The Aromas Library has a long history of the times the community stepped up to provide a helping hand.cLila Tibitts, who founded the first town library back in March of 1914, was the first friend of the library. It was situated on her front porch, and the person in charge in those days, was called Custodian of the Books.
Now, the library sits in the corner of the Old Fire Station on the corner of Carpenteria Road and Blohm Avenue, where it has been since 1967, and shares a parking lot with a gas station and convenience store.
Prior to the library’s move to a permanent home, the entire building, including the gas station, the library and the empty space in back of the building was the Aromas Grade School.
Jane Ward, the librarian from 1992-2004, and ardent supporter Alta Day,whose husband, Henry, was the librarian from 1988 to 1992, filled in the history from their association.
“I’d go with him to help out a bit, and take over when he got sick. I had to be certified by the main (Monterey County) library,” said Alta Day, a voice major in college who was a piano teacher and grew up with professional musicians near Buffalo, New York.
“Libraries are important. We couldn’t live without them,” she added, and then spoke about how often she took her own daughters to the library to look everything up. “We taught our kids to do that.”
As a former librarian’s assistant, she has favorite genre and authors. “I like (John) Grisham’s books, and a big area of interest is in the American Revolution,” she said.
The Aromas Library, when Henry Day was the librarian, was outfitted with old-fashioned racks that lined the walls where books were kept, and the space was crowded.
According to Day, when it was decided to do a makeover, all the books were removed in order and when the remodeling was over, the books were replaced as they were.
Volunteers did most of the work, by removing the racks, painting the interior and within three weeks everything was put back together.
The bathroom location was changed and the whole interior was refreshed and it resulted in more room.
Day also remembers when the time required to return rented books and videos was extended.
Ward arrived as the new librarian when Henry retired in 1992, and it was he who trained her. Ward worked during the renovation and recruited carpenters, floor sanders and interior painters. The renovation didn’t stop with the interior, for the landlord painted the exterior, as well.
“It was all spiffed up,” Ward said of that time. The library has kept photos on file of the many volunteers during renovation, including children and adults. It was a community project.
The library also has memorabilia of the library’s 100th anniversary and many other events associated with the Friends group.
The Friends of the Aromas Library grew in numbers during Ward’s time. “Aromas is on the edge of the county and was the stepchild of the system, but we are a ‘can-do’ community, and we did the work ourselves,” Ward said. “There was some talk about closing the library and replacing it with a mobile library, but with the strong friends group, that didn’t happen.”
Then the talk centered around cutting the hours, and excluding Saturdays, Ward added.
“We had huge fundraisers, she added, “that were spearheaded by the active Friends of the Library group.” One fundraising idea she remembers was a Celtic Festival with Irish dancing and there were many more events throughout the years. We needed big fundraisers to keep the 20 hours we had at the time; they were about to be cut down.”
Book sales became a reliable money-raiser, and, to this day, is ongoing with a large collection of hard-bound and paper back books of all genres that are placed on racks outside of the library entrance.
A library staff person accepts books, in person. It is discouraged to place books outdoors during closed hours.
The Aromas Hills Artisans are credited with the mural on the outdoor walls and other, smaller artwork seen as one enters the library.
Regarding current library hours, Head Librarian of Monterey County Free Libraries, Jayanti Addelman, said, “We routinely re-evaluate the hours we are open to make sure we are providing service in the most effective way, and making best use of resources. We recently conducted a survey over several weeks to get public input about our library hours. We are in the process of analyzing the results of the survey and usage data. We really appreciate the support of the Aromas Friends Group in helping us provide this very valuable service to the community. The funding (from the Friends Group) helped us transition through times of tight resources.
“I believe it has now been several years since we started offering Saturday hours as a standard at our branches throughout the county, including Aromas, and have not requested funding from the Aromas Friends group in a while.”
The Aromas Library hours are Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1-6 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
To contact the library, call 831-726-3240. The librarian is Monica Martinez-Guaracha.