RSF Library Guild’s ‘Redo the Roof’ campaign aims to save books and more

Four-year-old Lyla Hamels and her caretaker, Jill Schmidt, come to Rancho Santa Fe from Encinitas because they love the librarians and programs.

In January, they arrived in the mail in a tiny white envelope. Three single dollar bills, sent to the Library Guild of Rancho Santa Fe by an elderly former member. A scribbled note indicated that the money should go toward repair of the Rancho Santa Fe Library’s rain-soaked and leaking roof.

“We were blown away,” said RSF Library Guild Executive Director Sara Shafer. The guild had been appealing for donations via its new “Redo the Roof” campaign, so it wasn’t surprising to get money, but she says this particular person had to make a tremendous effort to send the bills. “Her generosity touched us,” Shafer said.

Since the launch of the campaign, the guild has received dozens of donations between $50 and $5,000, and one incredible donation for $40,000. It’s a good start toward an overall goal of about $100,000, the estimate for necessary repairs. But there’s a long way to go before the future is secure for one of Rancho Santa Fe’s favorite community resources.

On a walk through the bustling library it’s possible to overlook the pressing problem of the leaking roof. Look at the colorful, brimming bookshelves, and at the people who lounge, read and study, and you might miss it. But look up and the evidence is clear. Ceiling tiles swell and bend, walls are trailed by rivers of water damage. Especially these past few weeks, as rains pound San Diego, the library has taken a pounding too. Hundreds of books, mainly in the children’s library, have been rendered moldy and unreadable. Damaged books have been removed by the county to ensure the safety of the other books around them.

RSF Library patron Jill Schmidt has noticed the blemished walls and ceilings. “It’s sad to see,” she said. Schmidt brings Lyla and Brady Hamels to the library at least twice a week for storytime, crafts, Friday flicks and more. She said she’s happy about the Redo the Roof campaign and she expressed particular appreciation for the staff.

“The librarians are wonderful,” she said. “They make the library. But it’s terrible that books have been damaged.”

The Library Guild of Rancho Santa Fe has decided it’s time to put a stop to this rain-induced havoc. The Redo the Roof campaign, if it succeeds, will allow the guild to buy a new rain-proof roof for the library.

Water has damaged many sections of the Martha B. Glasgow Children’s Library.

Rancho Santa Fe residents may not know that the library, while staffed by San Diego County, is on privately owned property. Maintenance of the buildings is the responsibility of the nonprofit guild, not the county. The library has three connected buildings, each opened in different years. The original wing opened in 1968, and the Martha B. Glasgow Children’s Library in 1980. Building codes have evolved over the years and while most of the library is rain-safe, the kids’ area takes a hit every time San Diego has storms.

“Imagine three shoeboxes, stacked next to one another. There are flat parts of the roof that result in standing water,” says Susan Appleby, guild associate director. “Fixing this problem is our top priority, so we can save books.” The children’s library is a thriving hub of after-school activity, with reading groups, art activities and playtime.

According to Mary Siegrist, guild president, the roof repair will add to the quality of service provided by the library. “When staff can focus on the patrons, instead of salvaging books, the atmosphere stays upbeat. If staff is in a panic, trying to mitigate water, the library and community suffer,” she says.

The Library Guild of Rancho Santa Fe members and the community at large appreciate the library as an invaluable resource for education and inspiration. They say whether it’s three dollars or thousands of dollars, any donation to help redo the roof will be appreciated.

The Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild accepts donations at, or via telephone at 858-756-4780. —Article written and submitted by Sarah Sleeper on behalf of the Library Guild of Rancho Santa Fe