Interview – Library is More Vital Than Ever

By Chris Murphy

The pandemic has changed so much. So many things were closed, some adapted and some went away. On the other hand, some things changed and may even be stronger now after making it through. The Stanislaus County library is one of those institutions.

During the pandemic, library services, mobile book check out and other elements became a lifeline for many. Now the Library is offering even more services, including workforce development and even a new way to get State Park passes and you can do your part to Go Outside this month. We took some time to get caught up with what is happening with Sarah Dentan, Stanislaus County Library Director. She filled us in with some great information.

ModestoView: As libraries are one of the great public gathering and information places of the modern world, how have things changed since the retreat of the pandemic?
Sarah Dentan: Like every other organization, the library had to pivot and find new ways to provide service. We offered no-contact pickup of materials, virtual programs like story time, book clubs and trivia nights, and take-home crafts and STEAM activities. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) We created a digital services library card to enable people to apply for a card online and begin using digital resources without coming into the library. Offerings of eBooks, downloadable audiobooks, and other digital resources were expanded. Now that restrictions have loosened, libraries are getting back to offering services in a more traditional manner, but some changes are likely here to stay.

MV: What are new services that the library is offering?
SD: There are a lot of new offerings, supporting literacy development and learning. Read-to-Me kits contain books, music, a puppet or storytelling prop, and tips to help parents and caregivers create a story time experience at home. The themed kits check out in easy-to-carry tote bags, which is helpful for parents with kids in tow. Welcome to Reading kits are also packaged in tote bags with books and activities to help emerging readers succeed in reading independently. These themed kits each contain four books in English and two in Spanish or bilingual English/Spanish, one activity based on a reading skill, and a bilingual tip sheet for parents/caregivers.

Through a California State Library/Library Services and Technology Act copycat grant, our library has established the “Uke Got This!” program, first developed by the Los Angeles Public Library. Participants can attend a class to learn the basics of playing the ukulele. The Ukulele Kits, consisting of a ukulele, tuner, carrying case, and instruction/song books, can also be checked out for independent use.

MV: Are some of the old favorites, like Story Time, back again?
SD: Yes, Story Times are back at the larger library branches and smaller branches are preparing to restart in-person story times in the coming months. Attendance is limited, so advance registration is required for each story time meeting at this time. The Summer Reading Challenge continued throughout the pandemic, although participation was reduced, especially during the time libraries were closed. So, we want everyone to know that the Summer Reading Challenge is available for all ages, and participants can track their reading using the convenient Beanstack app. This summer’s challenge, “Read Beyond the Beaten Path” takes place May 17 through August 2.

MV: Just how do people get library cards nowadays
SD: Signing up for a library card is easier than ever now. You can complete the library card application online or at a kiosk inside the library. Library staff complete the processing and issue the physical cards. Please bring a government-issued photo ID, and two pieces of mail addressed to you and postmarked within 30 days. Library cards do expire after three years, but renewing takes just a few minutes to confirm that the cardholder’s contact information is still accurate. You actually keep the same physical card. This is also a good time to remind folks that it’s important to report a lost or stolen library card, so the account can be deactivated to prevent fraudulent use.

MV: It sounds like the library is increasing the focus on teaching job and business skills, what is happening?
SD: The Stanislaus County Library, in a partnership with the Stanislaus County Workforce Development department, offers expanded access to career resources and services for job seekers. The services include access to CAreer Pathways, a collection of online job training created with American Rescue Plan Act funds.

People can get free access to skill-building and self-improvement opportunities from some of the top online learning companies, such as Coursera and LinkedIn Learning. Additional online resources include LearningExpress, Northstar Digital Learning, Skillshare, and JobNow/VetNow. These subscription-based services would be cost prohibitive for most people, totaling well over $1,000 per year. Learn more at

MV: How does the State Park Pass checkout work and are there other things like this that people may not know about?
SD: The Stanislaus County Library offers free California State Park day-use passes, available for 14-day checkout with a library card. The new vehicle day-use passes provide entry at more than 200 participating state park units. They are not valid for per-person entry or tour fees, boat use, camping or special events. For more information and a list of eligible parks, please visit To request a vehicle day-use pass, search “California Parks Pass” in the library’s online catalog; access the catalog at or the Stanislaus Library app.

The California State Library Parks Pass program is a partnership between California State Parks and the California State Library, supported with funds from the State of California.

Make sure you “check out” all that our local libraries have to offer. Learn more at

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About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.