In the 21st century, libraries can open up a world of possibilities. Beyond just books, they offer free classes, events, resources, and points of connection you won’t find if you’re using a Starbucks for the wifi and a cup of coffee. But in order to turn the proverbial key and unlock all these wonderful opportunities, a crucial yet oft-overlooked component is required: honoring the people who show up. 

A library can only ever be as successful as the community it claims to support. And the Shafter Library is fortunate to have earned the support of the citizens of Shafter and then some. So much so, that I am proud to say we are on the cusp of reopening to the public on Jan. 19. 

Reopening a library involves much more than simply unlocking the doors, turning on the lights and dusting off a few books. Shafter deserves much more than that. We have conducted a community analysis by consulting local organizations and leaders and publicly available data. This has allowed us to focus our priorities on building up a strong collection of books that will go far in the community, namely, children’s collections, graphic novels and manga, and Spanish collections to provide resources to the primary users of the library and expand that user base. 

We have removed old and damaged titles to make way for newer, popular and award-winning ones. We are working on expanding not just the books offered but the services as well, particularly in regard to seeking grants and additional funding opportunities that reduce barriers to access and promote literacy and encourage people of all ages to pursue their interests through informal education and through more formal avenues, like enrolling at Bakersfield College. 

We welcome any community member who wants to get involved,whether by simply checking out a book (California library hack — if you have a California ID, you can get a library card from any public library in California!), joining the Friends of the Library group, or volunteering and connecting in other ways. At Shafter Library and Learning Center, we are truly growing a library by and for the people of Shafter. 

I could not be more grateful to be working for Bakersfield College on this project. In December, I completed my masters in library and information science from San Jose State University. I chose the leadership and administration track for my degree, which specializes in collection development and management for communities, user-centered design, and pursuit of cutting-edge library practices.

Helping Bakersfield College and the city of Shafter forge a partnership to reopen the library has given me the opportunity to put what I’ve learned into practice as we embark on what is part of an exciting and growing trend of innovative synthesis between community colleges and public libraries to link resources and equip communities with opportunities for growth and personal success. 

Already those I have worked with in Shafter have drawn me in with their love of their library and their willingness to show up and work for it to succeed. Those connections made, both on an individual basis and a larger one through the organizations making this library possible, are vital to the continued thriving of the Shafter Library and Learning Center. 

This is a success story, and one that doesn’t just speak to the community of Shafter. Come to the Shafter Library and Learning Center, see the stunning mural work by local Shafter artist Lorena Castillo, browse the shelves for a new favorite book, and say hello to our staff who genuinely can’t wait to see you and talk books and all things library. Take in the transformation of the Shafter Library, and know that you too can shape your own local library branch with the power of your voice and your support for all the possibilities just waiting to blossom. All that’s needed is a little love to make it grow. 

Ariel Dyer is a Bakersfield College program manager. She graduated from SJSU with her masters in library science in December 2021.