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July 31, 2007 > Life in the smaller branch libraries in Fremont

Life in the smaller branch libraries in Fremont

By Sallie Pine, Reference Services Manager, Fremont Libraries

Fremont Main Library is a vibrant but very busy place, at times with long lines to check out what you came for. Sometimes library users like to visit a place where there isn't so much competition for what's on the shelves, where the pace is a bit less hectic, and where there is time for a more personal touch to library service. For this, people visit Fremont's smaller branches: Centerville, Irvington and Niles. These libraries are open limited hours of the week, but often have books, CDs and DVDs on the shelf that have been checked out at the larger, busier libraries. Closer connections are developed between library staff and library users; people know each other's names and book tastes, and staff members watch as children grow up. People who use these libraries are very attached to them. Staff members feel especially appreciated at holiday time, when library users express their connection to their local libraries by bringing them treats. Staff at these branches may work in two of the three branches; some work at Centerville and Irvington, and others at Irvington and Niles.

Centerville Library

Centerville Library began in December, 1910 in rented quarters at 158 South Main Street. The rent was $20. It moved across the street in the early 1920's, and in September 1941, opened in a newer, larger room. The rent was raised to $30 and the salary of the library staff, called a custodian, was $10. It was moved to various locations over the ensuing 35 years as the community and its need for a library grew. On April 11, 1976, the new 6000 sq. ft. Centerville Library at 3801 Nicolet Ave. had an Opening Dedication Ceremony. It was the first branch of the Alameda County system to have a computerized system for checking material out. Today, the branch has a collection of over 44,000 items, and is open on Tuesdays 1 p.m. - 8 p.m. and Thursdays 11-6.

Centerville is personal but busy; they check out 160 items per hour when open. One of the first things people notice is the display window just inside the library, where a staff member combines library books, artwork and memorabilia to highlight library themes. They are usually changed once every two months, but the summer theme is Harry Potter and Summer Reading Game mascot, Ike LaRue.

The heaviest users of the library are elementary school age children. They especially like Dr. Seuss, fantasy stories, and series of all kinds. As at most libraries these days, DVDs are very popular. Adults also check out lots of bestsellers. Over the last few years, the demand for Chinese material has grown, and Centerville has added books in that language. There are programs at the library, too. Recently there has been a science program with AstroWizard and a Harry Potter celebration. Coming in August is a showing of "wild, wacky and weird" video clips from the Internet and a concert of mystery songs. There are two storytime sessions - not offered in the summer - which will start again in September. One is held on Thursday mornings at 11:15 a.m., and the other is a bilingual Chinese-English storytime held on Tuesday afternoons at 1:30 p.m. Registration is required. Beginning in August, you can check the library's "Eventkeeper" calendar for dates and other details at:

Irvington Library

Irvington Library started April, 1911 in a room on Washington Blvd. The rent of $30 was jointly paid by the County of Alameda and the Irvington Chamber of Commerce. It, too, moved a number of times over the years, primarily into modular buildings. The Irvington Library building from 1966-1971 became the staff workroom of the "new" Fremont Main library in Central Park until the present building was opened in 1989. Part of it is still used as a site for the Fremont Friends of the Library semiannual book sale, and part of it housed the Teen Center. In July 1985, the Irvington library opened its doors at its present location - 41825 Greenpark Dr. - across the street from Irvington High School. Today, Irvington is open Wednesdays from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. and has over 37,000 items including books, magazines and newspapers, DVDs, and CDs. Storytime at 11:30 a.m. will begin again in the fall. Sign-ups are required. Check the Eventkeeper calendar for details beginning in August. The largest group of users at this library during the summer is elementary school children and their parents; when school is in session, it is also used heavily by high school students. Adults check out lots of mysteries and romance books, DVDs, and books in Spanish and Hindi.

Niles Library

The Niles Library began in 1890 when a circulating library of 145 volumes was bought by Niles citizens and placed in Mr. Dickey's store. In 1895, the books were moved to an "Open Door" reading room under the management of the Christian Endeavor Society. In 1900, 500 volumes were placed by the newly incorporated Niles Free Public Library Association in the old railroad depot. Southern Pacific Railroad Company was building a new station and donated the old one for use by the association. In 1928, it moved to 853 "I" Street, given to Niles by Mr. & Mrs. William H. Ford. The library was designed by J.J. Donovan, the architect of the Oakland Civic Auditorium, and named the Jane Clough Memorial Library in memory of Mrs. Ford's mother. The building was deeded to Alameda County in 1936 and is still in use today. It has 2100 square feet and approximately 11,000 items, including books, magazines and newspapers, DVDs, CDs, and audiocassettes. The Niles Library is open on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Drop-in storytimes at Niles will begin in September at 2 p.m. The majority of Niles Library users are either young mothers with children or older adults. In addition to the usual magazines and bestsellers, Niles has a collection of film history and Charlie Chaplin material to commemorate Niles' role in the history of the film industry. There is also a clipping file of Niles history that can be used n the library.

In 1970, Niles Library was the recipient of the sculpture Poppy Nymph by Joseph Jacinto Mora (1876-1947). It was originally exhibited in the Palace of Fine Arts during the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915 and purchased by Niles resident William Ford. Mr. Ford gave the statue to John E. Kimber in 1957, and Mr. Kimber subsequently willed the statue to the library. As the smallest and most intimate of the Alameda County branches, library customers especially enjoy finding what they want quickly and their close relationship with staff.

Last but not least, summer is the time at all Alameda County Library branches for Summer Reading Games with prizes for all ages, where kids "Get a Clue with Ike LaRue," teens read books with the "You Never Know" theme, and adults read "Mysteries in the Big City."

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