The New Tehama County Library in Red Bluff
By Laura Christman
By Laura Christman
Photos by Alexis Leclair
A LIBRARY is rooted in community. Tehama County Library in Red Bluff has taken root in lots of locations. During the past century, the library’s homes have included: the International Order of Odd Fellows Hall, the county courthouse basement, the Forward building, the Kraft Free Library building and a former Safeway supermarket.
The latest edition is a remake of the 1970s Red Bluff Daily News building on Diamond Avenue. A $6.7 million transformation resulted in a sleek 17,295-square-foot library that opened a year ago. In addition to thousands of books, the library has an activity center, conference room, four study rooms, a technology island, children’s section and teen area.
With the new library came new energy.
“There’s been a 70 percent increase in card holders since it opened,” Tehama County Librarian Todd Deck says. The number of checked-out items jumped, and classes and events are drawing more participants, he adds.
The new library’s design is a mix of contemporary and Tehama County authenticity.
“I love the fact that we recycled, reused the building,” says Sally Ainsworth, library manager, who has worked for the library for 30 years.
The entrance area showcases a large metal door from the loading dock of the building’s newspaper days, and the county law library and archives are housed in a room that retains a pressroom vibe. The library welcome sign is on reclaimed wood from the former Riverside Bar and Grill, a popular dining spot in Red Bluff. A swath of blue carpet running through the building represents the Sacramento River flowing through Red Bluff.
JK Architecture of Auburn did the design. Deck says a new library was needed because the site of the previous library – in the old Safeway building – was tagged for a jail expansion project and the 1960s-era building was due for renovations. A library ad hoc committee reviewed more than 50 sites for a new place.
“We even had a community conversation night where the community was able to vote on different locations. It was during this process that the Red Bluff Daily News became available, and it was the perfect fit for us,” Deck says.
The bulk of the money for the renovation came from cigarette
sales taxes set aside by the county, Deck says. Community donations totaled $1 million, with The McConnell Foundation contributing $500,000.
The new facility has an open layout that meshes with the library’s multiple roles. “The flexibility of this space allows us to use different areas to create experiences for our patrons,” Deck says. “We do different things to keep the interest going.”
“People are often surprised by all the things we offer,” Ainsworth says. “It’s more of a community hub, not just a place to check things out.”
At the library, you can learn about 3-D printing, try Virtual Reality headsets, research local history and delve into genealogy. Poetry readings, book clubs, writers workshops, children’s storytimes,
Lego afternoons, coloring nights and adult literacy classes are hosted. The library also offers high-speed Internet (“the fastest Internet in Tehama County,” Deck says), 10 computers and a laptop bar with plug-in stations.
The county library was established in Red Bluff in 1916 as Tehama County Free Library. It has branches in Los Molinos and Corning.
“We have three libraries and six full-time employees. We do a lot of juggling,” Deck says.
Staff members are open to trying new things, he says. The library is fortunate to have a strong group of volunteers and the support of Tehama County Friends of the Library, Deck says.
The library was one of 24 rural libraries in the nation selected for Future Ready with the Library to create career and college readiness programs for middle-school students. The effort is funded by Institute of Museum and Library Services.
“I’m really excited about this program and working with other rural librarians. We have so much in common,” Deck says.
Rural libraries have a wonderful can-do spirit, he says.
“This has been the most exciting experience of my life, working in the Tehama County Library,” says Deck, who grew up in Redding and has a master’s degree in library and information science from Emporia State University in Kansas. “I am so filled with gratitude for the community and their enthusiasm for the library.” •
Tehama County Library
545 Diamond Ave., Red Bluff