Library Features...

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS: Display Put Spotlight on Live Oak's Needs and Issues
Branch: Live Oak

Elizabeth Schilling
Schilling, director of the Live Oak
Community Resource Center
poses with part of the Live
Oak exhibit that was seen
by thousands of people
at the Live Oak Branch Library
this past spring and summer

Located between the cities of Santa Cruz and Capitola, Live Oak is a sprawling and diverse unincorporated area with no elected central government of its own. Much of its sense of community is provided by institutions such as the local library branch, and by community-based groups such as the Live Oak Family Resource Center.

For a five-month period, ending in late summer, the Resource Center, the library, and local artist and community leader Alma Molena joined forces to put out a bilingual display called "Live Oak: A Community Snapshot." During its run, the exhibit exposed thousands of people to some of the most comprehensive information ever compiled about Live Oak and its needs.

"We got a lot of feedback that the information was long overdue," said Elizabeth Schilling, director of the Resource Center. "The report was groundbreaking in its comprehensive look at income, education, recreation and other public issues. The display at the library helped create and sustain a buzz about it."

Schilling said the project involved the collection of a considerable amount of data that was widely scattered, owing to Live Oak being under the jurisdiction of the county rather than under its own governance. By the time it was done, more than 40 different sources of information had been tapped, with a heavy reliance on U.S. Census data. The center for Justice, Tolerance and Community at UC-Santa Cruz provided assistance in crunching the census data — part of the university's way of giving its base of knowledge back to the local community.

"The assessment pointed to areas in the community that need attention and highlighted the pressures on families in the area," Schilling said. "It revealed extreme pockets of poverty, the need for adult education, a shortage of adequate pathways for foot and bicycle traffic, and a need to improve youth access to educational resources."

In addition to the library display, the Family Resource Center presented the report to a wide array of government agencies and held community meetings to get comment on the report and on the area's need for services.

"That whole process opened up people's imagination about what Live Oak could become, should be thinking about, and what sort of community investment it might take," Schilling said. "The library was a real cornerstone in the process, serving as a mediating institution that called attention to the information and helped people get involved."

story by Mike Wallace