Ben Lomond LibraryCommunity 

Community Driven Revitalization: Breathing New Life into Ben Lomond Library

By Mary Andersen

Friends of the Ben Lomond Library have kicked off revitalization efforts for the historic Ben Lomond Library building and library operations with a meet and greet and volunteer gatherings at the library located on Mill Street in downtown Ben Lomond. 

The library building and surrounding property, maintained by the Santa Cruz County Parks Department, have been in decline for some time. There is no phone or internet service. Longtime library volunteers — and local residents who wonder about the weeds and peeling paint — are frustrated with the lack of support. The goal of the meetings has been to discuss the current issues, review the ambitious Ben Lomond Town Plan, and develop a baseline for engaging with the parks department, the district supervisor, and enthusiastic members of the community eager to see this overlooked section of Mill Street, and its library, revitalized with a plan put in place for ongoing funding and upkeep. 

The reading room at the Ben Lomond Library

Self Determination

The property where the library, Wylder Hall, and Ben Lomond Park are located was deeded to the community at the turn of the 20th Century. These community gathering places were established specifically in the deed to remain in use as a library, meeting hall, and riverfront park in perpetuity. Founding documents did not, however, provide for sustaining revenue. Creative options to raise capital over the decades have included the efforts of several community coalitions and an attempt to add the library to Ben Lomond Fire tax district. At one point the library was gathered into the Santa Cruz Public Library system, but Proposition 13 budget cuts, which affected small libraries throughout the county, forced the Ben Lomond branch to close. The County offered a grace period to allow the affected libraries to recalibrate as volunteer organizations, and in March of 1980 a newly formed Friends of the Ben Lomond Community Library, backed by the nonprofit San Lorenzo Valley Youth Council, rallied local volunteers, and the library reopened independently. 

Proactive community involvement and planning are paramount in this effort to see the library continue for future generations to use and enjoy.

Self Reliance

Community activists Ronnie Trubek and Julie Horner and library Director, Marion Russell, co-hosted initial meetings; valley residents and local businesses have been invited to attend and share ideas for the library’s ongoing self-reliance. 

In recent weeks, you might have noticed some new landscaping at the library, an ongoing volunteer project by Julie Horner and David Chadwick. There is also renewed activity on social media and a new website so you can follow revitalization progress:

FB @benlomondlibrary
IG @benlomondcommunitylibrary

Photos by Julie Horner

Featured photo: The Ben Lomond Library on Mill Street

Mary Andersen is a writer, photographer, and communications and marketing professional. She lives in Felton with her family.

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