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East County center and library feed minds while building community

The Prewett Library is located inside the Antioch Community Center and offers books, DVDs, CDs, magazines, free Wi-Fi and computers on site and more.

Karen Parmley knows more than books. 

The Antioch librarian assistant says she understands the importance of literacy and all that it provides individuals.

The importance of reading, for families, and to be able to incorporate that for their children, is really huge and can be underestimated, Parmley said. We want to create a safe place for families and their kids to come in and have it be inviting and fun.

That is exactly what the Prewett Library in Antioch has provided  since its opening in January 2011. Located inside the Antioch Community Center on Lone Tree Way,  its the go-to place for residents to not only check out books, DVDs, CDs, magazines, use free Wi-Fi and computers on site and more. It also provides a place where people of all ages can play sports, learn new things, as well as have a central place to gather for community events. 

Local resident Jason Austin said he takes his children to the community center for classes, play sports and enjoy the summer/spring camp opportunities available. 

It offers programs for adults … offers programs for children and young, Austin said about what he likes about the activities at the center. He added that the activities help keep people busy and out of trouble.

Despite the shutdown during the pandemic, the library has found many ways to  continue to stay relevant, especially with the use of technology, which is on the rise.

We have seen a difference initially, patrons didnt want to come back, and so it was slower and didnt get a lot of use, Parmley said. And then, during the pandemic, patrons learned how to do digital online services that we had on our website. So they didnt need to come in physically and they were able to do a lot of services on our website. 

Parmley said now the traditional services, as well as the library’s online offerings,  are in high demand. They’ve embraced both, she said.

Even with the low number of visitors many places have experienced since the pandemic, the library is trying to bring life back to the community of Antioch by still having access to physical books, rather than online copies of everything only.

Its one thing to read digitally. Its another thing to do audiobooks. But having them have eyes to paper or fingers to paper gives them a more of a contextual perspective, Austin said. To feel the paper and see, you know, turn the pages themselves is, I think, grounding in many ways.  

The library can be seen as more than a place for reading and checking out books.

This is a small space and so in that sense, we are limited in what we can do and what we offer because of it,  said Parmley, who also is a substitute teacher at Antioch Charter Academy. Despite this, she said the library hosts events like scavenger hunts for the kids, and staff makes sure they share event and programming information with patrons when they visit.

For adults, it is more of showing that this is a community environment for them where they also can come in and not be judged and have a safe space, Parmley added. Because we also have open areas where there’s not a computer at a desk, they can come and sit and bring their own laptop.

Located near Deer Valley High School, the community center sees many high school students coming in to study, wait for rides home or utilize the library in other ways. 

We see students stopping by, but we also have our regulars to come up throughout the day,  Parmley said. However, she admits being located inside the community center does have its pros and cons.

It makes it a little harder because people don’t necessarily see it,  she explained. I think for most people, thats not a problem, but its just an extra set of doors to walk through. 

Student Tanya Murillo said because of its location and offerings, the joint facility  is an added bonus to her and her schoolmates. The 11th grader at Deer Valley said she often waits at the center for her mother to pick her up after school as it is a safe place for her and others.

The community center has always served [a] good purpose to the students at Deer Valley, including me, Murillo said. I also have gone to the community center with friends to study because it is a nice peaceful environment where there are no distractions for us. 

I also met a mentor there that gave my friends and I an opportunity to earn money for teaching/mentoring middle school students on the negative effects of cannabis, Murillo added. Overall, I just feel that the community center is a useful and safe place, full of so many opportunities.

Andrea Torres agrees. The 39-year-old Antioch mom says not only are ”Food Truck Thursdays” a nice addition, the center’s offerings have benefitted her family in various ways.

“Whenever my computer or printer gets stuck at home, I know I am able to go to the library and community center to access their computers and printers available,” Torres said. “I take my kids to the center for classes that are available there, like the art courses.” 

Torres added that the center offers “job opportunities for teens at their water park, summer camps for kids to be counselors and even community service opportunities.

“The community center has been a valuable resource for not only me, but my family as well.” 

To learn about upcoming activities at the center, classes, events and more, visit

*Additional resources:

Recreation Department – City of Antioch, California (

Prewett | Contra Costa County Library (

Tatiana Sims is an 11th grader at Deer Valley High School in Antioch.

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