Palo Alto library construction 'right on schedule'

Rebuilding of Mitchell Park, renovation of Downtown branch going according to plan

The ongoing construction at Palo Alto's Mitchell Park and Downtown libraries is going according to plan, according to Interim Library Director Ned Himmel, who described both projects as "right on schedule."

At Mitchell Park Library on Middlefield Road, the skeletons of the spacious new buildings are now visible.

"We're at the phase where almost all of the steel structure is in place," Himmel said.

The next phase, once walls are put in, will be to install the wiring and utility hookups the library needs to support its planned high-tech features.

"It will be built to handle almost any new technology for decades," Himmel said, in contrast to the old building, which lacked air conditioning.

Himmel added that the city is aiming for an eco-friendly gold or platinum LEED rating for the structure, which will also gain a green roof and interior displays that show the energy use of the building.

It will also be the first library in Palo Alto to host a new system for automatically checking in and sorting books, he said.

On Monday a private "topping out" ceremony will be held at the Mitchell Park site, with the final beam, signed by some of the people involved with the project, being put into place, according to the Palo Alto Library Foundation's Susie Thom.

The library, along with the adjoining Mitchell Park Community Center, is still on target to open in the summer of 2012.

In the meantime, Himmel said library patrons are making do with the temporary Cubberley Community Center location.

"The use is less than at Mitchell Park, but people are using it. There aren't that many comfortable seats, but it's open the same hours," he said.

At the Downtown Library on Forest Avenue, closed since last April, new wiring is now in place. Flooring and casework (built-in furniture such as tables and desks) will be the next step in the renovation. A small children's area will also be added.

Although it's a much smaller branch than Mitchell Park, "the building is going to be a great, lovely space. It really takes advantage of the light," Himmel said of the glass-heavy building.

"Things have gone very smoothly," he said.

The Downtown Library is expected to reopen July 16.

While the Main Library will not be renovated until 2012, after Mitchell Park Library has opened, Himmel said plans for improvements to the Main branch are moving forward, with a few additions.

A list of a few changes will be presented to the City Council for approval in May, Himmel said, most notably a plan to link the library's parking lot with the neighboring Palo Alto Art Center to "tie the two in more closely" and create a plaza between the two, including public art if possible.

Any changes will not impact the timeline, with an expected reopening in 2013, but would cost between $400,000 and $2 million. The library system improvements are funded by the $76 million bond measure voters passed in November 2008.

Next week is National Library Week, Himmel said, and Monday's City Council meeting will include recognition of Mary Minto, who's worked as a Palo Alto librarian for 39 years.

Libraries are also holding a few special events including an April 13 celebration with musician Juliette McDonald at 3:30 p.m. at the Children's Library (1276 Harriet St.); a library-themed craft and storytime event for kids at 10 a.m. on April 16 at the temporary library at 4050 Middlefield Road; and an author appearance by novelist Meg Waite Clayton April 20 at 7 p.m. at the Children's Library's Tree Top Room.

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Like this comment
Posted by Library User
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 8, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Glad to hear it.

But, why can't the traffic light be turned off while the construction is in progress? I was recently driving south on Middlefield and the lanes were reduced to one each way. There was then a red light so I had to stop at what used to be the old library entrance but traffic coming the other way ignored the red light. I felt I was holding up traffic, but I obeyed the red light.

The 2 sets of light at this intersection have always been difficult and annoying and now it is worse. Are there any changes planned when the library reopens?

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 8, 2011 at 10:43 pm

The traffic lights on Middlefield will be reconfigured as part of the final stage of construction. A light is still needed to let the traffic into and out of Mayview.

Also the sewer, water, electrical connections must be made under Middlefield, so it's necessary to reduce traffic lanes on Middlefield occasionally.

Since reconfiguring the lights is very expensive it doesn't make sense to do it twice over when the new library opens in 2012.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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