American Rescue Plan Act Funds Support Library Collections

Authored on
March 17, 2022

On Tuesday, March 8, Santa Barbara City Council allocated $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to support the Library’s collection budget, especially digital content.

During the pandemic, the Library quickly pivoted to provide services by mail, virtually, and prioritized public service while maintaining health and safety precautions, even while other libraries within the County closed. SBPL has seen a 57% increase in cardholders from February 2019 to February 2022, and continues to add on average 500 new cardholders a month. Many of these new cardholders are interested in accessing the Library’s digital collections, including ebooks, digital audiobooks, many of the Library’s online learning programs, such as Mango Languages, Consumer Reports, and Linkedin Learning. ARPA funding will help meet this increased demand, and allow SBPL to continue to curate excellent collections of physical books as well.

The Library has a team of professional and dedicated staff that in addition to managing the Library’s digital and print collections, support community education in a multitude of ways. All of SBPL’s Librarians have Masters in Library and Information Science degrees, and many have additional advanced degrees or specialized training, which they use to provide excellent service to the community.

“The City of Santa Barbara has invested in professional librarian positions in the Library, which allows us to bring professional expertise to the collections, programming, and services we provide to the community,” said Library Director Jessica Cadiente. “I am proud to work with such dedicated and creative individuals.”

SBPL’s professional Librarians continue to be the engine of innovation and creativity for the Library. Each member of the Librarian team has unique skillsets and areas of responsibility.

Together, SBPL librarians work together to develop print and digital collections that provide the community access to informational, educational, and recreational reading materials, as well as teach classes to all ages to support community education. They develop programs to support science, technology, arts, culture, and literary arts opportunities to the community. They support civic engagement and community connections, and work with entrepreneurs, businesses, and job-seekers to support economic development. Through collaboration with nonprofits and community organizations, they extend the reach of their programs and services. SBPL’s resources are available and used by patrons throughout Santa Barbara County—from tutors and learners in Goleta and Carpinteria, to residents of Santa Maria using SBPL’s Career Online High School Program to earn a diploma.

Meet the Staff

Beate Bjoerklund comes to SBPL with experience as a librarian in Norway. She curates the Library’s adult fiction collections and Overdrive collections, as well as leads the Library’s popular fiction book club. A statistics wizard, she makes data-driven decisions to support all selectors in building collections that meet the needs of the community.

Devon Cahill is the Library’s Adult Education Librarian, and his primary responsibility is coordinating the Library’s Adult Literacy program. He began his career at SBPL as a part-time Library Technician after volunteering as a tutor in adult literacy. Not only does his background studying Japanese language and literature and his experience teaching English in Japan inform his work in adult literacy, he also uses it to introduce Japanese culture to teens in SBPL’s Anime and Manga Club, the Library’s longest running program for teens.

SBPL’s two Children Librarians, Holly Broman and Gwen Wagy, are responsible for implementing youth and family programs and building collections that support children in becoming lifelong readers. Holly Broman has a background in child development, early literacy education, and storytelling, which she has leveraged to develop innovative programs, present engaging storytimes, and build community partnerships that support youth and families. Gwen Wagy, who has worked at SBPL for many years, uses her photographic memory to help families find picture books with only the smallest of details, and her patience and broad knowledge of children’s literature to help her match growing readers with new favorite books, even if they are the pickiest of readers. She is passionate about supporting parents and teachers.

Holly Snyder, a former teacher, is SBPL’s newest addition to the librarian team. As the library’s Family Literacy Librarian, she serves children and families leading the Library’s OG Readers program for struggling readers in 1st through 4th grades, as well as works with the Adult Education team helping support resource navigation and social services referrals for some of the most vulnerable members of the Santa Barbara community. She’s also passionate about genealogy, and has hosted several programs about exploring family history and local history resources.

SBPL has another local history expert in Jace Turner, the Library’s Reference and Information Services Librarian. Whether it's helping a woman find the article she wrote as a teen reporter for the Santa Barbara News-Press covering the press conference with the Beatles (she had lost her original in the Painted Cave fire) or helping homeowners and architectural firms research local properties using the Sandborn fire maps, he is diligent and thorough in supporting research requests.

Kathleen Kosiec, SBPL’s Web Services Librarian, serves as webmaster for the Library’s website and oversees the integration and access to the SBPL’s digital library in addition to reference duties. As the Library is working to update and modernize its website as the entire City transitions to a new website this summer, her expertise is ensuring the new site will be user-friendly. She also recently collaborated with the librarian team to do a deep analysis of the Library’s nonfiction collections, filling in gaps and ensuring the collection had a wide range of up to date books.

Blanca Ramirez has worked primarily at the Carpinteria Library for several years, and will be joining the team at Eastside Library this spring. Adept at running programs for tweens and teens, she’s also ready to help troubleshoot any technology issues or offer a reading recommendation and is always looking to make it easier for patrons to use the library.

Lisa Neubert supports the library’s collections, reference services, and programming. She’s organized author visits and related programming for Santa Barbara Reads, taught information literacy to teens, and partnered with numerous organizations to bring educational events to the community.

Lisa Gonzalez coordinates the work of the Youth Services team as the Senior Librarian for Youth Services, and has developed many of SBPL’s innovative programs, such as the popular Reading Ambassadors program that develops interest and motivation to read aloud and share stories with younger children. She is passionate about removing barriers to library access and currently works on the Equity in Summer Learning task force with the State Library, which is developing a guide and toolkit to building inclusive summer programming at Libraries across the state.

Alain Dussert leads the Library’s Technology team as the IT Supervisor, and is currently working on the City’s website migration, the transition to a new catalog, and upgrades to Central Library and Eastside Library’s wireless internet infrastructure. His team manages dozens of software programs that support Library operations, from wireless printing to computer reservation systems. His knowledge of both library systems and information technology are crucial to supporting all staff in the Library.

Ahmad Merza is the newest member of the Library’s supervisory team as the Supervising Librarian for Eastside and Outreach. He coordinates the Library’s outreach with the Library on the Go van, delivering services, collections, and programs to senior housing, parks, and schools throughout Santa Barbara. Under his leadership, the Eastside Library opened a renovated facility, grew participation in the Teen Advisory Board, and is currently conducting a community needs assessment with a particular focus on serving Spanish-speaking residents. For several years he has collaborated with Women’s Economic Ventures, and was instrumental in the Library being named WEV’s 2021 Partner of the Year.

The Santa Barbara Public Library is a department of the City of Santa Barbara. Visit the Santa Barbara Public Library online at for information about programs and services. All library programs are free and open to the public.