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Dream of a Los Alamos Library Gathers Support as Next Chapter in Community’s Story

With support from Santa Maria Public Library, Orcutt schools and Santa Barbara County, nonprofit group aims to reopen a facility by summer

Retired educator Vickie Gill often fantasizes about the day when students in rural Los Alamos will gather outside on the patio of the public library and talk about life’s great ideas, possibly with a good book in hand.

That day is still a ways off, since the small town has no library of its own, but it’s a fantasy that Gill and others have embraced and work passionately toward.

Since Friends of the Los Alamos Library formed last year, the nonprofit organization already has gathered a third of necessary funds to realize that dream — thanks in no small part to the community rallying behind it.

“Who’s against a library?” asked Gill, a Los Alamos resident and former English teacher at Dunn School in Santa Ynez. “Los Alamos is an underserved area. Everybody in the community wants it to happen.”

All the pieces to open a library seem in place, including a building that used to house a library on the campus of Olga Reed Elementary School.

The Santa Maria Public Library operated a county branch out of the one-story building from 1966 to 1988, when the location closed and made way for a bookmobile service, according to Santa Maria City Librarian Mary Housel.

When the bookmobile broke down a short time later, and no one had money to repair or replace it, books stopped coming.

The closest library is now in Buellton or Orcutt, at least a 20-minute drive.

And while nearby Olga Reed Elementary has a library of its own, the size and hours aren’t ideal for all Los Alamos residents, Gill said.

The old library became a preschool for a while before going vacant, and now it’s used to store equipment and supplies for the school’s adjacent student garden, near the corner of Helena and Shaw streets.

The library backers have been collaborating with Santa Barbara County Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, the Santa Maria Public Library and the Orcutt Union School District, which could lease the property to the group for $1 per year, Gill said.

“It’s a real neat thing for the little town of Los Alamos,” said Joe Dana, Olga Reed’s principal.

Gill and Stephan Bedford, owner of Bedford Winery in Los Alamos, have spearheaded efforts to raise $50,000 to $70,000 to remodel the building and pay for interior materials, which would include computers for students who wouldn’t otherwise have access outside school.

The library would be operated as a branch of Santa Maria, similar to its locations in Orcutt, Guadalupe and Cuyama.

“It’s one of the few places where anyone can go,” Gill said of libraries. “We’re providing a much-needed public service. This community has been phenomenal.”

She’s hopeful a library could be reopened — and her dream realized — by summer.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

This building near the campus garden at Olga Reed Elementary School in Los Alamos is the potential site for a new branch of the Santa Maria Public Library. (Kam Jacoby photo)
This building near the campus garden at Olga Reed Elementary School in Los Alamos is the potential site for a new branch of the Santa Maria Public Library. (Kam Jacoby photo)

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