Hundreds of people turned out in east-central Fresno on Saturday for the grand opening of Fresno County’s newest, most technologically advanced library.
Rain started falling lightly at the beginning of the ceremony, but the harder rain held off until all of the people were inside exploring the new facility.
Housed in the former site of a Fresh & Easy store, the nearly 14,000-square-foot Betty Rodriguez Regional Library replaces a building about half the size in a strip mall at the nearby corner of Clinton and Cedar avenues.
“This is an example of a Fresno neighborhood that could go either way. It’s a neighborhood that could be revitalized and brought back to life, but it’s also a neighborhood that could continue to deteriorate,” said Clint Olivier, the Fresno City Council member who represents the east-central district. “With the opening of the Walmart Neighborhood Market and this library, this intersection is alive again.”
The new library features 25 computers, a 3-D printer, robotics kits and the most up-to-date learning technology, said Laurel Prysiazny, the county librarian. The new library also features a meeting room for 50, group study spaces and a separate quiet reading room.
“This takes us into the 21st century,” Prysiazny said. “This is beyond our wildest dreams.”
This takes us into the 21st century. This is beyond our wildest dreams.
County librarian Laurel Prysiazny
Rodríguez, who died in November 2012, was the wife of retired Fresno County Superior Court Judge Armando Rodríguez, who attended the ceremony.
Betty “constantly showed compassion – especially for children,” Rodríguez said.
She attended Edison High School and Fresno City College. She was active with the Friends of the Fresno County Public Library, Arte Américas and many other committees and boards.
“Sometimes we think it’s the politicians … that make things happen, and we do to a degree, but there’s a level of leadership in this community that may not be in front of the cameras every day or get recognition every day,” said Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea. “But there are Betty Rodríguezes of the world who every day get up and just believe one thing: ‘I have to make this world a little bit better today than it was yesterday.’ ”
The library operated at its former site for 40 years and had limited parking, restroom and office space, Prysiazny said. The former Fresh & Easy store has the latest in Americans with Disabilities Act features, an automatic opening door and about seven times more parking spaces than the old library site.
Community member Gloria Scott said libraries remain vital for children.
“It’s going to raise the consciousness and the intellectual abilities in this area,” she said. “It’s going to encourage [kids] to learn and to come inside and study rather than perhaps wasting their time outdoors – like standing in the parking lot.”
It’s going to encourage [kids] to learn and to come inside and study rather than perhaps wasting their time outdoors – like standing in the parking lot.
Community member Gloria Scott
The old site had been beset with problems. Its air conditioning was out of service for a month because of metal theft in 2014, forcing it to close during that summer.
It had a leaky roof that sent water into electric panels, mold and asbestos, needed carpet and linoleum replacement and was next door to a burned-out store, Prysiazny said.
The Fresh & Easy store was open for just over a year before it closed in 2012.
There are not many new buildings in older parts of town, which made the Fresh & Easy site especially attractive, Prysiazny said.
Under its agreement, the county spent $2.6 million to acquire the property and another $1 million to renovate it. Prysiazny said the new facility would be paid for with money from Measure B, a Fresno County voter-approved tax measure.
The Shields and Cedar avenues site is the first of three library replacement projects.
A new Clovis library is expected to be built in the next two to three years and a new Reedley library is anticipated to be under construction within four years.