Cambria will have its long-sought new library, thanks to a former San Luis Obispo County planning commissioner and an old stock certificate that helped put a $1.4 million drive over the top Friday.
A $28,237 donation from Anne Wyatt, a former county planning commissioner and Cambria business owner and resident, took the Friends of the Cambria Library’s 20-year-plus effort across the finish line, said the nonprofit organization’s president, Jeri Farrell.
“It is an honor and an absolute pleasure to join the Friends of the Library and hundreds of community members in smartly investing in Cambria’s new library,” Wyatt said of her gift, made possible by an unexpected family inheritance. “(I) wanted to give back to a community that has been kind and generous, witty, wacky and pitched in to make my dreams come true over the last 15 years,” helping make her Bridge Street Inn hostel in Cambria’s East Village a success.
Wyatt has since sold her business and now lives in San Luis Obispo.
The Friends of the Cambria Library team has been chipping away at the $1.4 million goal to complete Friends of the Cambria Library’s contract with the county, one book sale and special event at a time. The deadline was the end of the year. Donations have included grants from local nonprofit organizations and service clubs, fundraising challenges and individual gifts from six figures to a few dollars.
The Hind Foundation put up 10 percent of the goal, $140,000, as a challenge grant in June. During the drive, anonymous Cambria donors have contributed more than $250,000, part of donations from more than 800 donors overall.
The overall cost of the project is about $4 million. Aside from the $1.4 million in cash, the Friends of the Cambria Library also received from the county credit toward its 50 percent share of the total cost for its share of the property value of the current library and a vacant site it helped buy some years ago that ended up not being used.
This is “a dream come true for everyone who has worked so hard to make this happen,” Farrell wrote. “This is an awesome community, and I am so proud to be a part of it.”
Farrell stressed that the Friends of the Cambria Library will continue to solicit donations to help offset cost overruns and allow the group to upgrade the library’s interior. The original budget, created about six years ago, was what was projected as the bare minimum needed to get the library open at 1043 Main St. Having more funds in hand, she said, could “make the difference between having a warehouse and having a Cadillac of a library.”
The present Cambria branch at 900 Main St. is one of the county’s most heavily used libraries per capita. The new site has more than twice the space, with room for more parking, a technology center and multifunctional areas for children, teens and adults.
About that stock certificate: After the death of their father, James Wyatt, Anne Wyatt’s twin sister Aimee Wyatt found “an old oil-stock certificate which had been Dad’s,” Anne said. “It got passed to us. We assumed it was probably worthless. Turned out, we were wrong.”
The certificate was for shares in the Parker & Parsley Petroleum Company which, it turns out, had merged in 1998 with T. Boone Pickens smaller Mesa Inc. to create what was at the time the nation's third-largest independent oil and gas exploration and production company, Pioneer Natural Resources Company of Irving, Texas.
The stock was worth far more than they’d expected.
“Words are vehicles that can get anybody practically anywhere, crossing barriers of place and time,” Wyatt said of her gift. “Public libraries unlock this potential, better yet, in a neutral, non-exclusive, welcoming community space — and they don’t demand that we buy anything or force us into any one belief. We all get access and can stop in as we are. I’m a (library) fan.”