The Palo Alto Art Center auditorium could soon house about 10,000 books and other library items as part of the city's dizzying four-year game of "musical chairs" -- a process made necessary by the city's massive library renovation project.
The Main Library is the last of the three branches slated for renovations under a $76 million bond local voters approved in 2008. The branch, which houses a collection of about 130,000 items, will expand by about 4,000 square feet and receive a new community meeting room, four study rooms, a new air conditioning system and other building improvements.
Work has already begun on the other two branches. The Downtown Library is undergoing renovations, while the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center are being completely rebuilt. Earlier this year, Palo Alto opened a new temporary library at the Cubberley Community Center to serve residents until the spacious new Mitchell Park branch reopens in 2012.
In finding a temporary home for the Main Library collection, staff considered leasing office space on East Bayshore Road, setting up modular buildings in the Lucie Stern Community Center parking lot on Middlefield Road and shifting books to the Art Center, which is adjacent to Main Library on Newell Road. The Art Center edged the other two options because of its location and the availability of parking.
Public Works staff and the city's consulting architects from Group 4 Architecture presented the three options at a Nov. 16 community meeting and most people in the audience supported the Art Center site. Residents said they were particularly concerned about the lack of space in the Lucie Stern parking lot and the inconvenience of getting to East Bayshore.
Under the staff proposal, which the City Council is scheduled to consider Monday night, the Art Center auditorium would be furnished with about 10,000 items, a periodical section and space for residents to pick up and drop off books. Though the collection size at the temporary library would be a small fraction of the Main Library's regular holdings, residents would be able to order books from other branches and have them shipped to the temporary location.
"One of its key roles is that it's a place where materials would come in," Interim Library Director Ned Himmel said at the Nov. 16 meeting.
In a new report, Senior Engineer Karen Begard wrote that housing the temporary Main Library at the Art Center would "save automobile trips and help decrease cross-town traffic and maintain a local amenity."
The Art Center, meanwhile, is scheduled to undergo its own renovations next year, when its electrical and mechanical systems get upgraded. Staff expects to complete the upgrades by spring 2012, well in time for the temporary library to be built.
The auditorium library will cost the city between $350,000 and $500,000.
Construction of the Main Library is scheduled to begin in the second half of 2012, once the new Mitchell Park branch is up and running.
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