ATASCADERO — Founded on Oct. 7, 1919, the Atascadero Library celebrated its 100th anniversary this month. The facility boasts of being one of the first five branches opened in the San Luis Obispo County branch library system.

The book repository spent nearly a century in search of a proper home. According to local historian Joseph Carotenuti, the little hometown library began in a “Girl Scout’s cabin” although where the cabin stood remains unknown. The humble library went on to be housed in the historic Rotunda building (now Atascadero City Hall), the Atascadero Bible Church when it was the town’s community center, and an assortment of other locations. For 95 years, the facility moved more than half a dozen times, collecting books like a tumbling snowball as it bounced from place to place. Through assistance from generous donors and the stalwartness of librarians, it finally came to rest at 6555 Capistrano Ave. in 2014 from its Morro Bay Road location, established in 1988. 

According to Branch Manager Jackie Kinsey, there is always something going on at the library and it’s all free. There are weekly storytimes of course, and a biweekly “Paws to Read” program that invites people of all ages to read to a beagle named Daisy. The library hosts a weekly Teen CreateSpace for “makers, artists, and crafters” and a monthly Lego Club where children can snap plastic bricks together and then leave them on display for fellow patrons to appreciate. Kinsey attributed the number of activities to the most recent members of the team — Adult/Teen Services Librarian Charlene “Charlie” Arthur and Youth Librarian Sally LaPorte.

“Atascadero is one of three big branches, we often have a lot going on here and even more so now that we have a fairly new Adult/Teen Services Librarian and a new Children’s Librarian,” Kinsey said. “And they are always looking for suggestions and trying to find out what’s popular now.”

Kinsey said the facility provides a place for teens to go after school and gives them not only the opportunity to read but also to participate in programs. She explained that one of the new goals is to get the youth more involved in the library. 

“We can get 30 to 40 children in here at 3 p.m. or at 2 p.m. when they get out early on Fridays,” said Kinsey.

The modern-day library goes far beyond the simple book repository of yesteryear. Folks can borrow books in both physical and electronic formats or check out movies and games. Kinsey said that passport application services are now offered. Patrons can also reserve rooms and study areas. To enrich the knowledge and experience of the community, SLO County joined with Discover and Go that offers free and low-cost admission to 40 cultural institutions on the Central Coast and in Northern California. Early this year, the facility abolished the use of late fees to draw back some of the prodigal users whose fines kept them away and to remove any intimidation for new users. 

“We have gotten a lot easier on our fines because we want people to use our material,” Kinsey said. “We don’t want it sitting on our shelves. We want it to get used.”

She stressed that the library provides all of its services without cost.

“We’re free, everything in here is free, even the downloading material,” she said. “It’s free, you just need your library card and your password.”

To see what’s happening at the library, visit online slolibrary.evanced.info/signup/Calendar.

Getting through this together, Atascadero