Not everyone who lives north of the river has the disposable income to buy new books. Not everyone in Oildale has a connected computer and printer in the home.

So when the Kern County Rathbun Branch Library on China Grade Loop in Oildale unceremoniously closed its doors "temporarily" last spring, some families suffered the loss more than others.

Still others thought it might have closed permanently.

"I live nearby and I drive by several times a day," said Donna Wolfe, president of the Friends of the Kern County Library's Rathbun chapter, a volunteer organization that, according to its website, supports quality library service and resources for all throughout Kern County.

"I have not seen any activity, any work going on, for some time," Wolfe said. "We thought it might be closed permanently."

That's not happening, said Geoffrey Hill, the county's chief general services officer. It will take some time to complete, Hill said, but the Rathbun will reopen next year better and more modern.

The Californian reached out to Hill for answers. This is what he said:

The branch was closed on May 30 because of a problem with water damage and mold, he said.

The interior surfaces have been removed, including wall coverings, carpet, ceiling tiles, and cabinetry.

"We are taking this opportunity to work with the library to improve the library building and improve the patron experience," Hill said. "We are working with library staff to provide family friendly spaces and better work flow for the staff."

But when is it expected to reopen?

"Our current target for reopening the library is February," Hill said. "The demolition and abatement is complete. We are finalizing design drawings for the construction and restoration of the library interior."

The cost of the already completed demolition and abatement ran about $260,000. Estimates for future improvements are coming in at about $400,000.

The problem of water damage is not new, Hill said. But when it was decided repairs could wait no longer, the goal was not simply to patch up the problem.

"We're trying to make the library better," Hill said. "Better and certainly more modern than it's ever been."

Like Wolfe, Darleen Jehnsen is skeptical. As vice president of the Friends umbrella group that includes all the Friends of the Library chapters, Jehnsen said "it's a very long time for the library to be closed."

Information about the status of the Rathbun Branch has been hard to come by, said Wolfe, who has volunteered with Friends for some 50 years.

Meanwhile, a number of homeless individuals have set up a kind of encampment outside the Rathbun Branch.

"We are always concerned with the homeless," Hill said. "We are working with our park rangers to assist in minimizing the impact during the construction and restoration."

Wolfe is taking a wait-and-see approach. But she's excited by the promise of a nicer, better library.

"I'm very loyal to the Rathbun Branch. I'm loyal to all of our libraries," she said. "But my heart is here. I can't wait to see it reopen."

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

(6) comments

REMUDA

My Kern County Library card works @ every library. After it re-opens (per budget), perhaps some homeless folks can spend their 'free time' there reading about their constitutional rights (1st Amend.), now better protected by those law enforcement mobile units which carry officers, (R) or (D), who "Trust In God" and his 'mysterious ways'. (despite the negatory naysayers)

BTW, maybe that young man pictured with his healthy-looking "service dog" who 'lives' near the library might find 'fixit' work on the library . . . and 'earn' his way out of poverty.

"For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land. " (Deuteronomy 15:11) >> 'open thine hand' with a job offer . . .

yorkies2014

the building isn't that old....who was suppose to be taking care of it? ..will they still be able to afford a librarian?

lrlopez74

Republicans in Kern County have money to put In God We Trust stickers on cop cars (which is illegal) but they don't have money to keep public libraries open.

lrlopez74

Kern County Republicans. Keeping people uneducated and in poverty since 1888.

Bodysnatcher

I agree with you irlopez74. You’re certainly uneducated.

Gene Pool Chlorinator

He proves that point with just about every post...

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