This town wants to turn its only library into a police station. People aren’t having it.
McFarland, located in the heart of the Central Valley, is generally a quiet town. But lately, it’s been at the center of a firestorm over — of all things — its public library.
There’s just one library for this small city of around 14,000. And if local leaders have their way, it will soon be gone. The building is needed for a police station, says City Manager Kenny Williams, who also happens to serve as Police Chief.
Williams has the support of the McFarland City Council, but it’s not their decision to make. The building is owned by Kern County. City leaders have been trying to persuade the county to help them acquire the space.
Those who use the library are furious. The library already has short hours due to budget cuts. Many residents not only want it to stay, but say it should be open five days a week instead of two.
Kern County has the most underfunded library system in California. A report found Kern contributed $6.17 per person for library services in 2020-21. Some California counties spent over $100 per person.
Williams points to crime increases in Kern as a reason for the police department to have more space for modernized operations. Residents question why a bigger station can’t be built elsewhere.
“We’re surrounded by a bunch of land!” one child who frequents the library told the Los Angeles Times.
Williams says the city doesn’t have the money to build a new station from the ground up.
A petition to save the library has gathered over 1,800 signatures. The cause is being taken up by some authors and academics on Twitter.
The bid to save money while improving public safety may very well be warranted. It may also be more than the little town bargained for.