The project is set to be completed in December 2014.
"Today is a great day because it's sort of the beginning of the end," Shepherd said, referring to the fact that Main is the last of the city's five library branches to be renovated.
The expanded library will feature a host of modern amenities, including a 4,000-square-foot addition that will house four group-study rooms and a teen center. The facility will also get a new electrical system that will be able to handle the computer needs of patrons. Skylights in the ceiling, which were installed in the 1980s, will be removed and the roof line will be restored to its original condition.
A new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system will make the library more energy efficient, a requirement if the library is to get Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Forty-nine wells will be drilled in the east parking lot to a depth of 350 feet, and fluid will be pumped into the wells to be heated or cooled and then circulated back into the library.
"Adding air conditioning will be a huge benefit because there have been times when we've closed the library because it's too hot," Library Director Monique le Conge said. "And if it's too hot in the public area it's been too hot in the staff area for a much longer time."
A new road will allow for cars to drive from the library's east parking lot to the south parking lot. Currently cars must exit onto Newell Road in order to get from one parking lot to the other.
The library's south entrance, facing the Palo Alto Arts Center, will also be changed to facilitate a more natural-looking link between the two.
As the renovation of the Main Library begins, construction of the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center on the other side of town has been fraught with delays. It was scheduled to be completed in 2012, but continuous setbacks have forced the City to push the opening date back to the end of this year.
Shepherd said the Main Library project will mirror the College Terrace Library renovation more than the Mitchell Park library, where the entire structure was completely demolished and is being built from scratch.
She told the Weekly she was confident that the Main Library project would be completed on time and on budget.
According to Matt Raschke, the city's project manager for the Main Library, the renovation will face some difficulties because of the historic structure, which must remain intact. This creates the challenge of retrofitting a structure built in 1958 to meet today's technological needs and seismic requirements.