want to take a course in languages ranging from Spanish to Swahili and Arabic. But the libraries have used their collective institutional buying power to make it available to cardholders for free.

That’s one of the benefits that go beyond books at the library system, which has expanded its research and cultural services to stream everything from live classical music performances to coding lessons.

The library system’s virtual library – accessed through the website at sccl.org – includes so many resources that it can be easy to miss items like the New York Times digital subscriber access ($195 per year) and free-to-patrons downloads of songs ranging from David Bowie’s classics to Adele’s latest album.

Students can log in and chat live with a free tutor across many subjects and grade levels using Brainfuse. Medici.tv livestreams concerts, operas and ballets from around the world and archives the performances on demand – right now, viewers can watch Agnes Letestu dancing Prokofiev’s “Cinderella” with the Corps de Ballet de l’Opera National de Paris.

The technology used to provide audiobook and e-book access has been sharply improving in recent years, as the library’s mobile app improves the process of logging in, checking out and handing off digital access to the apps that provide the content.

Finding all the services available to cardholders requires skimming through the “browse” and “research” sections of the library website. Lew highlighted a few resources worth picking out of the broad offerings:

• Freegal: Download MP3 files of everything from Sia to classical concertos. Limited to five tracks per week.

• Zinio: Download current digital editions of magazines ranging from The Economist to GQ and Newsweek. Children’s magazines include staples such as Highlights and Cricket.

• Safari: Access digital editions of science and engineering texts from “Hadoop: The Definitive Guide” to the “The Art of Game Design.” Safari includes the prolific O’Reilly series.

• Treehouse and Universal Class: Both sites offer online learning ranging from babysitting 101 to Adobe Photoshop and accounting. Online video courses at Treehouse feature interactive lessons in coding and web development.

• Newspapers: The library provides digital log-ins to newspapers including The New York Times and The Mercury News, as well as a database of international periodicals, with a particularly popular collection of 800 Chinese journals via Dragonsource.

To browse the collections and for more information, visit: sccl.org


County Libraries Are Free Again

Posted on November 9, 2014 by  
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Los Altos LibraryThe Santa Clara County Library District Joint Powers Authority (JPA) Board voted Thursday to eliminate the $80 annual library-card fee for users who do not live in the library district.

The vote was 8-3 in favor of the motion made by County Supervisor Joe Simitian, serving his second year on the JPA.

Until 2011, the state of California reimbursed public libraries for lending materials to residents of other library jurisdictions.

When the state announced plans to cut the $2.1 million the Santa Clara County Library District received to allow out-of-district residents to use its libraries, the JPA imposed an $80 annual fee for a library card for nonresidents to recover the loss.

With the JPA’s vote to eliminate the fee, effective July 1, residents of Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Los Gatos, San Jose and Santa Clara are able to use any library in the county at no charge for the first time since 2011.

“No other library system in the county charges nonresidents for a library card,” Simitian said. “So residents of the county library district could borrow freely in other communities, but the residents of those communities got slapped with an $80 fee when they showed up in our district and asked for reciprocity.”

Simitian initially requested that the library district review the fee during the county budget process earlier this year. It was, he said, one of the first issues he heard about when he started holding sidewalk office hours in his district.

Prior to the vote, to be eligible for a free Santa Clara County Library District card, users had to live or own property in the unincorporated area of Santa Clara County or in one of the following nine cities or towns: Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Cupertino, Campbell, Gilroy, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill or Saratoga. For more information, visit sccl.org.


To Be, Or Not To Be …

Posted on July 2, 2011 by  
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One of the defining social characteristics of any community, is the quality of its local library.  Generally, the library is the center of a community seeking, and sharing, knowledge.

In Los Altos, our libraries are a an example of excellence.  The circulation of materials is one of the highest in the State.  The local library system also has a strong support network in the “Friends of the Library.”  More importantly, whenever there is an election to strengthen the local libraries (financially, operationally, etc.), the measure passes with 80% of the vote.

Unfortunately, the local library system is anchored together with other communities who must also vote on the same county library measures.  Those communities have a much lower desire on improving the overall county library system, with less than 55% voting in favor of ballot measures in some communities … when 66.7% is needed to pass.

Recently, Diana Samuels (Daily News) wrote an article about a recent vote by the Los Altos City Council, regarding evaluating alternatives to the existing structure.  Below, is an slightly edited version.  Enjoy …

Los Altos and Los Altos Hills may split with the county to form their own library system in an effort to save money and gain more control over their book-lending institutions.

City councils in both cities recently voted to begin studying the ramifications of withdrawing from the Santa Clara County library system, which currently operates both the Los Altos Library and Woodland branch in Los Altos.

The North County Library Authority, the agency that manages a parcel tax that provides extra money for libraries in Los Altos, will fund and conduct the $120,000 study, Los Altos Hills Council Member Jean Mordo said.

Taxpayers in both cities provide about 22 percent of the property tax revenues that go into the county library system. But because of a complicated funding formula that takes into account population, property tax revenue and other factors, Mordo said, Los Altos libraries only get about 17 percent of those property taxes back. He calculates the shortfall at about $1.5 million, which goes to county libraries in South County cities such as Morgan Hill and Milpitas.

“I think it’s reasonable to let the county know that we’re concerned,” Los Altos Council Member David Casas said at a meeting Tuesday where the council voted 3-2 to support the study. “We’re subsidizing other communities, for services that our residents do not have access to.”

In addition, Mayor Ron Packard wrote in a report, Los Altos’ libraries are staffed by county employees who have “far more generous,” county-negotiated salaries and benefits, compared with city employees. The libraries could also save money with help from volunteers or part-time employees, but union contracts frequently prohibit them from working at the libraries, Packard said.

Mordo said he also disagrees with the county’s decision to begin charging an $80 annual library card fee today to patrons who live in cities outside the system. He called the fee “unneighborly”.

Whether Los Altos separates from the County Library system, is yet to be determined.  Having a clear articulated set options available to the decision makers is critical on determining the right course of action.  One thing is certain, if Los Altos does create its own system, it will be the envy of Silicon Valley.