At Home in Our Community

The September/October issue of American Libraries Magazine features the 2019 Library Design Showcase. Whenever this issue is released, I say to myself “Watch out Pleasant Hill–our library will be featured on those pages one day.” The showcase issue is packed with examples of renovations and innovations, ways that communities prioritized, reimagined and showcased their beloved libraries. Turns out the interiors I found most attractive, the ones that made me pause and say audibly, “wow, that’s nice” were designed by … wait for it … Margaret Sullivan Studio, one of BCJ’s partners in the creation of our new library. 

This issue also includes a timely piece for our community, titled “How to Build A Library”, that traces three libraries from identifying a need for updated or facilities to securing funding to construction to lessons learned. It is a great perspective piece for where we are on the planning timeline: According to the City website, “Construction of the new library building, and infrastructure improvements are anticipated to begin as early as April 2020 and finish in the fall of 2021.” If you look on the back page of the latest Outlook newsletter, you’ll see that the City released the draft environmental impact report for the Oak Park Properties project, available at the library and online for community members to review. The wheels of progress are slowly rolling forward, Pleasant Hillians.

Available online

Speaking of wheels moving, my family of three attended this year’s Tinkers & Thinkers Innovation Faire, a co-sponsored event that started as the Night of 1,000 Inventions at the Pleasant Hill Library and, when it partnered with Pleasant Hill Recreation & Park District, grew into a full-fledged maker faire geared toward families. This was our third year attending (and sadly, our first without my son’s best friend whose adorable image appears on the Tinkers & Thinkers website) and once again it was packed with engaging S.T.E.A.M. activities and organizations and–thankfully–a lot more air conditioning than years past when it was mostly set in the park with AC respite in the Teen Center (people hear this: it is always hot on Tinkers & Thinkers weekend). This year also included food served from the Senior Center event kitchen, a life-sized R2D2 and an amazing 113-year-old printing press from Kinetic Steam Works. This year my son enthusiastically took control of multiple robots (a big robot from College Park High School, a replica of the Curiosity Mars Rover made by a librarian via her 3D printer, and Bash Bot robot called Little Shark in a robot battle) and he clanked away on old manual and electric typewriters. He made two pins but decided to forgo this year’s duct tape rockets and dragonfly drones. We came home with another awesome bag, a t-shirt and an origami planter/wall basket. And some yummy snacks.

Tinkers & Thinkers swag

The Contra Costa County Library Tinkers & Thinkers exhibit was full of VR, Cubelets, three Code-a-Pillars, and an impressively confident and energetic tween demonstrating how to build those origami planters. While my son worked to get the Code-a-Pillar to travel in a circle between attendees’ feet, I had a chance to chat with Pleasant Hill Library Manager Patrick Remer. He said he envisions future Tinker & Thinkers exhibits staffed with more young innovators and entrepreneurs like the girl with the origami planters and the robotics students from College Park High School. We talked about how they would network and trade business cards, tween to teen to twenty-something. I predicted that they would be crafting their own cards, with inspiring mission statements and clever taglines, as needed right on the spot.

The County Library, which will soon be releasing an updated strategic plan has the following mission: “Contra Costa County Library is the pulse of our community. Working together, we spark imagination, fuel potential, and connect people with ideas and each other.” Its vision is: “The Contra Costa County Library brings people and ideas together.” And today it had a new tagline on display: “The family place to be.” While I connect with the mission and vision, it is this last sentiment that really resonates with me, especially as I basked in the sea of families who came together at the Tinkers & Thinkers event. 

On display at Tinkers & Thinkers

Last week, when I told my son the new Contra Costa County Library cards were finally released, he insisted we go that afternoon to get our new ones. We looked at the choices online, and then once at the library, asked to see them in person. We both selected the card featuring Mt. Diablo and California poppies. How many of us love that magnificent mountain? It’s another example of how the library is once again reflecting the beautiful landscape of its community. 

The new cards come with a keychain card. My son first learned about keychain library cards when we visited his best friend in her new home in Santa Barbara, CA. Our time together took us to the Santa Barbara Public Library because of course it did. These kids spent many hours together in the Pleasant Hill Library and his friend wanted to show off her new library. Once he saw her keychain card, he wanted his own. Now he has one. His new keychain card was the first thing he told his dad about that evening when asked about his day. There really is something so comforting and exhilarating about having a library card on your keys, at the ready wherever you go. We both feel giddy thinking of the access it provides. 

With these keys come access…

The library, for those who use it–and also for those who don’t–is home, the third space open to us all. It is such a privilege to have such a responsive community institution that provides us with education and access, information and connectivity, all for free, without asking for anything in return, except perhaps that we come back whenever we want or need to. Because what is a library without its community? A library IS its community. 

At Saturday’s Tinkers & Thinkers event, where my husband and I mostly sat back and watched our first grader ask politely for his turn, I looked around at all the people, from infants to seniors, the wide, beautiful swath of our community and I thought to myself, “Look at us all together here. Look how we came together today, to play and learn, to connect. This is our community. We are at home here.” 

It’s a beautiful thing, Pleasant Hillians. And it’s all ours. 

Originally published on 9/16/19 at

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