That's when the H.P. Wright Library in the city of Ventura shuttered its doors, one more victim to be added to the growing list of collateral damage created by the economic downturn.
Long one of the area's most-frequented libraries, it was unable to survive the city's $11 million in budget slashes, the county's reduced property tax revenue, and the state's severe cuts to library funding. To add insult to injury, even the local voters refused to fund H.P Wright when offered a chance via a recent ballot measure.
Ventura County's Public Library Foundation funds have been cut by 79 percent in the last 10 years, according to the California State Library. It's a slow motion collapse that began in the days of the Gray Davis administration and has recently accelerated.
"That says something about our commitment to kids, to books, to seniors, to job hunters, to our communities, and I think we are going to pay a huge price for it," said Ventura County Library Director, Jackie Griffin.
Two other libraries continue operating in the city of Ventura, which is still one more than the other cities in the county. So, H.P. Wright's closure might seem insignificant. But as the third most-visited library in the county system, concerned residents said its closure marks a painful and disproportionate loss.
Especially for Maureen Byrne and her three children, who have made visits to the neighborhood library routine stops in their weekly schedule.
"That was his favorite thing to do after school," said Maureen of her 12-year-old son Paul. "He would get his books. We would do his homework. It was so accessible."
When news of H.P. Wright's closure circulated in early 2009, it spurred a fund-raising campaign by the San Buenaventura's Friends of the Library. Byrnes was just one worried citizen among many who jumped on board. The group raised a hefty $120,000, which kept the library open an additional five months, said San Buenaventura Friends of the Library Vice President, Berta Steele.
The group's intention was to keep the library operating until a permanent funding solution arose, said Steele. Measure A, the city's half-cent sales tax increase that appeared on the November 2009 ballot, was one attempt to get additional money to fund H.P. Wright on a permanent basis, but it failed, only receiving 44 percent of the vote. The balloting forced economically-pressed voters to either save an important local institution or save themselves from a tax increase. They chose the latter and the library closed.
Now, it has been over two months since Byrne and her three children have visited a public library.
Unlike H.P. Wright, the other libraries are not on the way home from school, said Byrne. They're not easily accessible to a large portion of Ventura with a high population of children.
Now H.P. Wright patrons, many of whom were among Ventura's eastside residents, will have to manage the four-mile drive downtown to the E.P. Foster library. But the real concern is for those who will be unable to access any library, especially during financially tough times.
"When families don't have enough money for entertainment, the library provides programs, books and movies," said Griffin.
"There's a terrible irony that one of the most important services that we have in an economically hard time is one that's most devastatingly cut," said Griffin.