Learning and Exploration
The Vista Library opened in 1915 with a collection of only 50 books. Since then, it has grown into one of the busiest libraries in the San Diego County Library System, with a circulation surpassing the one million mark for the last two years. A century after its humble beginnings, it now provides the Vista community with a place to gather with friends, sit down with a good book, enjoy a variety of entertaining and educational programs, or even receive helpful services such as health screenings or homework assistance. Principal Librarian Cecilia Rincón tells us more about how the library has evolved over the years and how its staff strives to help Vista learn and grow.
Q&A with Principal Librarian Cecilia Rincón
Which specific areas does the library serve?
Although we primarily serve Vista residents, our customers include folks from Carlsbad and Escondido and commuters from other areas of San Diego County. Vista Library is part of the San Diego County Library system which consists of 33 branches, two bookmobiles, and two 24/7 self-service kiosks. Through our floating collection we serve San Diego County’s diverse communities.
What is your current role at the library? What do you enjoy most about your job?
I am the principal librarian for the North Region libraries, which includes overseeing San Marcos, Fallbrook, Valley Center, and the operation of the Vista Library. I am in a position where I can really impact our community with the services we provide. I enjoy the ability to plan, develop, and implement a vision for the community which revolves around our mission statement of “Inform, Educate, Inspire, and Entertain.” I have a great team of librarians and library technicians who make this vision of service a reality.
Branch Manager Profile
Name: Cecilia Rincón
Education: Masters in Library Science, University of Arizona
Bachelors of Arts & Sciences in Public Administration, San Diego State University
Hobbies: Travel, reading, meditation, photography, sewing
Favorite Spots in Vista: Meditation center, Main Street restaurants, library!
Tell us more about the history of the Vista Library. How has it changed or evolved over time?
Vista Library turned 100 years old this past September and we had a great celebration. It has grown from a collection of 50 books after opening in 1915 to reaching the one million in circulation landmark for the past two years, which is a huge success by library standards. In itself, the role of the library has evolved into being a community center for education, knowledge, and learning where people feel safe to gather, read, or enjoy a free program. Libraries provide more than books. We provide access to learning and exploration. Over the last two decades the growing influence of technology has made it easier to find information, but we are still that arena where people come use technology for free. It is our central role to provide open and free access to information and ideas.
“…The library has evolved into being a community center for education, knowledge, and learning where people feel safe to gather, read, or enjoy a free program.”
What sets the Vista Library apart from other San Diego public libraries?
Vista Library is one of the busiest libraries in the entire San Diego County Library System. On our busy days we can see up to 10 different programs, including storytime, chair yoga, conversation café, and piano concerts. We are open seven days a week, and four nights a week we close at 8 p.m. Vista Library is one of two regional research libraries for San Diego County libraries where we provide in-depth research for our customers and to any customer in our 33 branches who require assistance or research material.
Please tell us about the types of programs and services you offer. Are there any specific programs or classes for children, teens, or adults?
We have a team of librarians who focus on programs and services across the board. We offer programs for seniors, veterans, adults with disabilities, children, teens, and adults on a regular basis, and at least twice a year we have huge community events in our parking lot. Our goal for the New Year is to offer more fun programs for seniors like line dancing and bingo in addition to the fitness, health, and senior tech workshops we already offer. In 2014 we made a connection with Employment and Community Options, a nonprofit organization that educates and empowers low-income adults with intellectual disabilities with the skills and knowledge necessary to achieve their personal goals. We provide them with materials so they can express themselves through simple art projects. In 2016 we will expand our science programs for kids in support of STEM. Currently we have our Hour of Code and Silly Science Series. We believe in inspiring children by giving opportunities to learn and grow outside of their school and homes. Please visit our calendar of events online at www.sdcl.org or follow us on our Facebook page for more information.
Does the library offer any services that the community would greatly benefit from but might not be aware of?
In addition to our own library programs, we partner with local health organizations who offer health screenings for cholesterol, depression, dental concerns, high blood pressure, and more. Through other partnerships we offer free car seats for infants and in the summer we offer free lunches to all children ages one through 18 through Feeding America. Last year we provided over 6,000 meals in eight weeks.
Can you describe some technological advancement the library has gone through?
In the past eight years we have added radio frequency identification (RFID) express checkout to our library system allowing for a quick return of material to our shelves. Our automatic sorters have taken away many hours of physical labor in sorting material, allowing staff more time to interact with customers. In the last two years, San Diego County Library has established two 24/7 Library To Go self-service kiosks which are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week in our Bonsall location and County Operation Center in Kearny Mesa.
How is the library funded?
San Diego County libraries are funded with property tax revenue. Funding also comes from donations from the Friends of the Vista Library and community organizations. Donations from the Friends are used for funding library materials, programs, events, and activities for our customers. Other funding comes from customer donations or grants either to the library directly or to the Friends of the Vista Library.
“Libraries provide more than books. We provide access to learning and exploration.”
Please tell us about your staff and what they bring to the library.
I have a team of eight librarians, one library associate, 10 library technicians, and about the same number of adult volunteers and service learners. Our Assistant Branch Manager Theresa Alvarado has over 30 years of service with county library and has an extensive background in customer service, training, and library policy. Orquidia is our children services librarian extraordinaire who plans events and programs with great success for children and families from storytime to science fairs, summer meals, and homework assistance. Adult Service Librarian Kris developed many programs for the underserved such as our veterans and senior communities. Kris handles the day operations in my absence and is fluent in Spanish. Adult Services Librarian Jennifer handles many administrative duties such as writing grants, reports, training, and facilitating programs in addition to library operation.
JP is our teen services librarian who also has a passion for serving adults with disabilities. His sensitivity has bridged our services to adults who enjoy activities in a safe environment, and his attention to detail has made him the guru for our busy desk schedule. Daniel handles the innovative activities that attract tweens and teens. He is our collection development expert who makes sure our library maintains a clean and up-to-date collection. Daniel also manages our in-house library budget, which comes from the donations of the Friends of the Vista Library. JP, Kris, and Daniel have created our Tech Drop-In program where they provide one-to-one assistance to customers who bring in their electronic device.
Laurel is our talented children services librarian who will start working with our senior communities as that community grows in need and interest in our services. Laura is our high-energy librarian who has coordinated high-profile events and handles our special events and community outreach. Carmen is our newest librarian who will be handling adult services and has fit right into our team of creative librarians. Hector is our adult literacy specialist dedicated to working with adult learners to improve their reading and writing skills. He works with all 33 library branches to provide this service. Libby has great patience, provides excellent service, and coordinates all the purchases for items and supplies. Dick is very reliable with both attendance and performance. He is the first to lend a hand with heavy lifting, is not timid when using his Spanish speaking skills, and assists customers with great charisma.
Judi S. works directly with our adult volunteers and handles training and assigning them duties. Judy P. is known for her quick shelving abilities and her patience in looking for missing items. Angela is a young, talented spirit who does everything from popsicle storytime to assisting with outreach events and programs. She is excellent with children. April is our in-house artist, and along with her technical duties she teaches teens how to draw. Chris is our newest library technician and comes with excellent supervisory as well as customer service skills. Lucy provides excellent customer service and has a style for design and decoration.
What does the library’s collection consist of?
The San Diego County Library collection is 1.5 million with access to 42 million items through our Link + union catalog of contributing holdings from participating libraries. Popular material that we merchandise is our primary focus and it includes books, DVDs, eBooks, audiobooks, and magazines.
Is the library in need of volunteers?
The library is always looking for volunteers in a variety of capacities. Volunteers are invaluable to our library. Without them, staff would not have the time to work closely with customers. Our volunteers help with the day-to-day operation of the backroom functions of the library. That includes shelving, looking for material requested by customers, prepping notices for book requests, and assisting with programs, as well as providing homework help for kids in elementary school, teaching ESL and citizenship classes, one-to-one literacy tutoring, computer lab assistance, and much more. We try to match our volunteers’ interests with our needs. Some volunteers have been constant for decades and simply enjoy being in the library, giving back to the community. We also have a large number of student volunteers, or service learners, throughout the year and especially during the summer. Although we have a variety of assignments for them, we are pleased when matching our service learners as tutors for homework help. Not only are they giving back to their community, they get to help fellow students. Please call the library and ask for volunteer opportunities.
How does the library stay connected to the community?
We have a wide network of community partners through coalitions who we keep informed of our upcoming events. We attend many fairs and community events and are present in the community as much as possible. We also work with the Vista Chamber of Commerce and Vista Unified School District where they upload our flyer through Peach Jar. We also do in-house advertisement through flyers and word of mouth to customers who visit the library. Our Facebook page has gained popularity since we reached a million circulations and customers follow our events there.
“We believe in inspiring children by giving opportunities to learn and grow outside of their school and homes.”
If you could grant the library one wish, what would it be?
I think the common goal of librarians is the desire that all their constituents have a library card and enjoy the benefits of using the library. My wish is to see children get the homework help they need; adults enjoy a free concert; teens come to the library afterschool on Multi-player Friday and play Xbox or PS4; a new immigrant come to learn to speak English; an adult come to get instruction on how to pass the driver’s test; a person with disabilities feel safe to make an art project. These are just examples of the things we do every day.
What is the most rewarding part about working at the Vista Library?
It is a great community. For two consecutive years, our library patrons made the Vista Library the number one circulating library in the county by surpassing one million checkouts. This clearly indicates that customers love their library and appreciate the services we provide. Each month we get approximately 25,000 customers walking through our doors, with summer months reaching 40,000 people. We also have a supportive group of Friends who work tirelessly in the used book store who provide funds for us throughout the year. The Vista Library staff is great and you can see that they care about the community and their profession. It is easy to work in a place where you are supported by the community, stakeholders, and employees. I love my job.
If you had to describe the library in five words, what would you say?
Thriving, evolving, accessible, learning, resources.