Friday, January 30, 2015

Case Study No. 1811: Lani Yoshimura

Spice of Life - Woman of the Year 2011
A writer, artist, teacher -- and as we know her -- our community librarian, Lani Yoshimura shares a generous heart and a strong empathy for others. Her legacy will be the doors to independence she has opened for generations of life-long learners.

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NARRATOR: Two Thousand Eleven Woman of the Year, Lani Yoshimura.
[cut to sped-up footage of construction work being done on the new Gilroy Library building]
NARRATOR: In the spring of Two Thousand Twelve, Gilroy we will see the results of Lani Yoshimura's vision.
[cut to floor plans for the new library]
NARRATOR: A brand new library for the community of Gilroy, that will not only be a state-of-the-art facility, it will come in seven million dollars under budget and achieve the Golden Leed rating for its environmentally friendly construction.
[cut to a shot of the librarian (black hair, glasses, purple suit jacket) standing in the library]
LANI: [in voice over] I have one of the best jobs in the whole world, and I also have a great passion for the work that I do, and that is to bring a space into the community that is for everybody.
[cut to more shots of construction work being done on the new library]
LANI: [in voice over] I'm not just serving one particular group.
[cut to the librarian helping an older patron]
NARRATOR: Lani is a quiet leader, and since her arrival in Gilroy in Nineteen Seventy Five, she has contributed thousands of hours to helping people improve their quality of life.
[cut to several still photographs of Lani and other staff members in the library]
LANI: [in voice over] Great communities deserve great libraries, and I really do feel that way.
[cut to more shots of the librarian working and helping patrons]
NARRATOR: Literacy is an important focus, and the programs she has initiated have helped people of all ages progress personally and professionally.
[cut to a shot of the librarian in the children's room]
LANI: [in voice over] We have reached hundreds of people, giving them the gift of literacy. To read and write, um, but also we're looking towards a broader definition of literacy, which is not only reading and writing but also a certain level of competency in terms of learning to use equipment.
[cut to several shots of children using the library]
LANI: [in voice over] Learning to prepare for jobs, so it is a little bit broader, and it's much better.
[cut to more still photographs of the librarian]
NARRATOR: A writer, artist, teacher, and as we know her, a community librarian, Lani shares a generous heart and a strong empathy for others.
[cut to more shots of construction work being done on the new library]
NARRATOR: Her legacy will be the doors to independence she has opened for generations of lifelong learners.
LANI: [in voice over] This building would not have happened without this community.
[cut to more shots of the librarian working and helping patrons
LANI: [in voice over] I'm getting Women of the Year. Receiving this honor is, uh, is really a thrill! It, uh, it's totally unexpected, and it is something that ... well, usually librarians don't get that!
[she laughs]
NARRATOR: Two Thousand Eleven Woman of the Year, Lani Yoshimura.

Produced by the Staff at
Community Media Access Partnership (CMAP)
www dot cmap dot tv
copyright 2012



Let's Meet: Lani Yoshimura
Patch is profiling each individual recipient of the 2011 Spice of Life Awards.
By Michelle Fitzsimmons (Open Post) Updated February 15, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Lani Yoshimura, the 2011 Woman of the Year, works as the community librarian at the Gilroy Library. She's piloted literacy programs, sits on the board of the South County Collaborative and is watching her vision of a new library come to life downtown.

Patch wanted to know more about this Gilroy resident and her dedication to literacy and life-long learning.

Patch: How does it feel to be recognized as Woman of the Year? Was it an expected recognition?

Lani Yoshimura: I'm incredulous! Librarians seldom receive this type of public recognition. I am still speechless and flummoxed by the flurry of attention. It's wonderful to be paid to do something that you love and be rewarded with public thanks. What else can I say? It's a considerable honor.

Patch: What made you decide to become a librarian?

Yoshimura: Like many of us that grew up in the 60s, we believed in social change. At the time that I went to UC Santa Cruz, the Students for a Democratic Society and other radical groups were all active.

However, most of us in the class of 1969 were inspired by our college professors who told us to "go out and make a difference" not by overthrowing the government, but by working at ordinary jobs at the grassroots level. Some of my classmates went into the Peace Corps. Others became postal workers or bakers. I considered teaching but librarianship seemed the best vehicle for me.

I come from a family dedicated to service. My father, maternal grandfather and some of my aunts and uncles all believed strongly that you always give back to the community and leave things better than you found them. Libraries particularly attracted me because my father prized the freedom of speech above all. Libraries are embodiments of the First Amendment. Libraries change lives.

Patch: You've had an interesting journey to get to the Gilroy Library. Can you tell me about that?

Yoshimura: My real interest is in working with communities. My family lived right next to a farm labor camp and one summer, I asked my father to help me get a job picking crops from dawn to mid-afternoon so I could experience the migrant community and practice Spanish.

I worked in the library in the evenings. I eventually started to work in the San Jose Public Library where I learned about working with communities. I ran the tiny Alviso Library in a diverse neighborhood of boat-builders and Spanish-speakers. At the San Jose Public Library, I oversaw the community information desk where I learned to find answers for people not in books, but in the community. I was hooked.

Patch: What drew you to Gilroy?

Yoshimura: I was born and raised in Colusa, a farming community of 3,500 in Northern California. Gilroy reminded me very much of my small hometown although Colusa's population never expanded. I love the challenge of Gilroy—its diversity, its capacity for change and growth.

Patch: You were involved in the creation of La Isla Pacifica, a shelter for battered women and children, correct? What's the story behind that?

Yoshimura: In the late 1970s, there was an agency called OWL that was the precursor to South County Alternatives and then Community Solutions. One of the women who worked at OWL was Judy Gelwicks. She called me and a couple of other professional women working in local agencies and asked if we'd like to meet for lunch once a month to network. More women began to join the group, and we decided to take on a project.

We first called ourselves Council On Women's Services, but later changed the name to Women's Services Council when we discovered that the first name had the acronym of COWS! The group developed and implemented what was to become La Isla Pacifica.

Patch: Looking forward, what are some issues or projects that you are focused on and excited about?

Yoshimura: The first project is getting the new library established. Since it is a green building, we will be consumed with learning how to run the building. There are many programs to establish and to expand. Because the new library finally will have space, we will be able to sponsor more programs, partnerships and enhance services.



The Miracle on West Sixth Street
Lani Yoshimura, Gilroy Library
California Library Association 2012

I'm here to tell the story of how, against all odds, a group of average citizens performed a miracle. That miracle is the two-story, 55,000 sq. ft.library on West Sixth Street in Gilroy California.

The rural community of Gilroy is located 35 miles south of San Jose and is better-known as the garlic capital of the world. Its population which was 7500 in the early 1970s is expected to reach 70,000 by 2020. Gilroy's unemployment rate looms at 15%. Nearly 60% of its residents are Hispanic.

The Gilroy Library is a member of the Santa Clara County Library District. The partnership between each city & the District is a simple one -- The City builds & owns the library and the District operates it.

The journey the community took to build a new library was a long and winding one. We first started to consider a new facility in the late 1980s followed by years of determining community needs and gathering input through focus groups, surveys and discussions in the local media.

From 2001-2006, the City, the Library and the local school district made 3 unsuccessful bids for State Library Bond Act funds (Prop. 14).

When all hope seemed to be lost of constructing a new library, along came the 2008 Presidential election.

The old librarywas built in 1975. It was antiquated, inadequate,and seismically unsafe. As the economic crisis deepened across the nation, we wondered if we should even ask a struggling community, especially one with a history of failing to support public safety and school bond measures, to fund such a large capital project.

A local citizen's group had been strategizing how to convince the City Council to place a library measure on the 2008 ballot. In 1995 and 2005, this group of library supporters had successfully passed funding measures for library operations and collections. This experienced team believed that the higher voter turnouts during a Presidential election might be the key to success. They were confident that they could win!

The group decided to re-organize and chose to recruit new leaders, Jay and Vicki Baksa. Baksa had retired after serving as Gilroy city manager for more than 25 years. He claimed to know nothing about political campaigns, but he could run meetings, make tough decisions and he and Vicki were well-connected. With the Baksas to spearhead and refocus the project, the group gave itself a new name: Library4Gilroy (L4G).

Predictions about the possible outcome of the election were inconclusive, a 50-50 chance of success, the polling consultants indicated. Still Baksa and the Committee convinced the City Council at the 11th hour, a few days before the final filing date, to put the $37 million general obligation bond on the 2008 ballot.

Then with barely 3 months left until the November election, and less than $500 in the bank, the Committee had a daunting task ahead of them.

L4G eventually raised $35,000 to cover campaign costs for consultant fees, printing and postage, ads and lawn signs, and website development. The group hired a political consultant with a track record for success, and to stay within their shoestring budget, committee members divided the workload amongst themselves.

The campaign was low-key and community-based. L4G collaborated with labor unions, local clubs and college students, and shared costs whenever possible with the local school district campaign.

They also formed an alliance with a grassroots group called La Voz de la Gente which was educating new Hispanic voters about the election process. Voz did not tell these prospective voters how to vote, but gave them information on the issues and candidates and walked them through the voting process and called voters with deadline reminders.

Our consultant recommended that we remain focused on certain demographics which did not include the large Hispanic community. But we also listened to what we felt was right. We decided to work with Voz de la Gente, and eventually this effort solidified our win.

Voz's target group was 650 Hispanic voters. Coincidentally, it was about this same number of votes which made up the difference between 67% and 69% majority that was achieved.

Local businesses such as banks and real estate firms donated office space for a campaign headquarters and for telephone banking.

Social science and history students who needed to earn community college service credits worked with the campaign under the supervision of a prominent retired labor organizer.

The library message was carried to every local venue including club meetings, social gatherings and the local media. Tabling was done in front of the library, grocery stores, churches and at community events. Targeted voters and households in selected precincts were visited by volunteers.

For every positive contact that was made, supporter information was mined so volunteers could be recruited, endorsements secured and pledges collected. This information was recorded immediately into campaign databases then reviewed and analyzed by the campaign consultant.

A significant presence was provided by the dynamic and content-rich L4G website. It was attractive, interactive and updated almost immediately. Donors could make online contributions via PayPal. Posters could be printed off the website. A variety of relevant articles and interviews were featured. Key endorsements were listed daily. Unfortunately, the website crashed a day after the election was over so I have no examples of its features.

Timing was everything. Because of the volume of mail-in ballots expected and the limited budget, mailers were disseminated at carefully paced intervals. As we got down to the wire, the campaign focused on those who we identified who said YES and ignored those who were uncertain or said NO.

On Election Day, volunteers telephoned voters up until 10 minutes to poll closing time. It mattered, every vote counted.

Measure F passed with 69.04%!

The beautiful new Gilroy Library opened its doors on April 30, 2012.

The two-story, 55,000 sq. ft. facility
- Designed by Harley, Ellis Devereaux Architects
- Welcoming, light-filled, and airy
- "Green" constructed to LEED "gold" standard.

The comfortable surroundings include
- program and meeting spaces
- atrium and courtyard
- room for 250,000 items
- group and quiet study areas
- computer training room
- Friends' book sale area
- adult literacy office
- computers and other useful equipment
- lots of seating
- space!

Lessons Learned
* The right leader can make a difference
* A shoestring budget and a short time frame can be an asset
* Craft your message. Stay focused on it.
* If at first you don't succeed, try again....and again....and again!

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