As you walk into the Grover Beach Community Library, you are immediately struck by a feeling of welcome and warmth. To the right is the colorful, children’s room and in front of you over the desk is a beautiful, handmade quilt. Paintings and a community bulletin board add to the homey quality of the space.
The quilt was made and donated by Carol Roberts’ sister in Washington state.
There is a section for California history and a computer with Internet access for use by adults. Books are entirely donated in this completely volunteer library. Thousands of titles and authors are offered, from classics to current bestsellers.
Back in the day, around the late ’90s, there were several San Luis Obispo County small branch libraries, including one in Grover Beach on Ninth Street and West Grand Avenue, funded by the county library system. But most of the small branches were closed, leaving no library in Grover Beach.
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Mary Lee Clark shared her dream of a new library for Grover Beach with Roberts, now secretary of the board of directors.
Attorney Clifford Clark (Mary Lee’s husband) loaned money to open the Exploration Station for children in the old fire station. Roberts sent out letters, helped with meetings and, most fortunately, Nan Fowler, owner of Nan’s Books, agreed to be president of the new board of directors, a position she has held since.
They soon opened the new library in the old fire station, alongside the Exploration Station, and incorporated as a nonprofit. They asked for books and books started pouring in, and still do.
Volunteers began to appear, and the library continues to be run totally by a large, devoted volunteer staff. About five years ago, Clifford Clark offered part of his law building in Ramona Park at a low rent so the library could expand.
Fowler can’t say enough about the people who staff the library, describing them as “an amazing group of volunteers at our library.” It has been “such a unique experience for all of us” she said. “We care deeply for this library.”
The volunteers came from many different backgrounds.
Sindy Fligiel, the volunteer coordinator, was retiring and saw a sign that a community library was going to open and came to the first meeting in January 2002.
Maria Dowdy, children’s librarian, was a retired preschool teacher, and her husband suggested she volunteer at the Exploration Station. After a while, she came across the street to volunteer in the children’s section.
Claire Gates, head librarian and treasurer, states that volunteering “fills a great void when you retire.” Barbara Nichols, director of Friends of the Library, notes that a “clean and tidy homeless man comes in after lunch at People’s Kitchen to read nonfiction for an hour or so, and says thank you and leaves.”
For a small community library, there are many programs from which to choose. A book club meets every fourth Wednesday monthly at the library at 2 p.m.
This year, local authors are speaking and bringing their books to donate. Local poet and author, Evelyn Cole, spoke in June. M.J. Munro (“O’Halloran Land”) will be speaking at today’s meeting. Coming up are Gordon Snider (“Sigourney’s Quest”) and others.
This was the second year of the Summer Reading Program for children, and 22 elementary school children completed the program, four times the number of children from 2009.
“We are just delighted with the turnout this summer,” Fowler said.
Friends of the Library is a group of people who help with fundraising. The library holds several fundraisers each year.
Cowboy Poetry Night is coming up Oct. 14 from 5 to 7 p.m. It will be held at the Grover City Grange at 370 S. 13th St. and will be featuring several cowboy poets, including Grover Beach City Manager Bob Perrault.
Music will be provided by the Flaming Ukuleles, composed of Carol and Richard Roberts, both volunteers at the library, and five others. Tickets are a reasonable $3 for one and $5 for two people.
The Valentine’s Dinner and Dance on Feb. 14 sells out every year. It features the Jimmy Enos Band playing swing dance music and food including barbecued hamburgers, salads and desserts.
In the summer, a volunteer celebration is held.
Yes, the Grover Beach library attracts an amazing number of volunteers and community support, from the local Elks and Rotary clubs to the Grange to county Supervisor Adam Hill and many more.
To join Friends of the Library, become a volunteer, join the book club, donate or take out a book, drop by at 240 N. Ninth St. (at Ramona) during open hours — Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — or call 481-4131. The library is closed Wednesday and Sunday.
Cynthia Lambert and Gayle Cuddy write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays.