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The New Atascadero Library: Turning vision into reality

Atascadero Library

This post is written by Katherine O’Clair, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Librarian.

On Saturday, June 7, I had the joy and privilege to attend the grand opening of the new Atascadero (Public) Library. The large crowd anxiously awaiting the ribbon-cutting included families, residents, community leaders, and library staff. This was a great day for which many had waited a long time.

Since January 2011, I have been helping the Atascadero Friends of the Library (FOL) in their near decade-long quest to open a new library. A colleague told me about the opportunity to join the FOL Fundraising Steering Committee, and I was eager to bring my enthusiasm and skills to help this important group.

Donor Tree for Atascadero Library

Donor tree for Atascadero Library.

This small but mighty committee, led by Eileen O’Grady, worked diligently for more than two years to raise $1 million through private donations and grants to “Open the Doors”. We were supported by our community, who believed in our vision and gave donations; some small, some large, but all important.

As a newcomer to Atascadero, my involvement with the FOL helped me to make connections and become engaged with my community. I became involved to help a cause I really believed in, but in the end, I benefited equally if not more.

The real work begins

In addition to my work with the Fundraising Steering Committee, in May 2012, I joined the Atascadero Library Expansion Steering Committee as an FOL representative. I was asked to join this committee, which was responsible for overseeing the design and construction of the new library, because the FOL wanted a librarian involved in the decision making. While this was a completely new experience for me, I found it both interesting and enjoyable and discovered I could make important contributions. I learned a lot about how local public sector projects are administered and funded, and I got to weigh in on choosing the interior design features including carpet, tile, paint, furnishings, and much, much more. Needless to say, it was awesome to finally see the outcome of all of our hard work when the library opened on June 7.

Introducing the new Atascadero Library

Reading Room at Atascadero Library

The reading room.

Simply put, the new Atascadero Library is amazing. The new location is ideal –- close to downtown, near the movie theater, and across the street from the Transit Center, which makes it convenient for those who use public transportation. It is nearly twice the size of the former building, and there are many great features throughout, including new self-service check-out stations, new computers, and local artwork on display.

As you enter you immediately see two points of pride: Alice’s Bookstore (the FOL Bookstore) and the Donor Tree featuring the names of those who donated so generously. The bright and welcoming children’s area features “Captain’s Corner,” where children can read to Captain the Reading Dog. The teen space, designed by teens for teens, has functional furnishings including a booth table and reconfigurable seating. There are also two study rooms with whiteboard and tackboard walls to help facilitate teaching and learning. The adult section has a lovely reading area with comfortable furniture and beautiful views of the Santa Lucia Mountains through the large windows.

Upstairs, the new community room, which holds up to 100 people, will provide a beautiful and functional space for a wide variety of events and programs. The halls outside are lined with historical images and accounts of Atascadero’s early years as a new colony. Last, but not least, and I must say it’s a little bittersweet, is the Eileen & Dan O’Grady Conference Room. After spending so many hours in meetings in the old Martin Polin Community Room at the old library, I am hoping there will be more opportunities to serve the FOL, so I can spend some time in the bright and beautiful new conference room with incredible views of Atascadero.

Some final thoughts

Without a doubt, the new Atascadero Library fulfills the FOL’s vision of creating a state-of-the-art library with more space, improved design and enhanced technology to serve users of all ages for years to come. I am honored and proud that I helped to “Open the Doors,” and I hope you will join me in celebrating this fantastic achievement.

Teen space at Atascadero Library

Teen space at Atascadero Library.

Stop by and see the new Atascadero Library at 6555 Capistrano Avenue. For hours and more information about the library, please visit http://slolibrary.org/branch.htm.

All photos by Katherine O’Clair.