Remember 2003? That was when Arnold Schwarzenegger was first elected Governor of California, the fifth Harry Potter book "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" was released and President Bush took us to war in Iraq.
That year, the City of Fremont stopped funding Sunday hours for the Fremont Main Library.
Take a few minutes to consider this data:
Open on Sundays?
Fremont (all Libraries)1
1 – Fremont Main, Centerville, Niles, Irvington
2 – San Lorenzo is also included in Union City data
And now chew on these factoids - Fremont Main Library’s position in Alameda County is as follows:
- Largest library in terms of square footage
- Largest # of resident borrowers (38% of total county)
- Highest number of children and teen library cards (more than 2x the second ranked library in this category)
- Highest # of library visits
- Highest activity in the Reference section
- Highest program attendance
- Largest collection
- Largest DVD collection
- Largest collection in most # of languages (14)
- Highest gate count per open hour (295)
- Third highest residence usage (89.1%, behind Irvington and Centerville, both Fremont libraries)
(Source: Alameda County Library 2011 – 2012 Annual Statistic)
What this tells us is that the Fremont Main Library, with the most resources and the greatest need, is one of the FEW libraries in all of Alameda County that is closed on Sundays. Does that make sense to you?
It is also useful to consider the additional value that the Fremont Main Library specifically provides to our community (besides access the collection of books, DVDs, magazines, etc.).
Providing Computer and Internet Access
At the Fremont Main Library, there are over 40 stations for adults and 17 in the children’s area, where users can use computers and popular applications. These are very popular and heavily used. People can browse the Internet on some of these computers or on their own devices using the library’s free Wi-Fi access.
Assisting Job Seekers
Our libraries are helping level the playing field for job seekers. In addition to free public access to computers and the Internet, libraries support job seekers with specialized databases and software, along with library programming which covers job seeking strategies and resources, internet training, and much more. Databases supplied at the Fremont Main Library (which can be used at home, or on one of the library’s computers) include:
- Career Cruising: close to 500 career profiles, each containing two multimedia interviews, an interest assessment tool with a skills assessment, and a personal portfolio tool with a built-in resume builder
- Job Scout: teaches internet skills needed for job seekers
- Brainfuse: links you with a live tutor to get help writing a resume
- Learning Express Library includes study guides for many employment tests
- Universal Class has hundreds of classes to take from accounting to waiter and waitress training
- Links to job listings that visitors can apply for
Fremont Main provides programming that assistance to those applying for or accessing e-government services, unemployment benefits and Medicare enrollment. During tax season, the library is a site for the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program, which offers free tax form completion for eligible visitors. There is also a ”Lawyers in the Library” program, where people can sign up for a 15 minute free consultation with a lawyer who can offer advice and guidance.
The Library is a community gathering place for Fremont. Restoring Sunday hours will also make the Library meeting rooms available to community groups for an additional 52 days a year.
Children's materials circulate over 1 million items each year at the Fremont Main Library. By motivating children to read, librarians create lifelong readers, and that makes for better citizens, and that makes for a healthier democracy. Without reading, everything in life is harder. Low literacy is linked to poverty, crime, dependence on government assistance, and poor health. And research has shown that parents who struggle with reading pass this legacy on to their children. Additionally, there is a strong need for homework support for Fremont students on Sunday which the Library provides.
Many living in Fremont have work and family obligations that make it difficult for them to come to the library on any day other than Sunday, thus depriving them of the information during weekdays. When it was open on Sundays pre-2003, the library used average 2,000 people visitors with an average number of 3,000 items being checked out. I think that is impactful.
How is Fremont Library funded?
The County Library is funded primarily by local property taxes, with additional revenue from State grants and contracts with cities for additional open hours and services. The City of Fremont stopped funding the libraries in 2003. It is time to restore that in the next fiscal year budget and join our neighboring cities like Dublin, Castro Valley and Union City in demonstrating our commitment to the readers and families in Fremont. The cost of restoring the Sunday hours is about $250,000 this coming fiscal year and breaks down to an annual cost of $1.16 per resident.
We live in a knowledge-based economy, which is powered by reading and access to the Internet. Let’s make these vital resources available on Sundays too. We ask you to join in supporting the efforts to re-open the Fremont Main Library on Sundays. You can do so by signing this petition: http://tinyurl.com/FremontLibrarySunday or visiting our Facebook page at (and “Liking” us) at https://www.facebook.com/RestoreSundayHoursForFremontMainLibrary
As we work through the budget process in 2013, please add your voice by writing a “letter to the editor”, expressing your support to the Fremont City Council, the Mayor, your local representative or attending a City Council meeting.
--Joe Samagond, Member, Fremont Library Advisory Commission
Dr. Ruchi Sahota and Robert Monkman of the Fremont Library Advisory Commission contributed to this article