King Library’s Shining Example

Dr. Mary A. Papazian

In late August, I was honored to help celebrate an historic occasion – the 15-year anniversary of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, a vitally important facility that connects SJSU’s campus with the City of San José.

I was delighted to take part in that morning’s festivities, as I felt it was important to highlight the successful collaboration between San José State University and the City of San José that serves as the library’s foundation.

As we all know, collaborations and partnerships such as the King Library don’t just happen. They take leadership and vision. So I am appreciative towards the individuals that enabled this dream to become a reality, including then-SJSU President Robert Caret and then-San José Mayors Susan Hammer and Ron Gonzales, and their entire teams.

While many of the players have moved on, some are still with us, though in other roles. City Supervisor Cindy Chavez, for example, served on the San José City Council at the time the project was developed. I remain grateful to Supervisor Chavez and her continued support today for advancing the many shared goals of our university, our city, and our broader community.

We talk a great deal at San José State about the importance of partnerships and collaborations, particularly those with our city and regional colleagues. And every time we speak publically about what an effective partnership looks like, inevitably the King Library project is held out as a shining example. Rightly so!

This collaborative effort has made us a better University, and it has made the City of San José a stronger city.

For the University, it has provided a beautiful, modern, highly functional library for our students, faculty and staff that is both inviting and full of the learning resources they need to conduct their studies and scholarship.

The facility also offers us an inviting, accessible space to showcase art and other important displays such as “The Power of Protest,” a spectacular exhibit focusing on sport and social activism that we just recently unveiled. The exhibit provides historical context for today’s issues through an interactive exhibit featuring artifacts from the Dr. Harry Edwards Collection. Included are historic photos, autographed books, Olympic Project for Human Rights memorabilia and correspondence from Dr. King and President Obama.

What better venue than the King Library to house a collection such as this?

And because of our partnership with the city, the library is now providing a wide range of opportunities and information for San José State students that might not have otherwise been as accessible to them. The SJPL Works program, for example, is a career and business center that offers a network of resources for employment seekers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs.

Perhaps the main benefit of this joint partnership is the sheer volume of resources that the library is now able to offer, both in printed books as well as digital assets. The collections in both those areas are deeper and broader than they would be without the joint partnership.

The City, for its part, is now able to introduce its population to not one, but twoeducational environments: the Library itself, and San José State University. The library not only provides a functional learning space for them, but it also acts as a powerful symbol for City residents. College is no longer an abstract pipe dream; it is literally at their doorsteps, on their front lawn, and very much in reach.

In that regard, the King Library is a true connector. It is accessible to everyone, bringing the richness of learning and education to anyone who chooses to take advantage.

Acclaimed San José educator and citizen Ernesto Galarza asked us to “weave the campus and the city into one unbroken mesh of involvement and abolish the distinction, which I think is a false one, between life and preparation for life.”

This echoes my challenge to us all in my Fall Welcome Address to the San José State University community in August: that San José State become the city’sagora or public square.

Thanks largely to the example we now see at the King Library, I think it is safe to say that we are well on our way to realizing that vision.