STOCKTON — A national organization will hold a community dialogue in Stockton on Friday focused on improving public libraries in the community.
The daylong, moderated roundtable conference is the first of three such forums held by The Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program, a Washington, D.C.-based program aimed at examining the societal role of libraries and how they can change for the future.
As many as 30 business, government and nonprofit organization representatives have been invited to participate in the forum, along with local civic leaders such as Stockton City Council members and San Joaquin County supervisors.
John Alita, the city’s community services director, said the goal of the dialogue is to bring libraries more in line with community priorities.
He asked The Aspen Institute to come to Stockton after meeting Amy Garmer, the organization’s director on public libraries, at a conference last year.
He said Garmer and the institute have done a lot of research and work on libraries’ current place in society as times and social norms change.
Garmer was in transit from Washington, D.C., to Stockton and was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
“We’re bringing together community leaders, and they don’t have to know about libraries, but know their community,” Alita said. “We want to look at what issues we face as a community and see if we can come up with ideas and programs, as well as how libraries can address those issues.”
Some issues that could be discussed Friday, he said, include making sure third-graders are reading at their grade level, as well as addressing the increasing obesity rates among children.
He added that the hope is the forum can take issues like these and determine how the city’s library system can partner with other organizations to come up with solutions.
The Aspen Institute held a similar forum in Sutter County last year. Those who attended came up with recommendations to create and maximize space in libraries, use technology to expand library assets and educational outreach, and partner with social service organizations to improve community outreach, among others.
Alita said the Sutter County forum was a “test” for The Aspen Institute, and after its success, decided to hold three forums throughout California this year.
Upon learning of the forums, Alita applied to have the institute hold one in Stockton.
“The fact that we have such strong support for our libraries through Measure M, it’s the perfect time to engage in something like this,” he said. “And given we’ve improved our service by adding staff and expanded our hours, I told them Stockton was a great choice for a discussion like this.”
Friday’s forum begins at 8:30 at the Vereschagin Alumni House on the campus of University of the Pacific but is invitation-only.
For more information about The Aspen Institute, go to libraryvision.org.
Contact reporter Wes Bowers at (209) 546-8258, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @WesBo26.