The construction project set to begin in Felton this summer isn’t your grandpa’s library building. There will be a park, a nature classroom, a cozy fireplace area, and plenty of high-tech amenities, including digital charging stations—all blended with an extensive book collection into a community center for the entire San Lorenzo Valley. In renderings, it almost resembles a ski lodge more than a hub for reading.
Just a few steps from the library’s patio, the park will feature native plants, interpretive displays, accessible paths, benches, natural play areas for children to climb about, and even a small stage.
“The emphasis is on environmental consciousness—opportunities for programs inside and outside. It’s going to be bigger, brighter and modern,” says Michelle Mosher, an organizer for the Felton library project. “We want it to appeal to people of all ages.”
Landscape architects who are designing the outdoor portion will share the plans with the public on Thursday, June 14, at 6 p.m. at Felton Community Hall, located at 6191 Hwy. 9. Library director Susan Nemitz says linking of indoor and outdoor space is a common feature of modern libraries.
Betsy Lynberg, the county’s capital projects manager, says $10 million from a $67 million 2016 bond measure is being spent on Felton’s new building, including furnishings and public art.
The Capitola Library is also starting over from scratch, having shut down last month, and the next facility will double down with a new play area and state-of-the-art technology.
Although demand for print books from libraries has declined in recent years, Nemitz says demand for technology grew 50 percent in the last year. People come into libraries when they need to fill out a job application, tax forms and financial aid paperwork.
The library bond measure, which got 70 percent voter support two years ago, is funding improvements to eight other county libraries as well, with cash going to branches in Santa Cruz, Aptos, Live Oak, Scotts Valley, Boulder Creek, and La Selva Beach—replacing failing roofs, outdated bathrooms, electrical systems, and structurally damaged areas.
The Capitola Library will go to bid by mid-summer, but Steve Jesberg, Capitola’s director of public works, warns that there is a high demand for contractors and subcontractors this year so it may make for a tight market.
Jesberg says the new building will replace temporary structures that have been in place for 14 years. Nearby libraries at Aptos and Live Oak will add hours while Capitola awaits its new facility. A book drop will be added at Jade Street Community Park and storytelling programs for preschoolers will be available at Porter Memorial Library in Soquel.
Nemitz says the plans for replacing the main library in downtown Santa Cruz have been complicated because the bond measure provided only $23 million, but estimates for a new structure are $38 million. She says the $67 million total offered to the voters in the bond measure “was based on what the public would pass—not what it would take to bring it into the 21st Century.”
A special library committee looked at future possibilities for the library, including the idea of integrating the new library into plans for a long-discussed parking structure that would replace existing street-level parking on the corner of Cathcart and Cedar streets downtown. It would spare library officials from having to pay for the structure’s foundation, but sustainable transportation activists are fighting the concept, leery to incentivize future car trips.
The Santa Cruz City Council will study the issues when it looks at downtown parking issues in a meeting that’s tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, June 19.
This past January, the Downtown Library Advisory Committee recommended a full remodel with a new parking structure, as it literally checks 13 of 15 boxes the group looked at, including one for cost.
The committee’s next-favorite idea was a full renovation of the current facility, which checks three fewer boxes and comes in at an estimated $11.1 million more.