More than 20 years in the making, and Tom Elerding still finds it hard to believe that he’ll soon be regularly setting foot in a new library in Old Town Orcutt.
A library surrounded by windows and shelves of books, not wedged in too-small space between two businesses on the other side of town in Oak Knolls Shopping Center.
Not much of a dream for some, but nothing short of a miracle to Elerding and other members of the Friends of the Orcutt Library.
The group that formed in 1991 with the goal of building a new library will see that vision come to fruition next week.
The branch at 1157 E. Clark Ave. closed its doors for good last week so its contents could be moved west to a facility of nearly double the size, in Old Town Orcutt’s Union Plaza development at 175 S. Broadway.
Patrons will get their first look at the location during a grand opening at 10 a.m. Saturday thanks to the fundraising efforts of Elerding’s group, the City of Santa Maria, the Santa Maria Public Library and the County of Santa Barbara.
“It’s a miracle,” Elerding told Noozhawk last week. “It really is. It took a long time.”
The friends have raised more than $100,000 in three years via book sales and donor contributions to fulfill a growing need.
Although the intent was to be moved into the new space last year, Elerding said he was beyond impressed with the level of community support and key donors, including the Santa Barbara Foundation and Altrusa of the Central Coast.
He said the dream also wouldn’t have come true without the Will family, who own the new building and held the space an extra year until the money was raised.
The friends group is putting $65,000 toward tenant improvements and $35,000 for new furnishings, materials, supplies and technology.
“The carpeting is all new, it smells like a new building, the walls are all nice and clean, you can sit by the window and read a book if you want to,” Eldering said. “It’ll be a very nice library. We’re hoping it’ll be one of the centers of old life here. Hopefully it will be a popular place.”
Last week, Santa Maria City Librarian Mary Housel looked admiringly around the empty but soon-to-be-filled library in Old Town.
She said this branch will have Wi-Fi Internet access, a public fax machine and a copy machine — all new additions at a library expected to serve an average of 30,000 residents a year.
“This one’s nice because of the natural light,” said Housel, noting that the old branch has just one window.
Some shelves from Santa Maria’s old library line the walls of an expanded children’s section.
“We saved it knowing this project would be coming,” Housel said, still surveying the space. “This has been their dream. Orcutt has been a really high-growth area. The community kind of warranted a library a while ago.”