In the late 1980s, there was a funding crisis in Shasta County that resulted in 10 libraries in the Intermountain Region permanently closing their doors. That included the Burney library, which was the first of the Shasta County library branches to open in 1949, serving the entire region.
A group of concerned locals got together, and in 1989 the non-profit organization Friends of the Intermountain Libraries (FOIL) was formed.
Thanks to their advocacy, the Shasta Public Libraries system was able to reopen the libraries in Redding, Andersen, and Burney. FOIL agreed to pay a portion of the operating costs for the Burney Library.
With support from residents in the region and fundraising drives, the libraries stayed open, expanded hours, and continued to serve their communities.
As the years ticked by, however, there was a problem. “The Burney Library wasn’t big enough. It was 1,000 square feet, and it wasn’t keeping up with the community. For people to have a conference,” Murray said, chuckling, “they had to put their chairs in the middle of the room, and you can’t have much privacy that way.”
In 2009, FOIL made expansion and relocation of the Burney Library a priority. And in August 2021, the new 2,000 square foot Burney Branch Library celebrated its one-year anniversary. The library is a point of pride for the community, as a lot of hard work took place over the past decade to make the dream a reality.
Lots of fundraising
In 2014, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors agreed to release $400,000 donated from the Hatchet Ridge Wind project to the Burney Library Project Capital Campaign upon the completion of successful fundraising.
“We launched the ‘New Library Now’ campaign, Murray said. “We have a great slide show on Youtube that covers some of our history getting the new library.”
The timing was good, but the work was going to take a while. From Murder Mystery at the Lions Club to the Friends Mainstreet Bookstore and Giving Tuesday, many fundraisers were held.
Once the capital fundraising was complete in 2019, FOIL had to take a lot of different factors into account as they designed the new building. For one, the location of the library is an existing flood plain, so the building had to be raised a bit to make it flood resistant. CALTRANS had some requirements that had to be met as well. The new library’s driveway butted right up to the highway. On and on the list went, but FOIL led the process with enthusiasm and community support.
2020 Grand Opening
With the guiding hand of FOIL, all the necessary work was done for the new building, and ironically enough, the pandemic helped move it along!
“Because of the pandemic, everything was, as you know, closed,” Murray said.
“So once the county agreed to purchase the library building, there was a six month escrow. We were able to get to work right away as a result, and got the work done while funds were in escrow.”
The end result is what you see in the pictures: A 2,000-square-foot library and community center that is expanding its offerings for the area.
Many community groups had a hand in the success. For example, Rotary Club International, the local Rotary Club, and the local Soroptimist Club all donated funds for the Youth Section, and the beautiful wood trim around the conference room and wood highlights on the front of the building were donated by Sierra Pacific.
Now, and the future ahead
“We added a conference room for meetings, and we have two study rooms that can be used for tutoring students one-on-one. A local small business group meets here every other week as a support group for business owners, and we have a knitting class starting soon!” Because of the size of the community, the library prides itself on being able to offer classes that sometimes have one or two people.
“We’re not a huge community, and so when we offer an Intro to Computers class. Sometimes there are one or two people that can come at certain times, and other folks can’t make the time of the class but can come on other days. We are happy to be one-on-one. We are flexible and are proud of the help we give to people.”
Murray also told me the Internet is “not always great” in their mountain area, and so the library has a large collection of DVDs in new, easy-to-access drawers that let people browse more efficiently. The library also offers printing services, and income tax help, with plans for even more.
“We have a really special library now, and thanks to the great support we’ve received, we’re going to be an important resource for the community for a long time. We’re very happy with how it’s going.”
FOIL is always seeking more members to raise funds that allow them to continue their great work, which includes improving book collections and meeting video, audio, and computer needs. You can learn more about FOIL and how to support their efforts on their website.