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Senate Rules Committee Confirms Greg Lucas As State Libraian
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August 22, 2014 




FROM:       Mike Dillon, CLA Lobbyist
                   Christina DiCaro, CLA Lobbyist

RE:             News From the Capitol




Wednesday afternoon the powerful Senate Rules Committee met at the State Capitol to consider and vote on the Governor’s Appointment of Greg Lucas as the State Librarian.  The five member committee, headed by the Senate President pro Tem of the Senate approved the nomination on a bi-partisan vote of 5-0, and the pro Tem will now bring that recommendation to the full Senate Floor for a vote in the coming days.  Due to the strong vote out of committee, Mr. Lucas will most assuredly be approved by the full Senate.

At the beginning of the hearing, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said to Mr. Lucas, “We have all known you for a long time,” referencing Greg’s previous work as a Capitol beat reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle.  The pro Tem added, “You continue to be a part of the Capitol community and I was pleased and intrigued when the Governor made this nomination.  I want to know more about the State Library and the great tradition of libraries in the state and how you see them evolving.”

Mr. Lucas thanked the Governor for “giving me the opportunity” and said it is “humbling and challenging to be an advocate for libraries, librarians, and literacy.”  He shared with the committee his desire to make the wealth of special collections contained in California’s libraries available to more individuals and he expressed appreciation for a recent trip to the Sutro Library where he viewed letters from Marie Antoinette and George Washington and a book from Shakespeare.  Mr. Lucas said that when the Governor interviewed him, the Governor stressed that there were collections within the state that “we should be sharing.”  Senator Jean Fuller praised Greg for making that availability of resources a focus of his new position.  Mr. Lucas also addressed the Governor’s broadband proposal to connect all public libraries to the CENIC backbone, the so-called “summer slide” when kids don’t have enough access to reading programs during the summer months, and many other issues.

The committee hearing was very positive in the way in which the Senate Rules Committee members praised the work of public libraries, while weaving in their questions to Mr. Lucas.   Senator Steinberg, for example, said, “Libraries mean different things to different people.  I have rich childhood memories of the library.  What is your focus?  Is it to help local libraries?  Is it more synergy between the other elements, such as education, etc.?  Is it to increase the State Library’s presence?  Is it to engage the non-English speaking population?  I know you can’t fix and change everything but what do you want to focus on?”  Mr. Lucas spoke about several issues such as wanting the State Library to reflect the diversity of the State, wanting to spend the federal dollars that the State Library receives and distributes as grants to incubate new ideas, and wanting to address the “4 ½ million people who can’t read a book, or particularly a bottle of medication.”   Senator Steinberg excitedly responded, “Yes, fix that!” regarding the state literacy numbers.  Mr. Lucas added, “Yes, what can we do to move the needle on that?  When you can read, the world opens up.  There is a real magic that takes place between the volunteer and the tutor,” referencing the state literacy program. 

Senator Holly Mitchell said that she had the opportunity to visit three of her libraries over the weekend and they all talked to her about the lack of state resources and how programs have suffered.  She also expressed concern that the library near her house is only open till noon on Saturday, due to continued local and state Budget cuts.  She wondered, “What is the role the state should play in funding libraries?”  Mr. Lucas said, “I think it is a question that the state really has not answered.

Senator Steve Knight, Vice Chair of the Senate Rules Committee noted that he was a proud holder of 3 library cards and “loves libraries.” He said there are challenges in engaging the youth of today (he spoke of his own children) who are so electronically driven.  Mr. Lucas remarked about some of the new STEM technology at libraries, where kids can work in “maker spaces” and participate in robotics programs, or use a 3D printer at the Sacramento Public Library.  He stated, “There’s home, there’s work, and then there’s a third element.  Libraries are working hard to recognize this 3rd social space.”  Senator Knight agreed that there was a real benefit to getting people to come to the library and stay for awhile.  “I’m here to make libraries survive.  I love them.  But this next generation is a fast-moving group.”  Senator Steinberg concurred that there should be an effort at connecting with the younger patrons in such a way as to make the library “inviting.” 

Lastly, there was also an extended discussion about the benefits of summer reading programs, with Senators Knight and Mitchell stating that they thought it was important for school districts and libraries to work together to identify reading lists and make sure that libraries have sufficient copies of the books on the list.  As Senator Knight stated, “A lot of kids can’t afford to buy a book for $15, when a parent is struggling to put food on the table.” 

CLA President, Deborah Doyle testified in support of the nomination, and praised Greg Lucas for touring numerous libraries up and down the state and meeting with countless library directors to learn about issues and to ask the “probing, hard questions.”  She said CLA looked forward to a long, thoughtful collaborative relationship with Mr. Lucas.  CLA President-Elect, Robert Karatsu said that he believed that Mr. Lucas would be the “voice for libraries, our advocate, our number one cheerleader,” and said he thought Greg Lucas would “take us great places.”  Lobbyists from the California School Library Association, the California SEIU, and the California Student Aid Commission also testified in support of the nomination. 

As mentioned, the nomination now moves to the Senate Floor for a full vote in the coming days.