History of the Southwest Branch Library
With the rapid population growth in the southwest part of Bakersfield in the 1960s, it became clear the area could not be adequately served by a bookmobile stop alone. To fill the need for branch service, the Southwest Branch Library opened on February 17, 1981 in a 3,000 square-foot rented space in the Sagepoint Shopping Plaza. The high level of library usage necessitated moving to a bigger space within the same plaza less than three years later in November 1983. Along with increased square footage, library hours increased from 46 to 60 hours weekly. Still, more space was need and construction was announced. On June 2, 1986, the new Southwest Branch Library welcomed the community into the two-story 18,400 square-foot structure that features reflective exterior glass, a book collection of about 40,000 volumes, and a community room. The original 15-year lease agreement stipulated an increase in rent based upon inflation. It also gave Kern County the option to buy the building at fair market value at the end of lease, but with none of what it had paid over the years going toward the purchase price – a contract that was later criticized by the Kern County Grand Jury. In 1997, the County negotiated a deal with the developers to extend the lease by five years at a lower monthly rent, with the County owning the building at the end of the lease. In December 2008, the County owned the building, and the interior has been refurbished with new paint and carpet. The Southwest Branch Library continues to serve a growing and supportive community, and is the second busiest branch in the Kern County Library system.
For more information, read the eBook Kern County Library, A Century of Progress.