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Pico Library Officially Opens with Multi-Cultural Celebration

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Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors BureauWhen one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.

By Ivette Lopez
for The Lookout

June 30, 2014 -- Traditional Japanese Taiko drums kicked off the official grand opening Saturday of the Pico Branch Library at Virginia Avenue Park, where more than 100 people gathered for the festive ceremony.

Japanese drummers at Pico Brank Library opening
Photos for The Lookout by Ivette Lopez

Families sat on the lawn on the hot summer day sipping water and taking refreshments as the drum artist group Japanese Festival Sounds performed, then led a procession before Mayor Pam O’Connor delivered the welcoming address and joined other City officials in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“We really are a beacon on the Westside,” O’Connor told the crowd. “This new branch of the Santa Monica public library will contribute to the lifelong learning of this neighborhood, the Pico neighborhood, and be part of a whole community. It will serve us all for decades to come.”

Pam Oconnor at Pico Branch Library Opening
Mayor Pam O’Connor

In her keynote address, California’s former poet laureate Carol Muske-Dukes lauded the role libraries play.

“Libraries are extremely important to us because they are treasure houses,” Muske-Dukes said. “They are treasure houses of culture and civilization. Reading makes us and keeps us human.”

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, crowds -- many joining in from the park’s weekly Farmers Market -- flocked inside for guided tours of the new facility, which houses 25,000 items, including bilingual print and e-books; public computers and three group study rooms.

Others opted to sample the state-of-the-art offerings. Adults surfed the web, while children explored the educational software in the children’s section of the library. An exhibition by local teen photographers titled “My Community” was also showcased in a section of the library.

“It is very amazing to see a library next to my door,” said Pico neighborhood resident Andre Yakubu. “I always come down twice or three times a week” she said referring to the library, which opened to the public in April.

“Learning is education, education is knowledge, and knowledge is reading,” He said.

Children at the Santa Monica Pico Public Library Official Opening

Outside, the celebration continued with performances by the folklorico dance group Cabeza DeVaca Cultura, who performed various dances from the region of Jalisco, Mexico. Gospel singers The Voice of ONE, storyteller Michael D. McCarty and The Boo Hoo Crew also performed throughout the afternoon.

Since the Library’s “soft opening” in April, there have been between 500 and 600 visitors a week, with Saturdays attracting larger crowds thanks to the adjacent Farmer’s Market, said Pico Branch Manager Cecilia Tovar.

“The community response has been really good,” Tovar said. People “come, they already have their activities planned for the park, but they come into the library.”

Once inside, there are plenty of offerings. The library hosts a number of educational programs that include book clubs, author talks, crafts, film screenings, a summer reading program and computer classes.

Additionally, two self-service machines are available to ease the checking-in and out of materials for visitors.

The Pico Neighborhood has been waiting for a library for more than three decades, said Oscar de la Torre, co-chair of the Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA).

“We are home in the Pico neighborhood to the highest concentration of young people, and especially young people living in poverty,” said De La Torre, who is a member of the School Board.

“We hope that the library will be one more tool in us closing the achievement gap (facing) Latino and African-American students.”

The building itself – designed by the Santa Monica firm Koning Eizenberg Architecture -- is also setting a standard for sustainable libraries. Eco-friendly features include a rainwater harvesting system, natural-day lighting and the use of recycled materials.

The large turnout has manager Tovar planning for the future. She hopes to implement Kindles to encourage visitors to explore the e-book technology.

Information literacy, Tovar said, remains her main concern, and she plans to make information gathering for educational purposes easier to access through the library’s programs.

“Overall my goal is to provide a good service to the community,” she said. “I want to make sure they have a good place to come and enjoy their time.”

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