Ex-City Manager to Lead New Library Fundraising Drive

Former El Cerrito Manager Gary Pokorny has agreed to head up fundraising efforts to build a new El Cerrito Library. Porkony was also City Manager of Walnut Creek when it succeeded in building a new $40 million library.

El Cerrito's former City Manager, Gary Porkorny, will supervise fundraising for the campaign to build a new El Cerrito Library, according to an email Sunday from the the grassroots committee behind the campaign.

"I have agreed to head up the fundraising efforts for our new group," Porkorny said in comments quoted in the fall 2012 newsletter from the New Library Campaign. The newsletter was delivered to email subcribers Sunday.

The ad hoc campaign by a group of residents to rebuild the aging, cramped El Cerrito Library was launched in April and held two public meetings at the library in August to gather ideas on how to build support and raise funds.

Pokorny, who was El Cerrito's City Manager from 1989 to 2000 and has lived in El Cerrito for more than 23 years, said immediate fundraising would focus on the outreach effort and later shift to supporting a bond measure or other main funding source that the group and city choose to pursue. The city owns the library, while the staffing and materials are provided by the Contra Costa County Library system.

Pokorny's comments were contained in an interview quoted partially in the newsletter and posted in full on the New Library Campaign website.

"We plan to partner with the Friends of the El Cerrito Library in their important work to make the library an exciting and vital lifelong learning center for the entire community," Pokorny said.

Those who would like more information or would like to donate can contact the the New Library Campaign through its website

He said the need for a new library is underscored by the contrast with what other nearby communities have accomplished.

"Today, when compared to the several new libraries in our Contra Cost County system (Hercules, Orinda, Lafayette, Clayton, Walnut Creek) and new and refurbished libraries in Albany and Berkeley, it is clear that our 60 year-old library is completely worn out and technologically obsolete as well as much too small for the many demands that our current population is putting on the building," he said.

The current library opened in 1949 and was expanded in 1960. A 2006 "needs assessment" reportby a San Francisco-based library consulting firm, Page + Moris, found that the current 6,500-square-foot library is only a third as large as it should be.

At the library campaign's first public meeting on Aug. 2, Assistant City Manager Karen Pinkos said a 2007 estimate for a 20,000-square-foot library complete with library equipment and supplies was between $18 million and $20 million.

Dorothy Coakley November 27, 2012 at 02:09 AM
I am very pleased that Gary Pokorny is taking the library under his wing. We've followed his career as both Walnut Creek city manager (where we paid taxes for ten years) and El Cerrito (ditto...taxes for over 60 years.) He's the right person for the job, kudos to the committee for his selection.
julian November 28, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Building a new library in the technology age is akin to building a new leather saddle factory in 1908. We dont need a book repository, within a decade schools will switch to a digital curriculum. We dont need librarians, we need cybrarians and cybrarians are quite capable and content to by housed in cyber space, or at home, providing us with the services we need.
Kathy A. November 28, 2012 at 04:48 PM
I disagree, Julian. Obviously, librarians need to keep up with digital media, which will certainly continue to develop. But I do not see traditional printed materials disappearing, and particularly for K-12. Books are portable, relatively inexpensive, and not very breakable; and one book can be used by many, over time. It does not seem plausible or desirable that "within a decade schools will switch to a digital curriculum." Off the top: [1] Kids learn by doing; they need to learn to write, and do math, and create art, and otherwise engage with the non-digital world. [2] The costs of providing devices + content to all school-aged persons stagger the mind; how do you think that will happen? [3] Things break, get lost, etc. Personally, although I spend a great deal of time in cyberspace, there is nothing like curling up with an actual book. But there are other reasons we need libraries and librarians. Humans are social animals. We need places to gather; we need places to focus. We need human interactions, and to learn things from people who are trained to hunt for information we need or want. Libraries are hubs, devoted to study and exploration, but also serving our human needs for interaction and sharing information. They are safe places for kids to read and study; be with other people. Starbucks and the home computer are not adequate substitutes.
Kathy A. November 28, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Modern libraries do in fact use a lot of modern technology. Card catalogs have gone the way of the dodo bird. It is far easier to find what one needs in the digital age. Libraries loan digital media, too. And libraries are places where people can use public computers. They support egalitarianism and access. People who cannot afford their own computer or an ISP; people who are homeless, or away from home; all can still be connected.
julian November 29, 2012 at 02:38 PM
I have heard so many people talk about their love of books and how reading things digitally is just not the same, well, I have worked in Education and most young people prefer digital, the ability to search, copy, download gives the new media so many more advantages. It is an economic and environmental issue as well, readers are already sub $100, digital copies cost the system a fraction of what a paper book does. The impact on the environment is a serious consideration. Sure there will still be some holdouts, just as there were people who continued to ride and use horses after the invention of the car, the writing (in binary) is on the wall.
Karin November 29, 2012 at 04:10 PM
I agree with both Kathy and Julian. Yes we are going digital in everything, but that does not mean we don't need a community hub (library) where that information is organized, accessible to the entire public, and where there are experts (librarians) to help people access that information. I think in the digital age of education and print there will be a greater demand for a community hub where people can come together to access information. You never know...it might even replace the school site.
julian November 29, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Karin I also like the idea of a local community hub but what is being proposed is a book repository/library. A cybrary community hub can be virtual and not cost millions of dollars.
Kathy A. November 30, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Julian -- I think we need non-virtual physical places, with actual humans present.
julian December 01, 2012 at 04:56 PM
We do need non virtual places Kathy, for people not for books. It could be part of a lounge area in a community center.
Dorothy Coakley December 06, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Ah, Julian. "me thinks thou doth protest too much." Librarians protect your right to privacy. We guard your access to materials whether "currently fashionable" or not. And we will help you find what you are looking for. Safely, comfortably. WIthout fear of reprisal. Oh and we aren't going to sell the information we gain about you. Ask that of Starbucks. Ask that of Yahoo. Ask that of...well, you get my drift...


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