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Thanks to Determination of Volunteers, New Los Alamos Library Is One for the Books

Scores of residents celebrate long-overdue milestone after 2-year effort to open library branch in town

Carrie Mergenov checks out a book from the new Los Alamos Branch Library on Saturday as curious residents check out the facility following its grand-opening ceremony. Click to view larger
Carrie Mergenov checks out a book from the new Los Alamos Branch Library on Saturday as curious residents check out the facility following its grand-opening ceremony. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

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A short walk, instead of a 20-minute drive out of town, gave Los Alamos resident Carrie Mergenov a book to read after work as the community’s library officially opened its doors Saturday morning.

Mergenov checked out the first book Saturday from the hundreds available on the newly stacked shelves. Nearby, dozens of people milled around following a grand-opening ceremony.

During the festivities, Olga Reed Elementary School Principal Joe Dana read students’ comments about the library’s addition.

“The library is the like the best thing because we don’t have a lot of stuff in Los Alamos. ... Thank you for all this,” student Lesly told Dana.

“This library truly represents good stuff for the good people of Los Alamos,” he added.

The Los Alamos Branch Library, 405 Helena St., is part of the Santa Maria Public Library system, with funding provided by Santa Barbara County. The facility is housed in a 1,275-square-foot Orcutt Union School District building.

Approximately 100 people showed up Saturday to mark the opening.

The library is open 16 hours a week: 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, who represents Los Alamos, noted the big challenge undertaken by the volunteers — led by local businessman Stephan Bedford and retired teacher Vickie Gill.

Formed in 2013, the Friends of the Los Alamos Library raised nearly $110,000 to pay for the building’s renovation.

Officials gather for the ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Los Alamos Library on Saturday, celebrating the grassroots effort to re-open the facility. In the center are Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr and Stephan Bedford, president of the Friends of Los Alamos Library. Click to view larger
Officials gather for the ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Los Alamos Library on Saturday, celebrating the grassroots effort to re-open the facility. In the center are Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr and Stephan Bedford, president of the Friends of Los Alamos Library. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“The building has sat unused for years and was derelict in many ways,” Farr said. “When I did a site visit of the property early on I saw that the inside was also in very shabby shape and needed numerous repairs and upgrades.”

Farr credited the Friends of the Los Alamos Library for its determination, which didn’t waver even though the project took more time and money than its original estimate.

She said the historic town’s effort embodied the spirit of the Old West, including ​hard work, persistence, self-reliance and thriftiness.

Farr said she expected a request for funding, but the group never sought one.

“That doesn’t mean this group’s self-reliance shouldn’t be rewarded,” she said, announcing that her office would donate $2,500 to the Friends of the Los Alamos Library to add to the collection.

“You have all accomplished something very important here that will be of enormous benefit to so many people in the years to come,” Farr added.

The grassroots effort did more than simply open the the library, Orcutt Unified School District Superintendent Deborah Blow said.

The Los Alamos Branch Library includes a children’s area with books, puzzles and a computer. Click to view larger
The Los Alamos Branch Library includes a children’s area with books, puzzles and a computer. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“What you’ve done by working together is create a great place for our students,” she said. “What you’ve also done for the students of the Orcutt Union School District is you’ve modeled the way. You’ve shown what working together — and was mentioned, perseverance — and coming through things what you can do and what you can accomplish.”

The library catalog has 2,000 books for children, teens and young adults; DVDs; and books on CD, plus subscriptions to magazines and newspapers. WiFi-based Internet access is available in addition to four Internet-accessible computers.

The library also is part of the Black Gold Cooperative Library System, giving Los Alamos much more access.

“The Black Gold system enables them to get a book from anywhere in the system transported to Los Alamos,” Dana said. “And that’s pretty magical for the people of Los Alamos.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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.

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