The library is the people’s university. Anyone can attend. 

In most metropolitan areas, libraries are a big deal.

And they’re a big deal to all of us here, including the people at the San Diego Public Library who also happen to have a big place in their hearts for literacy in San Diego, having supported for 20 years one of the best adult literacy programs in the country, READ/San Diego.

When outsiders hear about how we have been working on building a brand new library in Downtown San Diego, for what seems like 20 years — and might be — they are shocked.

Be assured, there are very good people, hard-working, well-connected, dedicated people in our community who are doing what they can to see that this library gets built.

For some reason, our community cannot come together to get this thing done.

This is a shame because, on top of the good things that come with modern day libraries, there are a lot of things wrong with the old library on 8th and E Street.  

And families and students, above all, deserve better.

From time-to-time, I see bumper stickers. 

Here’s one:

“New stadium?  How about a new library?”

That message had an impact on me, once, because I wanted a new stadium and a new library.  

Now, I’m tired of hearing about it. A campaign for a new stadium is no excuse for not building the new library.  

But, I can’t help but note that, just around the corner, you, me, we all can see PETCO Park.

Despite that major distraction, and years of work and frustration, the leadership of the San Diego Public Library has done a tremendous job of building and opening new libraries all over our city, while fixing up some of the older ones.  

Boy, that PETCO Park sure is a beauty! Unfortunately, no one will ever do research for a term paper there. No one would even think of using it as a place to study.  It has no computer lab. You can’t check out books from there.

Okay. I need to get past that.

What does it take to bring this community together to build something as fundamentally basic to a community as a 21st century main library?  

I have to wonder how much the people of San Diego would cite their own lack of involvement in this issue, and how much any number of us, especially those at the leadership level, missed opportunities to educate others and equip others with information that would have created advocates for the new library?

As they say in politics, where’s the outrage? If the library is the people’s university, when are the people going to make a stand? Right now it looks like not in the near future.

And that’s what the leadership is for.  

We need more of it.

In my work, I often reference five elements that have to be in place for complex change to take place:

  • A Vision: without it you get confusion.
  • Incentive: without it you have slow change.
  • Resources: without them you have frustration.
  • Skills: without them you have anxiety.
  • A Plan: without which, you have false starts.

    Which are we missing?

    We are not short on vision.

    We may be weak in the area of incentive because too many of us are not engaged in this campaign.

    We don’t have the resources, which means … money.

    The skills are there, yes, for the money.

    The plan may need tinkering just to get everyone aboard because it does look like we have had some false starts.

    We are the people and the library is ours. How do we get the citizenry to step together on this one? How do we get a jump start or a do-over?  

    I honestly have no new ideas and would learn from what you think…


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