Shafter library goes independent, but 10 other shuttered county libraries expected to open by year’s end

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SHAFTER, Calif. (KGET) — The city of Shafter loves its library so much, apparently it’s willing to secede from the Kern County Library system. But there’s no Fort Sumter story here. All parties, to varying extents, are on board.

The Shafter library became officially independent on Friday when the city took over for the county. How, you may ask, does a city government normally occupied with things like police, potholes and parks pivot to the book-loaning business?

With help, of course. Shafter has contracted with Library Systems & Services, a national company with west coast offices in Riverside, for necessary software and ongoing support, and with Bakersfield College, which will actually staff the library. 

What about the books, you may ask. Taken care of. The Kern County Library has gifted Shafter its own entire collection.

So, that’s four partners working together in the name of literacy for one quaint little farm town. Five, if you include the Shafter office of G-A-F, a national roofing company — they’re building a modular annex for the library.

But all this will take time. The new, independent Shafter library probably won’t open until January 2022.

It’ll be worth the wait, says Shafter resident Katie Wiebe of friends of the library.

“With the partnership between BC and the city of Shafter to make it a municipal library, which means for us that it will be open more hours, more days, it would be a more cohesive experience for people,” she said.

But it wasn’t just Shafter. Ten others of the county’s 22 remaining libraries have been closed as well. What about the library-loving residents of those towns?

Rejoice, says Kern County Library director Andie Sullivan. All 10 are expected to reopen before the end of the year, starting with the Buttonwillow branch on Oct. 14. The rest are in staff hiring and training mode.

Book-hungry Shafterites will have to look through the windows of their municipal library for a while longer. But, as Andie Sullivan would like to remind them, the county’s Wasco branch is just a few miles up the road and it’s open now.

Close, but not a five-mile bike ride. That’s how Wiebe got to the adjacent Shafter Learning Center on Friday.

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