© 2023 KZYX
redwood forest background
Mendocino County Public Broadcasting
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Due to CalFire work at our primary transmission site, we will be experiencing periodic outages lasting approx. 30 minutes on various days of the week. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Local News

Long Valley library closer to opening

A woman stands next to a sign in a window of a building, which reads, "Future Home of the Mendocino County Library Laytonville Branch."
Shawn Haven at the site of the future Laytonville public library.

The future county library in Laytonville got approved for a $64,200 grant to help pay for books, furniture, and audiovisual material.

June 30, 2022 — After seven years of fundraising and scouting for a location, the Friends of the Long Valley Public Library are close to opening a branch of the county library in downtown Laytonville. The Friends have raised about $40,000 since 2015, and just last week, the library got the green light for a USDA Rural Development Grant of $64,200 as a 75% match to buy furniture, books, and other materials for opening day. Shawn Haven, one of the core members of the Friends group, met KZYX on Wednesday morning at the future location of the new branch, in the Foster’s shopping center just off of Highway 101.

“We got started in 2015,” she recalled. “John Pinches offered us the old Bookmobile, and we went from there.” The county has an established Bookmobile program, which brings books to Laytonville every other Tuesday. “That Bookmobile that they gave us was not fit for county employee habitation, so we sold that and used the money, moving toward this project,” she said. “Of course, paying rent on this space through covid was a little pricey, but we’re getting there. A little more to go, and we’ll be ready.”

Deborah Fader Samson, the Library and Museum Director, said in an email that she is planning for a New Year’s Grand Opening. Haven is pleased with the central location, which is within sight of the elementary and middle schools. It’s a block or so from the high school and the Book Room, a bookstore at the site of the old high school that serves as an ongoing fundraiser for the library.

A red and white mural that says, in Roman and Mayan script, "To read is the first step to knowledge."
One of the murals by Azbal, a Mayan scholar who visited the Laytonville Book Room.

The walls at the Book Room are lined with school lockers, murals by a visiting Mayan scholar, a piano that’s out of tune, and donated bookshelves stuffed with volumes. There is also a seed library, which will remain even after the public library opens. The Book Rom has taken on a life of its own over the years.

A blue and white mural that says "Laytonville Book Room" in Mayan script.
A mural by Azbal, reading "Laytonville Book Room," in Mayan script.

“We started with a big pile of boxes of books right there,” Haven recalled. Originally, the local school superintendent gave the Friends permission to use the old school site as storage for their books between sales. “And we thought, well, this is such a mess, we can’t function in here,” she said. “So we put up some shelves. And then we thought, well, we can put up some more shelves. And then we said, well, can we open it? Why schlepp all these books? We’re all old ladies, right? So she said, sure, go ahead. We just kept expanding our space, expanding our hours, so there you have it.”

The Book Room has become more than a bookstore raising money for the library. It’s a hub of community activity, with a large central room where groups gather to play bridge, spin, have healthy snacks, or curl up with one of the approximately 3,500 books that continue to pour in. Volumes are currently organized by subject and age range, with one shelf dedicated to books about insects for young people, another featuring biographies, and one section devoted entirely to books by lawyers. “We have a little bit of everything,” Haven observed. “Or, as they say, something to offend everyone. The true job of a library.”

Haven promised the Book Room won’t be phased out by the library. “The library here, to start off, will be open three days a week,” she said. “Probably Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. And then the Book Room is open Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. So there will be full literary and seed library coverage every day except Sunday…so we’ve got your back.”

The library site has had multiple incarnations: it’s been a restaurant, a beauty parlor, and, most recently, a tattoo shop. It’s about 1000 square feet and has the capacity for around a thousand books, plus computers, magazines, and newspapers. And there’s a variety of artwork, starting with a hand-carved chinquapin counter carved by local woodworker Robin Thompson along the expansive, north-facing windows, “for laptop work and staring out the window,” Haven noted. There will be two public computer stations, with free broadband provided by a California State Library grant with speeds up to 1 Gbps, “so it’s fast and reliable, unless someone cuts a cable, of course.”

A painting of a nature scene featuring elk, wildflowers, hills, and forest.
A mural by Danza Davis and students at Juvenile Hall, which will hang in the new branch.

The Friends of the Library also have a 4x6 mural of local nature scenes that artist Danza Davis painted with kids at Juvenile Hall, as part of a Get Art in the Schools Program grant through the Arts Council. That piece will be one of the first things patrons see when they walk into the library. But another work of art, in the future break room, is being diligently covered over with a meticulous decoupage of printed material. “This post, it had pinups on it,” Haven said, gesturing at a column still featuring a few remnants of vintage girly pictures, leftover from the tattoo shop. “It’s really sad to cover them up,” she said. “But the method is starch with a little varathane over it, so if anyone ever wants to restore it, they can. I hate to destroy someone else’s art.”

The Friends found the site about three years ago, but the learning curve was steep, especially during covid. “When we started this, we didn’t even know we had to have a permit,” Haven recalled; “because we weren’t doing anything major. The place had been a business before. It was obviously okay…we thought. So we had to get an architect…it sounds so easy. But it took like three years.” They had to repair an unsafe irregularity in the floor, install new lighting and lots of new electrical outlets, and lay down a new sidewalk that’s ADA accessible from the parking lot.

The furniture is supposed to arrive in November, right around the time the ballots go out, with a measure asking voters if they’d like to double Measure A, to a quarter cent sales tax, and keep it going in perpetuity. Voters will also be asked to decide on a quarter cent sales tax for fire services. “The two taxes are not in a fight, I don’t think,” Haven said. “So we’ll be out and about, and out and about.” Voters have been primed by the signature-gathering process, “and we’ll be sure they stay primed, and get more primed, and bring their friends.”

Local News
Sarah Reith came to Mendocino County in 2008 and worked as a reporter and freelancer, joining KZYX as a community news reporter in 2017. She became the KZYX News Director in March, 2023.