San Diego gets new library after 30 years in the making

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Get your library card applications ready, there’s a new Central Library coming to town, finally.

The San Diego City Council approved construction of a New Central Library in a 6 to 2 vote on June 28 after 30 years in the making. The new location will be the 35th branch within the library system and construction is said to start in August, with a grand opening set for June 2013. It will be built near Petco Park at Park Boulevard and 11th Ave. and will be open to all San Diego residents, schools, teachers, workers and visitors to the area.

The design and permits are all in place, as well as the $68 million already designated specifically for building a New Central Library and $10 million contributed for operating the facility.

The New Central Library will be a technology center, offering San Diegans equal, free access. “The New Central Library helps close the ‘digital divide’ with more than 400 workstations, available laptops, spaces for teaching the use of new technology and free WiFi access,” reports the San Diego Public Library Foundation.

According to the San Diego Public Library Foundation Web site: “The current Central Library was built 57 years ago to serve a population of only 466,000 people. In Fiscal Year 1955, the attendance for the entire library system was 15,003 (18).  Today, the City’s population is 1.25 million people. Additionally, 574,000 people use the Central Library alone and the facility supports 35 branch libraries, more than three times the number than at its opening. The facility is beyond its capacity with 60 percent of the collections in basement storage areas, off limits to the public. The building suffers from a decaying infrastructure, outdated plumbing, inefficient electrical systems, as well as obsolete heating and air systems that are costly to maintain.”

The New Central Library will consist of community spaces where San Diegans will gather to celebrate culture, hear great music, appreciate art work, and discuss critical issues. Downtown San Diego, the region’s fastest growing area, is said to be “the logical spot for a civic space of this scope and versatility.”

The Council approved the financing plan for project construction which includes $80 million from Centre City Development Corp., $20 million from a competitive State grant intended for library construction, $20 million from the San Diego City School District for use of two vacant floors as a charter school and more than $30 million committed from private donors (and an additional $10 million for operations).

These funds will begin phase one of construction and San Diego Public Library Foundation leaders Judith C. Harris and Mel Katz said they were confident that now construction will begin on the project additional donors will step forward to provide the additional $32.5 million needed to complete construction.

Photo from ‘library_mistress’ via Flickr

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