SAN LORENZO -- People stream in and out of the library, some lounging with books in upholstered chairs, others wandering among the shelves or searching the Internet at computers, a far cry from what it was like at one time, when residents were encouraged not to linger but to check out books and leave.
Betty Moose set out to change that. "They had no programs, nothing. It was just a dead building, period," Moose said. "You had to make an appointment to see the librarian; I couldn't stand it."
For more than half a century, Moose has championed this unincorporated community, serving on the school board and commissions, advocating for women's rights, and working to protect parks and the shoreline, but her push to turn the library into a cultural center is her proudest achievement.
The transformation began in 1987, when a new librarian took over Alameda County Library's San Lorenzo branch. The two women strengthened ties between the library and the school district, made easier because Moose was both Friends of the Library president and a San Lorenzo Unified School District board member.
"I introduced Judy Flum to the superintendent and every employee in the district, the school librarians as well," she said.
Flum went to back-to-school nights to let families know they could get free library cards. "People didn't know that. Can you imagine?" Moose said. "Kids didn't go to the library."
The library has grown so popular that the county is enlarging the building. The library has moved to a temporary location in a storefront on Hesperian Boulevard during construction.
"We both wanted to make the library more of a community hub, a place that is there for the community," Flum said. Under Moose's leadership, the Friends of the Library raised money, advocated and organized card-writing campaigns when there was legislation that would affect libraries, Flum said.
"Betty had her hand in almost every local pie you could think of," she said. "She wanted to improve things in San Lorenzo."
That commitment has driven the mother of five since she joined the PTA in the 1960s. Moose has been on numerous boards and commissions, both locally and at the state level, and helped found abused women's shelters in Fremont and Hayward.
"Battered women needed help, and women have the right to have shelter, food, clothing, care and to feel safe," she said. "It's still a problem, and trafficking has increased tremendously, which is a very, very terrible thing."
Moose was active at Christ Lutheran Church until the congregation dissolved a few years ago. That's where Howard Beckman met her when he was in high school. When he moved back to San Lorenzo about a dozen years ago and became active in civic affairs, Moose was involved in everything, he said.
"Once I was trying to arrange a meeting with her. She said, 'I'm too busy. It will have to be next month.' In her planner, it looked like a child had colored in every month. Every day was marked in, and some she had erased and put something else," he said.
The 89-year-old has slowed down, but she keeps informed on issues such as coastline protection, the historical society and the schools, said a retired Alameda County supervisor who worked with her to preserve the San Lorenzo Pioneer Cemetery.
"She's elderly, but she still goes to meetings and demands answers," Gail Steele said. Until January, Moose was chairwoman of the park district's advisory committee, making sure its members did their research and were informed, said the district's recreation superintendent.
"Betty is a pusher in the most gentle of ways. And she has boundless energy and an amazing memory," said Kerrilyn Ely. Moose's easy laugh and ready smile may put people at ease, but she doesn't shy away from speaking out.
"Betty's been very vocal to remind the board of the community's interest -- and to praise the board," Ely said.
He has clashed with Moose over issues, Beckman said, "but I have enormous respect for her. Her heart is in the right place."
No, she's not afraid to ask difficult questions, Steele said.
"When Betty gets a bee in her bonnet that something needs to be changed, whether it gets done or not, she keeps at it and at it. Most people give up," she said.
Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.
HOMETOWN: San Lorenzo
CLAIM TO FAME: Has fought to improve San Lorenzo for decades
QUOTE: "I will persist and persist and persist."
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