On Saturday, the new Atascadero branch of the county library opens its doors to the public.
It will be a library that all Atascaderans can be proud of because so many were involved in its coming about.
The new $6.5 million facility became a reality because of the work of San Luis Obispo County staff, the efforts of Friends of the Library, who raised $1.7 million from individuals such as Alice Rew, service clubs, corporations and private philanthropic organizations such as the Greg Hind Foundation.
Grenda Ernest led that effort with the help of a group of hardworking men and women.
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Grenda’s mom, Sarah Gronstrand, is mostly responsible for Atascadero getting a new library over on Morro Road more than 20 years ago. Sarah, by the way, also led the effort to raise more than $120,000 for the new lakeside pavilion as chairwoman of Friends of the Lake Pavilion.
What makes me so proud of the new library is that the successful fundraising effort came about at the absolute worst of economic times — businesses were closing and people were losing jobs. In addition to the bad economic picture, Atascadero residents have a history of fighting about everything. But for the library, all factions came together this time for this cause.
So on Saturday night, there was a private reception for the hundreds who had a part in the new library. A “donor tree” was unveiled that dominates the wall behind the checkout counter with its hundreds of leaves bearing the names of donors at three different levels.
A natural born cynic, I never thought the new library had a chance. The unfinished building (only the outside was complete) was perfect, the location right where folks wanted it (near E.G. Lewis’ historic civic center), and the finished price less than expanding the library on the Morro Road site. It would actually serve as office space for other county departments, too.
Starting only five years ago, Friends of the Library focused on one thing — raising the matching funds the county wanted to make the project feasible. If it hadn’t been for a minor glitch during the bidding process, the new library would have opened in the city’s 100th-anniversary year.
The public is invited to the grand opening starting at 10 a.m. Saturday to check out the new library and view the local artwork and a historic display on the second floor.
Citizen volunteers and donors made it happen.
Why am I surprised? That’s how we got the high school’s Memorial Field, Paloma Park, the Paloma Park Equestrian Arena, the Faces of Freedom Memorial, the Centennial Bandstand and, coming soon, an inclusive playground for children on a site behind the Community Center.
Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 466-8529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.