Sunday, February 26, 2012

A visit to a library off the beaten path - Laton

Normally when we say 'off the beaten path' on this blog we would mean 'not near Los Angeles'. Whenever we travel, wherever we go, we're always checking out the local libraries. Laton's library is a case of 'off the beaten path' as in not (too) near Los Angeles and also, if-you-didn't-know-to-hunt-for-it-you-might-not-find-it.

Fresno County Public Library's Laton branch is easily the smallest branch I've been to in quite a while. But what it lacks in space (and books) it more than makes up for in charm.

We were pointed in the direction of Laton by a family member that knows our love for libraries and mentioned that a Carnegie library had been lovingly restored about 10 years ago. We got in the car and drove to Laton's 1.9 square mile of town. Luckily for us the library was open. They are currently only open four days a week, for four hours on each of those days.

When we pulled up I hoped aloud for two things -- that something/someone would tell me the branch history, and I also wanted to know how old their beautiful oak tree 'neighbor' was. A library fact sheet we picked up told me a little of each. As did the helpful librarian on duty, who was proud to show off the library and it's historical artifacts.

From the library's fact sheet I learned that the library was officially opened on June 18, 1904. I also learned it was not a Carnegie library (the community could not meet eligibilty conditions for Carnegie) but was gifted to the community by the city's founders, L.A. Nares and W.E.G. Saunders.

A quick search through the Los Angeles Times and I discovered Nares and Saunders were real estate men selling land from the old Laguna de Tache Spanish grant (in Laton), I'm sure a library would have been a nice draw. Nares was also a bit of a daredevil. He established many records for quickest automobile trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The fastest time I found for him making the trip was twenty-four hours and fifty minutes in 1905 and driving a Pope-Toledo. Soon after he was vowing to do it again and make it in twenty and a half hours!

Back to the library - one of the neatest features of the libary is a three-sided fireplace, that was a new one on me. Another neat feature was the beautiful oak tree out back, which, according to the fact sheet, is 150 to 200 years old. Another helpful handout they have is a four sided guide to Laton History Sources, all available in some manner at the Laton library. I wish we would have looked at it closer before leaving, I would have loved to have seen two of the boosterism items - the 1919 Chamber of Commerce's Where would you like to live? If you can live where you like, it is likely you would like to live in Laton and Nares and Saunders 1899 A different California. Laguna de Tache grat: something more than climate and scenery: a place for the small farmer and man of moderate means. If you're ever near Laton, California, on the right day (check their website for hours), and have an interest in libraries and/or history I wholeheartedly recommend the Laton library.

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