ESCONDIDO — The Escondido City Council on Feb. 12 approved an agreement with the Palomar Community College District to promote the use of the college’s library at its Escondido Education Center by members of the community.
“What many people probably don’t realize is that as a publicly funded institution, the Ernest J. Allen Library, which is located at the Palomar Community College Escondido Education Center is open and available for use by the public,” Escondido Communications Director Joanna Axelrod said at the council’s Wednesday night meeting. “Community members 18 years and older can register for a free community library card, check out fiction, nonfiction, DVDs and children’s books, use computers, printers and Wi-Fi, access quiet study spaces and receive help with research and tech questions from professional library staff.”
Axelrod said in anticipation of increased use of the library by the community, Palomar is making improvements to the Escondido campus library, including new book stacks, redesigned shelving layout, designated free parking spaces for library users and improved signage.
She also said a $25,000 donation from the Escondido Library Foundation will pay for new furniture.
“For some time, our foundation has been supportive of library services back in the east city section of Escondido, and now we’re actually ready to support it with some cash,” Jack Anderson, president of the Escondido Library Foundation, said. The donation, he said, would be made to the Palomar College Foundation, a nonprofit independent from the college that supports students as well as “college and faculty initiatives that enhance the educational experience of Palomar College students,” according to its website.
Escondido’s east end has been without access to a city library ever since the East Valley Branch Library closed in 2011 amid budget cuts.
“One of the most notable heartaches I ever had as an elected official in the city was the loss of the East Valley Community Branch Library,” Escondido City Councilwoman Olga Diaz said at the meeting. “And for a long time, we struggled to figure out how we would restore and how we would ever be able to afford to restore services on the east side of town.”
Palomar’s Escondido Education Center is located at the corner of Midway Drive and Valley Parkway, just a few blocks west of the old East Valley library.
Diaz, who works at Palomar as interim dean of counseling, said after checking with the city’s legal counsel, she was informed she would not have to recuse herself from voting on the partnership between the city and the college.
“I’m very proud to support this,” she said.
Jack Kahn, Palomar’s interim superintendent and president, said the college “could not have done this work without funding from the Escondido Library Foundation.”
That tracks with Palomar’s ongoing financial crisis — Kahn was named to his position in December after the college’s faculty Senate conducted a “no confidence” vote against the previous president, Joi Lin Blake, amid news that the state Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team deemed Palomar at “high risk” of fiscal insolvency.
The college announced Blake’s formal resignation the same day as the Escondido council’s meeting.
“This project between the city of Escondido and Palomar College is perfectly aligned with a mission to provide engaging teaching and learning environments for students of diverse origins, experiences, needs abilities and goals,” Kahn said.
Mayor Paul McNamara said the genesis of the project came after a discussion with City Manager Jeffrey Epp soon after McNamara took office last year.
“It was me talking to Jeff as soon as I took office and then calling up Dr. Blake,” he said. “And then we turned it over to Joanna and she ran with it.”
Councilman John Masson called the agreement “a no-brainer.”
“It’s one of those things where we should have done this years ago,” Masson said.
Axelrod said Palomar would soon begin advertising the Palomar satellite campus library to local residents with a social media campaign.
The library is open Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Joanna Axelrod as Palomar’s communication director. The Coast News regrets the error.