The first bond measure that planned to fund a permanent library at Adams Elementary School was passed in 1998 — the year Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published.
Now, under a different bond measure, the project is finally breaking ground.
“It’s hard to have waited so long for it to happen and know it will bypass my own kids, but sometimes change takes a long time,” said Kate Parker, board president of the Santa Barbara Unified School District.
Parker, a longtime Adams parent, has a daughter in sixth grade this year who will graduate before the library building opens next fall.
The new library will replace a 40-year-old portable building with a 6,000-square-foot permanent structure with a reading room, outdoor patio and media center.
It will hold 15,000 books in addition to state-of-the art technology, according to the district.
Adams is a big reading school and students read 45,000 books last year, Principal Amy Alzina said.
“This means the world to our students to have a place they can actually read books,” she said.
The library will be attached to the rest of campus by an enclosed hallway, making it easier for students to navigate, facilities director Dave Hetyonk said.
Multiple portables had to be demolished or moved to make space for the library site, increasing the total project cost to about $5.4 million.
Three portable classrooms were brought over from San Marcos High School, giving Adams a net loss of one classroom, Hetyonk said.
Construction crews have been working all summer to prepare the library site and will be building throughout the next school year.
The site will be fenced off from students and nearby classrooms will have boarded-up windows, Hetyonk said.
Parker and other school district officials celebrated the project with a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday.
Golden shovel in hand, Parker recalled nagging Hetyonk about a permanent library at Adams as her first involvement with the district, before she ran for the Board of Education.
“It’s a thrill for me to see it finally started 15 years after the first bond measure,” she said.
Congresswoman Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, joined in the ceremony. Capps worked as a school nurse at Adams before joining Congress.
“I spent a lot of time at this school and I remember how small that library was,” she said.
Both Adams and Washington are currently getting new libraries from Measure R bond funding, which contributed $35 million to facility upgrades at elementary schools.
The school district hasn’t been able to fund credentialed elementary school librarians for about 10 years — at least not since Parker was elected in 2006, she said.
It hits close to home for Parker, who transitioned from a full-time mother to a volunteer and then full-time librarian at the Cate School in Carpinteria.
She’s pursuing her master’s now, and notes that public school librarians have master’s degrees in addition to teaching credentials.
“They make a big difference in terms of student achievement,” Parker said. “It’s been hard to see that go away on an elementary level.”
Library technicians are in place who are supervised on the district level, but Parker said it’s been financially difficult to even keep library doors open over the past several years.