Families packed into the Goleta Valley Public Library on Saturday to celebrate its 50th anniversary — one year late.
“We’ve really been here 51 years,” said Allison Gray, director of the Goleta & Santa Ynez Valley Libraries.
“We got our dates wrong, and last year, we were so busy recovering from COVID, we were just concentrating on that.”
Gray said the library staff believed the building at 500 N. Fairview Ave. was completed in 1973.
“It finally occurred to me to double check and I was appalled to realize it was completed in 1972,” she told Noozhawk.
Once the library staff realized it was a year past the semicentennial mark, the first thought was to skip a celebration. But then they decided it was well worth marking the occasion.
“We are an important part of the community and we felt like that was something to be celebrated,” Gray said “So we decided to go forward with it.”
Jessica and Russell Doty attended the celebration with their children, 5-year-old Inez and 3-year-old Cooper.
Inez said she likes to use the computers at the library and Cooper said his favorite part about the library are the books — especially ones about trains.
The Dotys both grew up in Santa Barbara County. Russell is a fifth-generation farmer in Goleta and said he remembers attending story times at the library as a child.
Coinciding with the library’s anniversary is Gray’s retirement. She has worked with the library for 15 years and has been a librarian for 37.
“When you’re a librarian, there’s nothing better than connecting a child with a book that’s just for them or an adult with a book that’s just for them,” she said.
“That is the most satisfying thing.”
Gray moved to the Goleta library 15 years ago from a library in the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island. She has been managing the library for the last 10 years.
Throughout her time with the library, she has seen circulation only go up.
“Our patrons are such avid readers and have such a wide interest, we’re in the net borrower in the Black Gold library system,” Gray said. “Which means that our patrons borrow more from the other libraries than any of the other libraries’ patrons borrow.”
Additional shelving had to be added to keep up with the library’s growing collection and demand for books.
Gray also added a “library of things collection” for people to check out anything from cupcake pans to virtual reality headsets.
“I call it my technology petting zoo,” she joked.
Gray also serves on the National Book Awards committee for the American Library Association.
Last year the award went to Silent Gesture: The Autobiography of Tommie Smith, and Gray got to speak to Smith on the phone to congratulate him on the award.
“It was amazing to call him and tell him that he had won the gold medal of the library world,” she said of the 1968 Olympics gold medal-winning sprinter whose black-power salute at the medal ceremony rocked the sports world.
As for her retirement plans, Gray said she plans to move to Portugal within the next year.
“The cost of living is very reasonable there and I love traveling in Europe,” she said.
In the meantime, Gray has lots of reading to catch up on.
“I have notebooks of books that I want to read because I purchase the adult fiction, nonfiction and large print for Goleta, Solvang and Buellton,” Gray said.
She thinks there are probably thousands of books on her list that she hasn’t had the time to read yet.
“Fortunately, I’m a really fast reader,” Gray said. “So I’m going to become a patron of the Goleta library and just read read read.”