On Tuesday night, the City Council unanimously adopted a resolution to submit a proposal to the Orcutt Union School District for use of a vacant library building on a corner of the school campus.
“I think a library would certainly be a benefit to the (Los Alamos) community out there,” Councilman Bob Orach said. “It’s a great little community.”
“I’m really excited to see that happening because it needs to be happening,” Mayor Alice Patino said. “As you say, it’s very underserved. A library isn’t what libraries used to be. They just really sort of bring a community together.”
A grassroots effort to reopen a public library began about a year ago in the unincorporated community, and the group has raised $60,000 so far to pay for modifying the facility to comply with the Americans with Disability Act and purchase equipment.
“Two-thirds of that money has been raised locally,” said Vickie Gill, representing Friends of the Los Alamos Library.
The facility on the corner of Helena and Shaw streets formerly housed the Los Alamos Library, which was operated as a county branch by the Santa Maria Public Library from 1966 to 1988.
The city proposes to rent the building to house a county branch library for $1 a year, but the terms would need to be negotiated.
Libraries in the unincorporated communities are operated by cities, using county funding. With the community’s population of 1,890, the allotment for a branch library would add up to approximately $13,000. Santa Maria officials stressed that no city general funds would be used.
The $13,000 would pay for about 12 hours of service each week, similar to the amount of time Cuyama’s library is open.
“It’s a pretty minimal expense actually,” Santa Maria librarian Mary Housel said. “To me, it’s amazing how we do that.”
The value of the library to the community would extend beyond books, several people noted.
Along with books, libraries today provide technological resources for those who don’t have access to computers and Internet access at home.
“It becomes the heartbeat of the community and that’s that we’re looking for,” Gill added.
The city’s action came at the urging of the Orcutt Union School District which obtained a waiver from the State Board of Education regarding requirements related to surplus property.
The waiver allows the state to enter into a lease directly with the city as long as the district’s board of trustees holds a public meeting to receive proposals for the library building. The school board plans to hold that meeting in August.