As I See It
By ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO
Many, if not all of us, may know it, but I would like to emphasize here that open and sustained communication catapulted to success an organization lately in attaining their advocacy despite the odds in a matter of limited time.
The California Public Library Advocates (CPLA) was able to succeed in their advocacy to bring to the people/community the importance and significance of public libraries to all stakeholders in their area. Before their success, only a few knew of the existence of the 18 public libraries in Oakland and in fact, not many appreciated the wonders the library can bring to them. I was told, the residents don’t even know the services the libraries have been offering!
The organizers knew it was a longshot but they did it anyway to be able to bring into fruition their passion for the library. In fact, I was inspired and touched by their presentation during the just concluded CPLA Spring 2019 Workshop held at the 81st Branch Library in Oakland last Saturday, May 11, 2019. They defied the odds and kept on moving to keep their mission come true through open, guided, planned, and sustained communication.
The other commissioners from Milpitas were likewise as enthusiastic as I was in listening to their narration of facts and strings of sacrifices in bringing the message to the people right at their doorsteps. Wherever there was a gathering of people, they were there! In every opportunity to speak before an audience, they are there! They are everywhere! Their passion brought them to the battlegrounds where communication was their tool!
From our end, the Milpitas representatives to the CPLA-sponsored workshop were Former vice Mayor and current councilmember Carmen Montano (she was a former vice chair of the Milpitas Library Education and Advisory Commission); current chair of the Library Education and Advisory Commission (LEAC) Yu-lan Chou; former chair and current commissioner Elpidio R. Estioko; and commissioners Hellie Mateo and Nonie McDonald.
In her opening remarks, Deborah Doyle, CPLA president, said “You are already ahead of the game because you are commissioners, library staff, and members of the Friends of the Library. You already know the importance and power of the library. Engaging in library activities is a perfect time to be active in the community and I salute you for that.” The participants were city commissioners of the library commission, members of the friends of the library, library staff, and elected local officials.
In 2011, there was an impending crisis for Oakland libraries’ existence and in the verge of being closed due to budget constraints of the city. Every two years, library budget kept on going less and less and its existence are endangered every now and then. This prompted the librarians (current and retired) to create a group with the end in view of saving the libraries from being closed.
Doyle, an active library advocate at local, state and national levels and currently serving as Sonoma County Library Commissioner became the president and other members of the board include: Victoria Barbero, President, Friends of the Lakeview Library and former chairperson of the City of Oakland Library Advisory Commission; Helen Bloch, Leader, Save Oakland Libraries and retired Children’s Librarian of Oakland Public Library; and Kathryn Sterbenc, President, Friends of the Oakland Public Library and former Chairperson of the City of Oakland Library Advisory Commission.
The coalition proponents met and discussed what to do and planned to reach out to anybody/everybody who can help and be able to develop skills group of people joining forces in pursuing the advocacy they envisioned to do. They need to reach out to as many people of various levels, so they engaged the help of the Library Advisory Commission, the Friends of the Library, the workers union (SEIU 1021), the Youth Leadership Council, and foot soldier advocacy groups to form the coalition known as the California Public Library Advocates (CPLA), a coalition of library groups building relationships!
Group members were assigned their roles in the coalition reaching out to groups of people gathered in regular events, special events, workshops, town halls, holiday parties, and informal gatherings talking about the library and what’s going on in the library. The education drive was out! They were able to mobilize the whole community in joining their library advocacy, keeping them active – all year long and focusing on the positives! They came out with slogans and heart stickers saying, “I love the library.” There was sustained flow of library information and the communication keeps on flowing without let-up by various groups and all sectors of the community in educating the public!
They developed communications from the coalition’s active supporters and were sent out to various gatherings with the end in view of educating the public about the importance and significance of the library and how to save it. They built coalitions and seized the opportunities including media connections and leveraged chance-meeting with elected local officials. Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf became an ardent supporter of the advocacy group and was very instrumental in increasing the budget for the 18 Oakland public libraries and also in the passage of Measure D. She meets with the coalition group very often to check on things needed for support from the city.
California State Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) likewise became a library supporter and 2018 Oakland Youth Poet-Laureate Leila Mottley, representing the youth of Oakland became very active with the coalition in supporting the library.
While successful in their information campaign, the library does not have funding to keep on going, so in June, last year, they spearheaded Measure D to generate funds which measure was approved by the voters 76.89% Yes! The parcel tax that was passed was a $75/year parcel tax or a $10M/year budget for the library.
Their eyes is now geared towards the 20-year parcel tax that started in 2005, i.e. in 2024. It’s the reauthorization of Measure Q parcel tax in 2024.
So, folks, open and sustained communication works! Take it from CPLA…
(Elpidio R. Estioko was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and an award-winning journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author at email@example.com)