There are many changes happening at the Oakhurst Branch Library and many new services are available to the public. Thanks to grants, upgrades and the long-awaited expansion of the facility is now underway.
Remodeling construction has begun on the old fire station attached the library that was vacated in 2010. It is now being transformed into a nearly 2,000 square foot community room complete with two ADA approved bathrooms and a hallway connecting it to the library. A new staff lounge is also being added.
There will be two covered porches that trucks can back up to for book drop-off and the Friends of the Oakhurst Branch Library will have a new area for book processing and storage. It is due to the efforts of the FOBL that the expansion is possible.
"We would not have received the grants if the Friends hadn't partnered with us," Branch Manager Dale Rushing said.
The Oakhurst Branch Library received a $200,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Community Facilities funds in 2010 for the remodel and the Friends matched the grant with $80,000.
Once completed, the community room will be free to use for non profit groups and available to all groups for only $25 for a meeting. Rushing hopes to host a variety of events in the new community room -- from children and teen activities and the summer reading program to guest authors, writing classes and book clubs.
The old community room, the Sue Rhu Room, is now a children's reading room and library. Although the transformation is not yet fully complete, the room, along with the entire library, has new carpeting thanks to a Chukchansi community grant. The room also has new shelving thanks to Jim Elliott. Plans are still underway for redecorating the area and Rushing said they will partner with the Oakhurst Kiwanis Club for new preschool books.
The library has also created a new area for teens with two two computers -- one laptop for regular Internet research and a desktop computer with a program called Advanced Workstations in Education on it, offering educational games. There are also two computers with AWE software in the children's area.
"Teens are very important to us and we want to reach out to them," Rushing said.
There are also two computers in a separate corner of the library with Rosetta Stone English as Second Language program on it. These computers have no Internet access and are solely for learning English. The library has partnered with the Mountain Area Literacy Council for this and the Friends purchased the Rosetta Stone programs.
The library is also updating the books it has to offer and weeding out old books that haven't been checked out for a year or more, replacing them with new books. There is also a section of best sellers available for rent and a section of books for sale -- both sponsored by the Friends.
The library also has four new security cameras, a new heating and air conditioning system and a fifth public computer that were purchased through a Chukchansi grant.
And thanks to the Friends, Wi-Fi is now available to the public as well as the Madera County Law Library extension which is open noon to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
The library remodel has provided new money saving features. There is new lighting thanks to an energy efficiency grant from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to upgrade lighting for all county owned buildings thanks to Bill Hayter, Madera Grants & Program Management. This will save the library about $3,000 a year on its electric bill.
In addition, there are new energy efficient windows thanks to Central Valley Community Bank, Wells Fargo, United Security Bank and Yosemite Bank who, together, donated $2,800. The new windows will help keep out heat during the summer, cold air during the winter and conserve energy use.
Rushing said she is hoping for all landscaping to be done sometime next spring. That landscaping will include an ADA approved sidewalk from the front door of the library and around the building to the new community room. Some of the cement for the project has been donated by Outback Materials.
"Several years ago the Oakhurst Library began to update, modernize and move forward with innovative ideas, wish lists and hope," Rushing said. "All this is slowly becoming a dream come true because of the overwhelming generosity of Friends of the Oakhurst Library, our volunteers who give hours of their time each week, the generous gifts given to the Oakhurst Library by local businesses, community clubs and most of all, the caring support of the citizens of Oakhurst. That support allows us to make a difference."
The outside of the library is also being repainted and volunteers are being sought. Those interested can call the library at (559) 683-4838.