The McFarland library branch has recently garnered the attention of the city’s leadership as the police department is considering relocating there in order to expand its force.
The McFarland City Council has reached out to various Kern County officials requesting that the county allow the McFarland Police Department to transform the McFarland branch of the Kern County Public Library into the new headquarters.
“The police department that’s here in McFarland has significantly outgrown the area in which they’re currently working,” stated City Manager and Police Chief Kenny Williams. “Because of that, we’ve been looking at some alternatives and we’ve just relatively looked at the library initially because the library has been closed up until recently.”
As of now, the McFarland library is only open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and the city council’s efforts have gained support from the community, the McFarland Unified School District, and the Parks and Recreation District. But the library currently has no plans to leave the community.
“We are aware that the City of McFarland has reached out to the County expressing interest in the McFarland Branch Library’s facility. At this time, Supervisor Couch of the Board of Supervisors has requested the County Administrative Office to review the request, however, the Library does not have current intentions to remove our presence from the area,” stated Jasmin LoBasso, Kern County Library spokeswoman.
LoBasso continued by saying: “It is very important to the department and the Library to have library services in McFarland and to continue to support the community. The positive effects of library services in a community are profound and there is a clear link between literacy and community safety. Since the branch has reopened post-COVID, the Library has been full of community members accessing the collection, public computers, attending programming, and much more. McFarland Branch is a busy library. We anticipate a full Summer schedule and plan to offer Lunch at the Library meal service in June and July.”
Right now, the McFarland Police Department shares a building with the City Hall and the department says that this is making a relocation a necessity.
“It’s not the intention of me or the county to do anything that’s contrary to what the citizens and the community wants,” Williams assured. “But the fact of the matter is we have to find an option for the police department.”
Library services are directly impacted by the community’s express interest in retaining them. Because of this, LoBasso recommends that anyone interested in securing the library’s presence is to inform the Kern County Board of Supervisors, which oversees the department.
“To do that, community members can speak at public comment during the weekly meetings or send an email to the Board of Supervisors and/or Clerk of the Board. Another option is to reach out directly to Supervisor Couch, as he is the area’s County Supervisor,” said LoBasso.
A petition started by Elias Ahumada states that the McFarland Public Library being converted into the new police headquarters would be a “huge blow to a community that already lacks public services.”
“What McFarland needs are more places, like public libraries and community centers, not more corruption and misuse of city funds,” the petition reads. “Together we can be one voice!”
The petition has amassed over 1,500 signatures so far.
“We think a library is one of the most important resources for working class communities, particularly in Kern County where the literacy rate is one of the lowest in the nation,” stated Azeem Hussaini with inthefield661. “We need to create initiatives to engage folks to use their local libraries — not shut libraries and convert them into police stations, further reinforcing the school-to-prison-pipeline.”