When the Calabasas Library opened in 1998, it was in a small storefront across from the Calabasas
Commons. It moved to two other spaces before the city built the current structure.
Through it all, there’s always been one familiar face to welcome visitors to the library, even when it was in an unfamiliar setting— Barbara Lockwood.
The city librarian, Lockwood was there to unpack and shelve boxes of books in the library’s first home, a 1,400-square-foot retail space. Now she oversees a full-time staff of five as well as dozens of volunteers in the 23,000-square-foot building next to City Hall.
But she didn’t plan to end up where she has.
“I have a master’s (degree) in public administration. I had worked in libraries as a graduate student and got my first full-time job as a cataloger at the University of Colorado,” Lockwood said. “When I had kids, I thought (working at the Calabasas Library) was a good thing to do. I just wanted to work part time initially.”
Lockwood started in 1998 as the part-time children’s librarian but was promoted to her current position within a year. Friendly and easygoing, she acknowledges that the stereotype of a strict librarian demanding silence is no longer accurate.
“We say the library is not a quiet place anymore. It’s a community center, because we do have a lot of programs, and we encourage (people to attend),” Lockwood said. “Every once in a while I have to shush somebody, but we want the library to be a vibrant heart of the community.”
In contrast to the refrain that millennials are killing industries around the country, Lockwood said, she’s found most library patrons to be in their mid-20s.
A 2017 study by the Pew Research Center found that 53 percent of millennials reported using a public library or bookmobile within a year of being surveyed, compared to 45 percent of Generation Xers and 43 percent of baby boomers.
“If you look around the library right now, at 12:43 (p.m.) on a Friday, it’s almost completely filled. We have people of all ages,” Lockwood said. “All the people here now are 20-something. It’s interesting. We have parents come in with their kids, we have a lot of kids for story time. Students come in for curriculum needs, and a lot of seniors too.”
It’s not just books people are interested in. The library offers an educational outreach program. The library also recently received two virtual-reality headsets, which are favorite features of Calabasas teens visiting the library.
Lockwood said that what she loves most about her job is working with the community. She makes sure the library has educational materials schools need for their students, tracks down books the library may not have for residents who want them and helps organize the library’s many community programs.
“If you look at our mission statement, I think it says we provide research, education and entertainment,” Lockwood said. “We have programs. We have fun reading, best-sellers, movies. I love the job because it’s varied. I get to meet all sorts of people in the community. Reference is particularly fun because you never know what you’re going to be asked.”
After Calabasas was founded in 1991, the city contracted with Library Systems and Services, a Maryland-based for-profit company that manages municipal libraries.
LSSI staffed the facility, and six months after opening, the library had so many patrons it was moved to a 4,000-square-foot space in the City Hall building on Mureau Road.
It moved again, in 2001, to a building on Park Sorrento near its current location. In 2003, the city received an $8-million state grant to construct its own library, which opened in 2008.
“From the first opening day in 1998 to now, I see how far we’ve come, going through moving from one building to another to finally getting our permanent home,” Lockwood said. “I’m really proud of the staff. They do such a good job, they work so hard. We’re open 52 hours (per week), and we only have five full-time staff. The hourly staff are fabulous, too.”