Libraries are not often considered when thinking about violence prevention. However, a simple, yet innovative, change in practice has resulted in more young people reading, engaging in meaningful opportunities, having a safe place to gather and connecting with their community.
In early 2000, the libraries of Salinas were in danger of being closed due to budget cuts. A grassroots campaign, known as Rally Salinas!, managed to raise funds to keep the libraries open until the end of 2005, but services and hours were greatly reduced. In 2005, the city of Salinas passed Measure V, a ½ cent tax measure, which would generate for the city an annual revenue of $10 million for public funds. As a result, the libraries reopened 5 days a week. Starting this fall, the libraries will be open 7 days a week.
Most recently, a partnership between the library and schools was established to provide all students with library cards, free of charge and application-free. A ceremony was held to present the young people with their cards, which helped to reinforce the feeling of honor and significance of holding a library card, and library staff went to each classroom giving students their individual cards. Each school district received a unique library card with their logo and color. Started in February 2008, by end of June 15,551 students had cards! More importantly, the library has seen a significant increase in library usage by young people and their families since this change in city policy. In order to continue to build the momentum and draw more young people to its safe and imaginative space, the library has eliminated fines and fees for the first year to enable students to learn about using the Library. Elizabeth Martinez, Director of the Salinas Public Library, stated, "we want every student in Salinas to learn to read, have a library card, and leave the library feeling better."
The initiative worked because the libraries made the decision, and went directly to the schools, rather than asking the kids to come to the library, and the application was eliminated. With Library Cards for All, the community feels the importance of libraries in their lives, a constituency for libraries has been built, and more young people and their families are reading and spending time together.