HANFORD — This week the Kings County Library took its first step to creating a better library system by holding several meetings seeking input from the community.

“In 2010, a Facility Master Plan was approved by our board to begin improving all of the facilities and services offered by us,” said Library Director Natalie Rencher. “The goal being that within 15 years we would be able to provide equal access for all county residents, all facilities will be remodeled or renovated to become more modern, well equipped, well stocked and convenient for users.”

Rencher said to adequately begin this process, the library needs specifics in order to set tangible goals and make its vision a reality.

This week meetings were held Wednesday and Thursday at the Hanford Branch. One community member attended the first meeting. Around 10 people were in attendance for the second meeting, including members of the Kings County Library Advisory Board, one community member, and delegates from the Kings Community Action Organization (KCAO).

“We hope to see these numbers continue to grow as word gets out about these meetings,” Rencher said. “We want to hear the voice of the community on this.”

Leading the meetings was Yolanda Cuesta, a consultant from Cuesta MultiCultural Consulting in Sacramento. The next set of meetings will be held on July 17 and 18 at the Lemoore Branch and will be led by the library’s second consultant, Loren Aiton, an architect from Teter Architecture in Fresno.

Cuesta is mapping out how to improve services, while Aiton will assist with the design and facility renovation portion.

On Thursday, Cuesta visited each branch site and spoke with staff and some library users and presented her findings at the second community meeting held later that day.

“Expanding the Lemoore branch seems to top everyone’s list on what needs to be done,” Cuesta said. “The current facility is just too small to adequately serve the needs of the growing population of Lemoore.”

The other big concern is technology-related services, she said.

“The time has come for all of the branches to become more modern,” she said. “Community members want more computers, wireless hotspots, eBooks and Internet-based services. So now we have to address how to provide that. Wireless service means all branches need to be equipped with enough bandwidth to adequately serve the public.”

Community member and retired librarian Chriss Dickman brought up several concerns during the Thursday meeting.

“The library also needs better outreach and better relationships with local schools,” she said. “We also need to think about the growing number of the Hispanic population in our community. There need to be more Spanish-language books and materials added to collections at each branch.”

Ruth Rodriguez, resource and referral coordinator for KCAO, said their organization is very interested in helping in any way possible.

“We want to help address the needs of the low-income and under privileged in the area,” Rodriguez said. “Maybe we could partner and develop some sort of mobile service or have field trips to bring children and families to the libraries who otherwise have no means of transportation to get there.”

Overall, Rencher felt both meetings were a great start.

“This area has the fastest growing population in California,” she said. “We need to address these issues now. This week was a great starting point.”

The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or through email at bsantiago@HanfordSentinel.com.

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