RANCHO SANTA FE — In recognition of Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild’s Annual Meeting, the guild hosted a special event with guest speaker, Director of San Diego Library, Jose Aponte on April 15.
Before Aponte took center stage at the library, Art Yayanos, library guild board president, gave Aponte a unique introduction.
“One of these days, they are going to identify the librarian gene and it will be called the Aponte gene,” Yayanos said. He continued, “His mother was a librarian, he is a librarian and his son is a librarian at UCLA.”
For Aponte, the “Library of the Future” begins very much in the past. While reminiscing of his upbringing in New York and the importance that public libraries and books brought to his life, another topic which emerged was the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing.
Aponte was a runner at that event and had crossed the finish line on April 15, 2013.
He was about a block away from the Boston Public Library, at the gear truck, talking with two fellow runners in his age group when the first explosion erupted.
“I looked over their shoulders and could see the smoke ascending one block away,” said Aponte, adding how he told the runners it sounded like a bomb since he trained on Camp Pendleton. The runners had a hard time believing him.
Then the second explosion hit.
“We left with an enormous amount of haste,” said Aponte, with his voice slightly cracking. He described the scene as a fog of war, where everyone was looking for safety.
His wife, who normally joins him on these marathons, did not accompany him on this one.
The tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing gave Aponte a perspective on many things.
“I had this epiphany for what I do — there was this mission and purpose,” he said. Aponte continued, “What I learned at Boston that day was a reaffirmation, a commitment to what I do for a living. That it is so important and paramount that we have a place that everyone has access to books to escape to knowledge, that there is a path for them and their future.”
Aponte reported that the San Diego County Library is busier than it has ever been. It has seen an immense growth in both its community centers and community programs.
When Aponte began his position 10 years ago, they had 5,000 community programs. Recent numbers are showing 25,000 programs in 33 libraries within San Diego County.
“And in the height of the great recession, San Diego County Library with its board of supervisors and citizens, built nine libraries in nine years,” he said.
The radius of libraries in San Diego County average the size of Connecticut and a foot traffic count of five million.
While the future of digital is here, Aponte shared, digital rights management has its share of challenges.
A traditional book purchase costs roughly $20 and has a 72 times circulation shelf life. Conversely, the legal precedence of an electronic leasing term is 26 checkouts. And if renewed, an additional digital cost is tacked on.
And finding an agnostic platform to coincide with iPad, Nook and Kindle is another hurdle to lobby.
For Aponte, the library is a blend of education, opportunity, a place for programs, and community hub. It’s the community’s social fabric.
“In terms of government, I believe the library has an opportunity to be a real leader, Aponte said. “To be leaders not just in education, not just culture, and our traditional roles — but leaders in governance and leaders in how we can best serve the citizens we are in charge to serve. It may be a bit corny but that is how I feel.”