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From bank to books

Angels Camp library upgrades to new location at former Umpqua branch

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From left: Calaveras County Librarian Nancy Giddens, Friends of the Angels Camp Library board member Sue Rivera and Angels Camp Library Branch Assistant Patty Smalling enjoy the new space in the former Umpqua Bank building.

The Angels Camp Branch Library has only moved a matter of feet, but its new location offers a wealth of open space, technological resources and potential for growth.

On Jan. 27, the library opened its doors at the former Umpqua Bank building in the Middleton’s parking lot on North Main Street. The previous location was just a few doors down, but the 1,200-square-foot difference, high ceilings and bountiful light are a major upgrade for those who visit the new space.

A long time coming, the Friends of the Angels Camp Library (FOTL) have spent years raising approximately $40,000 to fund the move. In early fall, they began volunteering their time at the new location, applying fresh paint and moving many boxes of books alongside county library staff and a crew of Vallecito Conservation Camp inmates.

“We’re just delighted,” longtime FOTL board member Sue Rivera said. “If you could just remember the last place with its low fluorescent lights, and the ceiling was stained. (It) puts a smile on my face coming in here.”

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An former bank vault now serves as a reading room. 

Remnants of the bank that closed in 2017 are being utilized in creative ways, with the main vault transformed into a reading room and the counters cut in half to create a work space for branch assistants Patty Smalling and Debra Hesse.

“I’ve switched positions with two people that I know who used to (work) here,” joked Smalling. She said visitors to the new location have been amazed at the transformation.

The wide, open main room is filled with bookshelves and comfy, new seating, while the “teen room” offers space to do homework and access computers. Soon, a 3D printer may be added to the room. A kids’ corner for younger children provides a fun venue for storytime as well as a dedicated craft room with linoleum floors and a sink. Some other resources offered that the previous location did not provide are a conference room, new computers and an ADA-compliant bathroom.

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The new location for the Angels Camp Branch Library boasts a dedicated kids’ corner with a craft room. 

Calaveras County Librarian Nancy Giddens said that she hopes the new space will be a refuge for families with children, especially during the pandemic.

“I’m always family and children-centric. I just feel like we can help our families get through things like this if we can offer them services that keep their kids engaged and keep their minds growing ... getting good, sound information and children’s programming,” Giddens said. “Library services are very vast now. It’s not just books and check-outable stuff. It’s experience.”

The library is also a vital resource for electronic services—computer and WiFi access, as well as printing documents like tax forms. In times of power outages, natural disasters and COVID-19 restrictions, the new location offers a place to plug in, work and learn.

Giddens said she hopes the Angels Camp branch will receive increased funding from the county in the near future, as the new building has come at a cost of about $25,000 annually—approximately $12,000 more than the previous location. She said the pandemic has stalled the possibility of a budget increase in the short term.

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Nonetheless, Giddens and others involved believe the long-awaited move was well worth the price.

“(The previous location) wasn’t ever what we wanted. It was so small and narrow and dark,” Giddens said. “(We now) have a space where we can have young adults and children come that is theirs, that we can really design and equip for them. ...We have all kinds of things at (the central library) that they could use but never had the space.”

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Dakota graduated from Bret Harte in 2013 and went to Davidson College, NC where she earned a bachelor's degree in Arab studies. After spending time studying in the Middle East and Europe, she is happy to be home, writing about the community she loves.

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