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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 2:13 pm | Fair 63º

 
 
 
 

Veterans Resource Site Turns Another Page For Santa Maria Library

Assistance for former military members is newest addition as facility serves 21st century patrons

In a small ceremony this week, the Santa Maria Public Library celebrated the addition of Veterans Connect, a resource center to link former military members with assorted programs and benefits. Click to view larger
In a small ceremony this week, the Santa Maria Public Library celebrated the addition of Veterans Connect, a resource center to link former military members with assorted programs and benefits. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A desk with information for veterans at the Santa Maria Public Library serves another role beyond providing books to 21st century patrons.

In a small ceremony this week, the library celebrated the addition of Veterans Connect, a resource center to link former military members with assorted programs and benefits.

“One of the largest problems that all government agencies that relate to veterans have is connecting them to the information and the resources they have,” said Calvin Angel, Central Coast local interagency network coordinator for the California Department of Veterans Affairs.

For instance, he said, many may not realize that in California children of disabled veterans do not have to pay tuition to attend a community college or state university.

“That’s a big deal, but if it’s information you don’t have, what good does it do you,” Angel said.

The veterans resource center became the newest addition to the library, which has worked to remain a vital tool for community members.

Books, movies, music and internet access still are available at the library.

But a grant has allowed the addition of a “makerspace” to let children and adults collaborate in creating while using equipment such as a 3-D printer.  The makerspace is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays with Allan Hancock College interns ready to help those looking to create.

City Librarian Mary Housel said the facility is looking to attract new users or patrons who previously used services, such as people who attended when their children were younger.

Kerrie Garrison fills in at the veterans resource center in the Santa Maria Public Library as Army veteran Ann Crutcher learns about services. Veterans Connect aims to link former military members with benefits and other help they can receive. Click to view larger
Kerrie Garrison fills in at the veterans resource center in the Santa Maria Public Library as Army veteran Ann Crutcher learns about services. Veterans Connect aims to link former military members with benefits and other help they can receive. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“We’re trying to get the word out that we have a lot of interactive lifelong learning types of programs for people that are looking to keep engaged and stimulated,” Housel said. 

The library hosts a  number of adult and children’s programs, ranging from book discussion groups to adults coloring time to homework help to story time. The nonprofit Central Coast Literacy Council also operates from the library. 

“Almost everything we do is dedicated to the goal of lifelong learning for everybody, to keep stimulating their brain and knowing that the library is the best deal ever because we’re free,” Housel said, referring to the library as the “People’s University.”

Santa Maria’s library will mark its 110th anniversary in 2018 and the 10th year in the new 60,000-square-foot building constructed as other cities struggled to keep theirs open during the economic downtown.

Joanne Britton, a librarian, successfully wrote the small but successful grant for the veterans resource center, and has applied for a Libraries Illuminated grant to expand the broadband access with plans to get laptops and hotspots for people to check out from the library.

The goal is to bridge the digital divide between children armed with Chromebooks through school and parents who lack the technology skills, Britton added.

Those computers may be equipped with Rosetta Stone to help those learning to speak English, one more unique program to keep the library relevant. 

“It’s not your grandma’s library any more,” Britton said. 

At the veterans resource center in a corner on the first floor, a county veterans service officer will be at the library two days a week — from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The goal is to get a veterans resource center in as many counties as possible, Angel said. The Santa Maria site became the fourth between Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, he said.

In addition to council members and others, a handful of veterans, including Ann Crutcher, an Army veteran, were at the library Tuesday for the unveiling ceremony. 

“I think it’s really great they have this here. I know a lot of veterans don’t even now there’s such a thing as a county veterans services officer,” Crutcher said. “Because they change the benefits all the time, veterans who maybe got out a decade ago don’t know the new benefits they may be eligible for.”

The Santa Maria Public Library, 421 S. McClelland St., is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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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