Saratoga library offers more than just books

February 14, 2019 — by Anna Novoselov and Emilie Zhou

The Saratoga Library has served as a focal point for the community since the first version of it was established in 1914.

It is a place where people of all ages and backgrounds come together to study, collaborate and immerse themselves in knowledge. Remodeling completed in 2003 helped expand the building and establish some of the defining features of the library.

However, the library also hosts a variety of events, including club meetings, presentations and discussion sessions, to facilitate strong relationships among community members and help residents explore their passions, engage in learning and connect with their others.

For example, the library offers a number of events designed to help teens develop a wide array of skills and strong ties with their community. Library board members present ideas to the Teen Advisory Board, who then work with the staff to organize events to benefit Saratoga teens.

“The staff develops and presents programs that provide information, learning, and entertainment,” teen librarian Birgit Spring said. “For example, programming is an integral component of library service that expands the library’s role as a community resource.”

Some of the teen events include the Teen Coffeehouse, free ACT/SAT practice tests and the CoderDojo club.

The Teen Coffeehouse is a bi-yearly event organized by the library and Teen Advisory Board and allows students to showcase their talents, whether it be singing, dancing, playing an instrument, performing comedic pieces, reading poetry or presenting artwork. It is held after school on a Friday and approximately 50 teens attend in total.

“Teens can show their talents in a friendly atmosphere among their peers while enjoying good food,” Spring said. “This event helps to showcase the artistic talents of Saratoga teens and gives teens an opportunity to perform.”

Nabeha Barkatullah, the co-president of the Teen Advisory Board, said the Teen Coffeehouse allows students to express themselves and exhibit talents that they wouldn’t usually get to share.

“It’s a fun way that students can come together, watch performances, relax, and socialize,” she said.

Junior Sharon Bal, teen library board media representative, praised the Coffeehouse events.

“It’s a good way for students to step out of their comfort zone,” she said. “Coffeehouse is a good place to get rid of that stage fright you might get when you’re showcasing your talents.”

On the academic side, the CoderDojo Club is a monthly event dedicated to helping teens improve their coding skills with the guidance of adult mentors. The library partners with CoderDojo Silicon Valley to host a collaboration environment where teens can work on a personal project or collaborate with others to learn a new coding language. Approximately 20 to 40 teens from ages 11 to 17 attend each event.

An ACT/SAT practice test is organized by the test prep company Flex College Prep, which administers a full-length exam in the library community room two to three times per year. Afterward, a results seminar is also held for students to review their individual results and receive test-taking strategies. About 70 students attend each time.

Aside from these teen-oriented events, the library also hosts the occasional talks with authors, cultural events such as Chinese brush painting and a quarterly paperback book sale.

Four times a year, the Friends of the Saratoga Library — a volunteer organization that raises money for the library — hosts a paperback book sale in the Community Room.

The books come in through a variety of ways, such as through donation slots in the library next to the book return area and through the Book-Go-Round bookstore in downtown Saratoga. The Book-Go-Round served as one of Saratoga’s original libraries and was only taken over by the Friends of the Saratoga Library when the present library was built in 1978. After the books are collected, they are then sorted by volunteers who carefully examine and separate them based on genre.

“People donate books sometimes in bulk. They just bring in boxes,” said Liz Guy, the vice president of the Friends of the Saratoga Library Board. “Our goal is to recycle the books and make sure they find a home again.”

Bal said that the sale helps people give books to people who would want them instead of throwing them away while at the same time helping the library.

Each sale lasts two days and raises approximately $3,000 throughout the year. As part of the Santa Clara County Library District, the library is primarily funded by property taxes paid by residents living in the nine cities the County Library District serves, but the money raised through memberships, donations and retail sales — which includes the paperback sales, the Book-Go-Round and the library cafe — totals about $140,000 to 150,000 per year and also contributes to help fund the library in buying bestsellers, programs and special projects.

“I love the library,” Guy said. “When I first moved to Saratoga, it was one of the first places that I found a community with my young children. I think it’s just a really important institution in a community and it's a great group.”

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