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Consultant Reviews Community Needs
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The needs of the community, surprisingly, not the needs of the library was what Stanislaus County Library consultant Ruth Metz talked about first when she led an Oct. 16 meeting at the Riverbank branch called by local librarian Vicki Holt-Angulo.

Only half a dozen people turned up for the Saturday meeting, and one of those was from Empire, but they were knowledgeable of local concerns and willing to express their ideas in hopes of affecting some changes down the line.

"Solidarity" was the first need - interpreted by the consultant as a community willingness to focus on its primary requirements and not get lost in fragmentation.

Leadership, investment in the community and a willingness to take risks were recommended as other needs.

The man from Empire's Friends of the Library said there were similarities and differences between the two cities. Empire residents frequently viewed themselves as being "on the other side of the tracks" and Riverbank and the Del Rio country club area as a richer community with a more desirable address.

One speaker was concerned about the political "apathy" in Riverbank that led to events like the recent failure of a recall petition against a city councilmember.

Many local residents work outside the city and are so busy with their job, or jobs in the current economy, they have little time or energy to spend on local politics, another explained.

"They should have kept ROTA (the trolleys) - many people have no transportation - instead of spending so much money on city beautification," said another speaker.

The historical society and the museum are a valuable resource for the city, were also opinions voiced, but added were concerns that the museum is run by elderly people who are able to open the facility only on a limited basis.

Local families enjoy "a safe place to raise their children," speakers agreed. And while children may complain "there's nothing to do," those attending learned that Riverbank has a skate park, a community center and (due to open very soon) a teen center, all located downtown within a few blocks of the police station.

One asset missing from Riverbank is an adult education facility, said one speaker, who said she offered to provide her services at teaching reading and writing to the illiterate but was told there was no call for it. She's already been a volunteer teacher of English to Spanish speakers.

One person raised in rural Ohio lauded the importance of books and libraries, recalling how as a boy he ran to meet the bookmobile that visited his small community once a week in summer.

Holt-Angulo noted the local library was well located in the downtown across from the middle school so it offers a convenient and safe place for children to study after school.