Placer County closing library branches in Loomis, Meadow Vista

Loomis readers started with a lending library more than a century ago and have enjoyed an official branch since 1937, according to Placer County records.

But come August, the town of 6,700 will lose its county library for good.

Placer County supervisors have voted to close branches in Loomis and Meadow Vista in what they describe as a cost-cutting move. Mary George, director of Placer County library services, said the library system has struggled in recent years to fully operate 11 community branches and an aged bookmobile.

“No library director wants to close a library, believe me.” George said. “My job is to take a look at the health of the entire library system. That’s how we budget and how we allocate our resources.”

When the recession hit, she said, the library system began reducing library hours and hiring temporary workers to compensate for attrition and retirements. The system with a $6.8 million annual budget now has about 40 full- and part-time jobs and will start restoring hours at some branches and “reverse the erosion that happened before the recession.”

“We’re thinking that for the first time in several years we’ll stabilize our staffing,” George said.

“I think people are sad to lose their community library,” she said. “But I think they understand from a systemwide perspective it will help.” Staff from the closed branches will be reassigned, the majority of books will be shifted to other branches, and the library system will focus on modernization.

The 4,608-square-foot Loomis branch serves a population of about 11,000, a patronage that extends beyond Loomis borders. The Meadow Vista branch, which serves another 10,000 in a 2,820 square-foot branch, will close Sept. 3 and vacate its leased building by the end of that month.

The closures have been more than a year in the making. County officials early last year proposed shutting the two locations to save money, but the Board of Supervisors delayed that decision in the face of public outcry. Supervisors agreed in December to close the branches and approved a transition plan last month.

County Supervisor Jim Holmes, who represents Loomis, said eliminating the two branches allows the county to put its existing resources to better use.

“The idea is if you own 5 acres for peach trees and you only have enough water for 3 acres, what are you going to do? You’re going to use that water where you get your best result, your best product,” he said.

He said the Rocklin library branch is less than 4 miles away, with a collection larger than the one in Loomis. As a consequence, he said, the Loomis branch has been used more for dropping off books than checking them out.

While the Loomis and Meadow Vista closures were already set in motion, the Placer County grand jury last month rebuked the decision. The grand jury said, “The criteria used to make this decision failed to consider all of the internal and external benefits that a library brings to a small town.” The grand jury added that “both communities showed overwhelming support in keeping their libraries open.”

George said readers will continue to have borrowing options despite the branch closures. George said the county’s new mobile library will roll out this fall, the result of an air quality grant, and bring regular stops to Meadow Vista.

The county, which owns the Loomis library building and its 1.3 acres, is in the process of leasing the property to the town of Loomis for 10 years, for $1 a year, as a learning center and municipal library.

Bonnie London, president of the Loomis Friends of the Library, said her organization has been working with Loomis officials for the last 20 months to maintain a library presence in the town. The group is preparing a memorandum of understanding to allow it to operate a library for Loomis that would expand over time.

“We think it’s a good opportunity to have the library and its programs and services and meet the needs of the community,” London said. She said efforts are underway to transform the site into a museum housing the town’s historic artifacts, alongside a learning center and a library.

That effort depends on passage of a quarter-cent transaction and use tax and a companion advisory measure on Loomis’ November ballot to fund both a municipal library and community services. London said the measure could generate more than $200,000 a year.