It’s been several years since a group of more than 20 Waikoloa residents gathered in the home of state Rep. Cindy Evans to ask for a library, but plans for the community’s first library are finally under way for 2014.
“We’re hoping to get the process of planning and design along with community input done by the end of 2014,” said Ruth Bernstone, executive vice president for the Friends of the Library-Waikoloa Region.
The state Legislature allocated $800,000 for the planning and design phase of the library, and, according to Bernstone, Gov. Neil Abercrombie released $275,000 of those funds.
Bernstone is one of several Waikoloa residents who have been sedulous in their pursuit for the area’s first library.
Evans, D-North Kona and Kohala, said when that group of residents gathered at her home, she gave them one piece of advice: get organized.
“I said, ‘If you really want to make things happen, I suggest you become an affiliate of Friends of the Library in Honolulu,’” Evans said.
Friends of the Library is a nonprofit organization that, according to its website, works “to maintain free public libraries in the State of Hawaii, to promote extension of library services throughout the State of Hawaii and to increase the facilities of the public library system in Hawaii by securing materials beyond the command of the ordinary library budget.”
Evans said the group of volunteers took her suggestions to heart and immediately began to work, collecting money through fundraising efforts, creating bylaws to meet the statewide organization’s requirements, and meeting with the state librarian until eventually they became an affiliated branch.
From there, the group pressed the state for a bookmobile, a process Evans said was anything but easy.
“I testified in front of the Board of Education about getting a book mobile up and running in Waikoloa and they said to me, ‘Representative, you need to know one thing: we will never support a bookmobile,’” she said.
But eventually, the board did, and Evans said the state librarian worked with the Waikoloa Friends of the Library branch to acquire a vehicle that was “sitting in Kona in a garage for several years.”
“The librarian just used it for storage,” Evans said.
The group cleared its first hurdle, but from there its members had to figure out how to move the vehicle from Kona to Waikoloa.
Bette Green, president of the Friends of the Library-Waikoloa Region, recalled the moment as if it were yesterday.
“We got two new batteries to get it started,” she said. “It was the best thing the way it happened. Bless its pointed little head! It started right up like it knew it was suppose to.”
Green said the Waikoloa Village Association provided a space to park the bookmobile, and from there it became a place to swap books, talk story and eventually connect to wireless Internet.
“But we are still the only Friends of the Library in the state without our own library,” she said.
Green said the bookmobile was a good first step, but in the end the Friends of the Library wants what it came for.
“We are a rural area and definitely are not served when it comes to the state providing library services,” she said. “And this area is growing…”
According to U.S. Census data, the population of Waikoloa has grown by 1,556 from 2000-10, increasing from 4,806 to 6,362. With a steadily growing population, Green contends a library is and will become a necessity for the community.
“We as a village want a place where we can meet,” she said.
Bernstone said she wants the library to be a community center, as well.
“We see it as a place where we can record interesting people’s life history,” she said. “And a place that will provide reading programs for children, and where people can use the computer. Right now, we have Wi-Fi at the bookmobile but people have to bring their own computers.
“It’ll be a benefit for everybody in the community.”
Now that the group is entering the design phase for the project, Green said she would like to see the new library be “totally green.”
“I want it as green as it can be, or as green as the state can make it,” she said.
The Waikoloa Friends of the Library are also taking suggestions from the community Friday at the Waikoloa Village office area.
Evans said it’s been a long journey and she is looking forward to entering the next phase of the project.
“They’ve done it step by step by step,” she said. “They’ve never lost the desire for it. I think this community is so ready for a library.”
Email Megan Moseley at firstname.lastname@example.org.