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Filling a void in Templeton: Push is on to find funds to build library

dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Carla Willhoit’s enthusiasm to bring a library to the small community of Templeton is immeasurable, but the sight of boxed books stacked high in her garage paint a picture of her commitment.

The 89-year-old resident is a founding member of the Templeton Community Library Association and a longtime advocate of the benefits libraries bring to communities.

Before Templeton’s last library, housed in its volunteer fire department, closed in the 1970s, she remembers one man who spent hours reading and talking to those who came and went.

“I can still picture him,” Willhoit said. “He’d spend all day reading, and it was a social thing, a place to gather.”

She and about 15 other volunteers have met at least monthly over the past 11 years to re-create such a place. It would have the traditional benefits of a community hub, but also has modern-day advantages.

“We’re not talking about old buildings with tall dusty stacks,” association board member Melinda Reed said.

“We’re talking about an airy space with e-books and Internet — a technology center — as well as a place for (books) and poetry.”

The association nurtured the original concept, started in 1999 as an Eagle Scout project, to what it’s become — an architectural design with a site, building plans, engineering work, county permits and partial funding already secured. The final project will cost about $2.8 million.

Of that, the association has already raised and spent roughly $1 million. There’s also community help in countless book sales, auctions, barbecues and donor solicitations, as well as the contractors who have donated time, services and goods.

But, after all of this, the group’s minor-use building permit from San Luis Obispo County will expire unless construction begins by April. Extensions on that permit are maxed out.

That means the push for the remaining $427,000 in construction funding is on so the group doesn’t have to face a lengthy setback of paperwork to reapply.

The minor-use permit took four years for final approval, according to the group.

The dedicated site, already set on a renewable 60-year lease with the association and the Templeton Unified School District for $1 a year, is located across from Templeton High School at Vineyard Drive and Main Street.

Plans call for a 4,200-square-foot library with Western architecture and strategically placed windows for optimal natural light and energy-efficient features.

The group touts a long list of its benefits; at the top is the availability of free Internet to a community where access is spotty. There will also be computer resources for job seekers among other things.

San Luis Obispo County library director Brian Reynolds said building in Templeton would encourage walking and nix the need to drive the extra miles to the nearest libraries in Paso Robles and Atascadero.

“It would be local, and that’s a source of pride,” he said.

The county currently sends out a bookmobile — a bus with book shelving inside — once a week. But it doesn’t have Internet access, resembles a cramped hallway and lacks meeting space.

For the new library, the lease allows for the county to stock and staff Templeton’s library when it’s built, though the county Board of Supervisors would ultimately decide the specifics.

The facility would likely reflect operations at the Nipomo Branch Library, which costs approximately $400,000 a year to run with four employees.

Templeton’s library, however, would ideally have more volunteers to cut down on staff costs, Reynolds said.

If the association raises constructions costs, members will immediately begin to fundraise for phase two for the interior. The third phase would bring it under county operations.

For more information on the library effort, visit www.templetoncommunitylibrary.org.

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