Let's Save the Riverside Library
The Riverside Library is the only library in the area immediately south of the river, and east of IH-35. It serves mainly the 78741 and 78744 zip code areas, which include Montopolis, Bergstrom, Del Valle, Town Lake, and industrial and residential sites stretching down to Ben White and Burleson Road. The population served includes Hispanic, African and Asian Americans, many of whom belong to disadvantaged groups. It also include UT and ACC students. If closed, patrons using the Riverside Library would be obliged to cross IH-35 to Congress and Oltorf to Twin Oaks, or travel much farther south to the Dove Springs branch (to be converted to the Southeast Regional library later this year) beyond Ben White. In this configuration IH-35, Ben White, and the Colorado River are effective deterrents to the movement of people across boundaries.
Several new, very large apartment complexes have recently been built close to the library. More residences are expected with the opening of the Bergstrom airport and the expansion of high-tech companies such as Advanced Micro Devices. These factors will have a direct impact on library usage. The new apartment complexes for university and college students will contribute to an ever-increasing and important group using the facility for leisure and extra-curricular reading.
With the new Bergstrom airport, and the consequent build-up of the area around it, the library will receive even more requests for library cards. Some of the Del Valle residents pay $48.00 for non-resident cards. They constitute a large under-served population without a library in their area. This is a section of the community whose needs should be addressed.
Circulation statistics are used to indicate the usage of the library, but they do not reflect its real usage. Many patrons use the library for the services and programs available: Job Information Center, the Victory Tutorial Center, Adult Basic Education, the Internet Training Center, and the two Austin Free-Net Internet workstations. In addition, many patrons visit the library on their lunch hour to read newspapers and magazines. They do not necessarily check out books when using these services. Outreach programs to day cares and schools encourage readership in Austin's youth, but do not increase circulation statistics appreciably.
Nearby libraries that have lower circulation and usage statistics than Riverside are Govalle, Carver, Oak Springs, and Terrazas. All are within two miles of each other and in closest proximity to the Central Library. Riverside is more than 3 miles from Twin Oaks (and separated by IH-35) and 6 miles from Dove Springs (beyond Ben White) which has the lowest circulation statistics. The justifications cited for closure are contradicted by the facts regarding circulation statics and facility locations.
The library currently offers many diverse programs and services to meet the needs of a highly heterogeneous community. These programs and services include a Job Information Center for the unemployed, the Victory Tutoring Center with a full-time coordinator for school children through grades 12, an Internet Training Center in conjunction with Austin Free-Net that provides free instruction on the Internet for the whole of Austin, regular in-house and outreach programs for children in day cares, elementary schools, recreation, and neighborhood centers, and a comprehensive adult basic education and literacy collection. In addition, the library has offered free income tax assistance during the months of February, March, and April. Also, special events are offered to observe different ethnic celebrations such as Mexican Posada in December, 16 de Septiembre, and 5 de Mayo, as well as displays for Juneteenth and Kwanzaa.
The above reasons clearly indicate the need for a bigger facility in the Riverside area. Maintaining the present facility and enhancing its collection for a bigger City-owned facility would be more cost-effective than closing the branch and building a new one. This has been the practice with Dove Springs, which will be reopened as the Southeast Regional Branch, Govalle which will open next year as the Zaragoza Branch, and North Loop which will be renamed as the Yarborough Branch. This procedure would appear to be the most feasible for Riverside.