Some years back when it was announced that the Firebaugh branch of the Fresno County library would be moving to a new location inside the West Hills College-Firebaugh Center, local residents contacted me expressing their dismay over the move and how they felt it would adversely affect the community.

At the time, I thought, “What’s the issue? The library is moving into a brand new building and nothing changes.”

But something did indeed change, and evidently not for the better.

Many of those same residents are now saying that the new library functions more as a college library with curriculum books for students at the expense of reading material for community members.

Longtime Firebaugh resident Joanne La Salle put many of those concerns in a letter.  She stated that the number of books meant for the community has been cut by 50 to 80 percent.

And that is just one of the issues, La Salle stated.

Availability has been cut also.  La Salle said the library closes on weekends, for Christmas vacation, and evidently for the upcoming Easter break. She called this “a time when parents might want to take their children” to the town’s only library.

Bethany Matos, the dean of the Firebaugh Center, told The Express that the library is still being staffed by Fresno County, and that because of “staffing issues,” the library’s hours are the same as the college.

“I understand that staffing has been a problem,” Matos said.

She added that there was a “sit down” meeting with La Salle to discuss her complaints. 

However, La Salle did not leave the meeting appeased.

“This change has not been good,” La Salle told The Express last week.  “We lost a lot of books.  The adult area (of the library) is about 20×40 feet. We really didn’t have that many books at our old library to begin with, and now it has been cut even more.  And the closing on Christmas and weekends and Easter.  This is another major issue.”

She also lamented about the way the move was handled years back.

“Apparently, this move was decided before anyone knew what was going on,” she explained. “There was one public meeting, but it was already a done deal. We were told (at that time) that nothing would change in regard to the stock and the hours would be the same. But that is not the case.”

La Salle said that she and other library patrons want to have a meeting with West Hills and Fresno County library officials so their concerns can be aired.

Phone calls made for comment to Susan Renfro, who is in charge of marketing and community relations with the Fresno County Library, were not returned.

David Borboa