The Irwin-Hilmar branch of the Merced County Library has had a turbulent past few years.
The popular community library went from being open 32 hours a week to 20 hours in 2010, and then was cut down to 10 hours in 2011. The downsizing of library operational time was due to the loss of nearly $1 million in funding to the county library budget from the now-dissolved redevelopment agency and a decrease in property tax revenues that has affected every departmental budget in the county.
The good news for Hilmar Library patrons is that the library is now back to being open 20 hours a week and offering a variety of new opportunities for literacy and learning. The expanded hours came, however, as the Merced County Board of Supervisors decided to mitigated a budget shortfall in the county library budget by closing the George Library in south Merced, and the Cressey, South Dos Palos and Stevinson libraries, replacing them with the county Bookmobile.
Hilmar librarian Debbie Hutchins is determined to let the community know about all the resources and opportunities that the facility has to offer each and every patron.
“People don’t realize that there’s a lot you can do here,” said Hutchins. “We have a lot of resources for people, especially those who do not have Internet access.”
The library is now open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
This new schedule means more opportunities for patrons to enjoy all the services that the library has to offer, including Pre-School Storytime at 10:30 a.m. every Wednesday.
During the weekly event, kids can enjoy stories, snacks, and fun. Hutchins did not hold back her appreciation for the event, stating that the storytime has encouraged kids to ask questions and develop a love for reading.
“If you get a child in here to read, they are never going to forget it,” said Hutchins. “This event creates readers out of kids.”
Kids can also receive homework help at the library with the Hilmar Homework Club from 3 p.m. to closing on Wednesdays and Fridays. During this time, librarians are available to help kids with their research or reports.
The library is not just a fun and free destination for kids; it is also a great place for adults. The library has a variety of content tailored for adult readers and the library’s computers allow guests to go online to fill out job applications and perfect their resumes.
The library will still continue to offer all of its previous services, including magazines, DVDs, VHSs and, of course, books. With branches spanning from Mariposa to Fresno, Hutchins can order a book for patrons in the event that they are unable to find it at the Irwin-Hilmar location.
“If there is a book, we can find it,” promised Hutchins.
Although Hutchins still wishes for more hours, she views the additional hours as the light at the end of the tunnel. The librarian realizes the importance of a library in Hilmar and hopes her mindset will be conveyed and ultimately shared by others.
“We can’t lose a library in a small community like this,” concluded Hutchins. “I believe small communities need a library. This is definitely the place to check out.”
The Irwin-Hilmar Branch Library is located at 20041 West Falke St. in Hilmar. For more information, call 632-0746.