Friends of the Santa Margarita Library help spread the joy of learning while bringing the community together

By Simone Smith

Photos contributed by Sheila Wynne Beccia and Jennifer Randall

On Wednesday, June 14, from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. there was a buzz in the air at the small Santa Margarita Branch Library. What could be so exciting at a library? Isn’t it just a room of books with a librarian who gives you an evil eye and a “shhhh” if you make too much noise? Well, no, it’s about way more than books and the excitement was all about the Summer Reading Kick-Off Party. Still … “reading?” You may be wondering again, “what’s so exciting about that?” Well, thanks to the wonderful librarian, Shawnita Onwuma, and a bevy of volunteers from the Friends of the Santa Margarita

Library, a fun-filled day had been planned for the children, teens, and adults of the community. 

Around 200 participants attended the kick-off event, which, in addition to learning about the summer reading program, included visiting local firemen with their fire engine, enjoying free pizza and snowcones, face painting, games, and more. With kids fresh out of school, this event really brought friends and neighbors together but is just one example of how important the Santa Margarita Library is and how the support of the Friends of the Santa Margarita Library is key to this small but active and vibrant community.

In 1924, as part of the SLO County Public Library system, the Santa Margarita Branch Library was established in what was once the old Constable’s house at 9630 Murphy Avenue. The tiny library provided access to materials and technological support to the small rural community for years until moving and expanding into its present larger building just a few footsteps away. The Santa Margarita Library now brings the community a “current and well-balanced collection of materials, information specific to North County needs, internet access, local artists displays and events for children and adults.”

Established by community members in 1996 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the purpose of the Friends of the Santa Margarita Library (FOSML) is “to maintain an association of persons interested in books and libraries, to focus attention on library services, facilities, and needs; and to stimulate gifts of books, magazines, desirable collections, endowments, and bequests.” 

Basically, the Friends work closely with the branch librarian, who has no official assistant, to provide whatever extra support is needed. Whether it’s providing funding for additional books, materials, collections or supplies for programs, physical or organizational support for events, or just to help spread the word about what’s going on with the library, FOSML is there.

The Santa Margarita Library is a very well-used and active branch. In addition to its basic library services, this year in particular has seen a post-COVID surge in attendance at programs from the weekly Storytime program on Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m. to the slew of recent summertime activities, which included a Snow Queen Party with Elsa, S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Technology) Workshops for kids and teens, Jewelry Workshops for teens and adults, a SLO Symphony Instrument Petting Zoo, and more, including a Magic Show with Jim Wilson which brought the attendance of 57 in late July. 

The main source of income for the Friends of the Santa Margarita Library comes from sales through the Santa Margarita Library Bookstore and from their two very popular annual events, An Evening in Santa Margarita and the Holiday Craft Faire. 

Why shop online when you can stay local and help a good cause? Located in the old library building and run by FOSML volunteers, the Santa Margarita Library Bookstore is currently only open on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. based on volunteer staffing, but here you can find a great selection of books, magazines, DVDs, CDs, and even family games all at amazingly low prices and for an even better bargain be on the lookout for their occasional Bag Sale.

An Evening in Santa Margarita is coming up soon. Mark your calendars for Friday, September 29, from 5 to 8 p.m. and plan on attending this enjoyable event throughout downtown Santa Margarita. There will be lots of fun to be had with snacks, wine, music, and more at participating local businesses and restaurants. Look for Joy Polloi playing music in the beautiful garden setting of The Educated Gardener nursery, and find Jennifer Randall of Fox Hollow to see what kind of literary magic she conjures while enjoying wines from local vintners such as Ancient Peaks and Soaring Hawk, Sculpterra, and Vintage Cowboy. 

The final big event and fundraiser for the Friends of the Santa Margarita Library is their annual Holiday Craft Faire. This year is their 20th! The event draws hundreds from throughout the county and beyond to find baked goods and one-of-a-kind items such as Christmas ornaments, stained glass, stitched creations, wood crafts, jewelry, ceramics, cozy alpaca products, and more from talented local artisans. This year’s Holiday Craft Faire will be on Saturday, December 2, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Santa Margarita Community Hall.

Show some love for your local library, and remember it’s about more than books. You can learn more about the Friends of the Santa Margarita Library or the Santa Margarita Library, its bookstore, events, and more by “liking” the Friends of the Santa Margarita Library on Facebook.

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