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What's New At The Oakhurst Library?

OAKHURST – There’s a considerable amount of information to share with the community this spring, coming from Friends of the Oakhurst Branch Library (FOBL), including an update on construction which began last October, in a plan to convert the old fire station into a new community room.

Longtime FOBL Board member Rima Runtzel reports that the library is thriving, despite budget cuts.“State and County budget cuts have had a huge impact on the Oakhurst Branch Library, but the community has not had to feel it because FOBL picks up the slack,” says Runtzel. “FOBL pays for the internet at our library, which allows for Wi-Fi access. They purchase new release books that Madera County does not provide and FOBL spends over $2,000 each year on magazine and newspaper subscriptions for the Oakhurst branch.”

Most of these expenses are paid for with money raised through book sales, along with generous donations from local businesses and service organizations, and grants. Membership dues make up less than 10% of annual revenues, and have declined in recent years. FOBL wants to increase membership.

“Although FOBL does not rely on dues for many expenses, FOBL membership remains extremely important,” Runtzel stipulates. “It means something when you address the Board of Supervisors or complete a grant application, that you have the backing of 500 or more association members supporting you. A strong FOBL membership gives us a voice.”

FOBL encourages new members to join in and support the library, which is growing due to ongoing building improvements and expansion.

In 2010, the Oakhurst branch library received a United States Department of Agriculture grant and was awarded $200,000 as part of the “Shovel Ready” American Restoration and Recovery Act (ARRA), sometimes referred to as Federal “stimulus” money. The grant was one of only two given in the state, and the Oakhurst branch was the only public library to receive the stimulus.

With matching funds amassed over 10 years’ time from books sales and community donations, construction continues as contractors work on the adjacent fire station.

Retaining the shell while doing an interior remodel, the finished plans include a space for book processing and a replacement of the station doors. The library’s new community room will feature a small warming kitchen and two ADA-approved bathrooms.

FOBL is seeking volunteers to help with final efforts toward wrapping up the remodel and to assist with ongoing construction projects. Work days for the three-phase project are Apr. 4-6, 11-13 and 25-27. The library will be closed on each of these days, and organizers promise volunteers that they will “find a way for any person who wants to help to do so.”

Volunteers must be approved by the County of Madera. Applications are available at the library and more information along with applications are online at

According to the FOBL newsletter, no Madera County money is available for books in the branch libraries for 2013-14, leaving it up to the community and FOBL to keep the library current. Some members are known to donate their own bestsellers, or even donate a magazine subscription to the library.

The Oakhurst Branch library publishes a monthly newsletter available near the Reference Desk. Books, videos, tapes and more are available at the “Corner Book Sale” shelves near the library entrance.

FOBL members hope to resume book sales from their new space when construction is complete in April. Stay tuned for details about a grand opening sometime in May.

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