For years, Oakley librarians and supporters have advocated for a new library space to accommodate the increased number of users. The Oakley Library currently shares space with the Freedom High School Library, and while the arrangement was a good fit 12 years ago, the Oakley Library has outgrown its 3,000-square-foot home.
The Friends of the Oakley Library conducted a study earlier this year to find the best relocation site, and the CentroMart building was identified as ideal. The facility occupies 15,000 square feet, which would include room for a community room and possibly a café. The remodel is expected to cost up to $4 million, so to make the move a reality, residents would need to approve an annual parcel tax of $50 to $60, the equivalent of $4 to $5 per month.
Representatives from the Friends of the Oakley Library said Monday that they plan to research grant opportunities to offset the costs, but public support is imperative to move the plans forward.
While Councilmember Pope supported the resolution, he expressed hesitation. Since voters failed to pass Measure S in June (a tax for emergency and fire services), Pope is concerned that voters won’t support the proposed parcel tax. He’s also concerned that voters might be hesitant to give up a prime retail space in the heart of downtown.
“I’m in favor of moving this forward, with these reservations, so that we can study this, put together an outstanding package that we can all get excited about and get the community really behind it and drive this forward,” Pope said. “I see this as a possible gem for our community, but there’s a lot of hard work ahead of us.”
Pope said that if the library is to move into the CentroMart building, it needs to be more of a community center with a commercial kitchen so that community events could also be held there.
Oakley Library Commissioner Cindy Tumin believes a downtown library will bring nothing but positive change by increasing foot traffic downtown. Mayor Kevin Romick said he spoke to several downtown business owners who supported the potential relocation, which could lead to an increase in customers.
Linda Pennock, Friends of the Oakley Library president, said an expanded library space would provide more room for the Friends of Oakley Library to host book sales that would bring in more money and help offset costs. A community room would also provide space for library programs and meetings of community organizations.
Tumin, Pennock and Oakley Library Manager Jenna Skinner recently took Councilmember Carol Rios on a tour of the Oakley Library, and Rios said she was surprised by what she saw. During her tour, Rios saw the need for more computers and outlets for laptops, plus more room to host storytimes.
“It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least,” Rios said Monday.
Now that the council has approved the project, the Friends of the Oakley Library must draw up specific plans that can be taken to voters.