With thousands of books neatly boxed and stacked on the floor, Grenda Ernst on Wednesday looked out at the nearly empty Atascadero Library on Morro Road and said the moment brought a sense of nostalgia.
“My mother spearheaded the drive to open this library,” she said, smiling at the memory. “We have come full circle, and now we are saying goodbye.”
The community staple is on the move — heading to larger digs downtown and slated to reopen June 7. Its last day was April 26.
The nearly 8,000-square-foot location first opened almost 26 years ago, in May 1988.
As outgoing president of Atascadero’s Friends of the Library, Ernst has been among the many volunteers who worked throughout the years to bring a more spacious, technology-driven library to town.
Around her, workers hustled to take down shelving and pack up offices on Wednesday as they prepared for the transition into an empty, 20,000-square-foot office building at 6555 Capistrano Ave.
Construction on its interior has been underway since July. The building will be shared with San Luis Obispo County’s North County Services Center.
The county’s office space will take up part of the second floor while the library portion will be double the size of its current location. The larger library space will provide more room for youth programs, community meetings and more computers with public Internet access.
About 46,000 books, magazines, DVDs and other library materials were packed this week with the help of 25 volunteers, said Joe Laurenzi, North County regional librarian and branch manager.
“Some people packed boxes, wheeled them or (assembled) them,” Laurenzi said. “And every bit helped.”
For supervisory assistant Gordon Peterson, a Paso Robles resident who loves historical biographies and helping people do research, closing the current library brings mixed feelings.
“On one hand, this location has served the community well. But the new one will be bigger and have nicer technology,” he said.
Peterson is a 30-year employee in the county library system, with the past nine years in Atascadero.
He’s among the library’s 10 employees who will move over to the Capistrano location, which was supposed to open in 2013 as part of the city's 100th birthday. Construction and related delays pushed its debut.
The Morro Road location, which belongs to the county, should be listed for sale later this year, officials said. The listing price is not yet available. The county must first seek from the city of Atascadero a zone change from public facilities to commercial and housing uses on some of the property in hearings to take place this summer.
A number of local businesses have expressed interest in the parcel, Laurenzi said, but he declined to give specifics.