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First Look: Santa Monica’s New Main Library:

Last Wednesday, the Mirror was given a preview of the new Santa Monica Public Library, which will open officially on January 7, 2006.

Located at 601 Santa Monica Boulevard, the site of the old Main Library, the new two-story structure took two-plus years to build and, according to City Librarian Greg Mullen, was “completed on time…[and] under budget.”

The $57.7 million building was financed by a 1988 bond measure to purchase land for expansion of the Main Library and a 1998 measure to fund library improvements.

A press release from the public relations firm hired by the City states that the “Santa Monica-based architecture firm Moore Ruble and Yudell designed the environmentally-friendly library to showcase its reading areas, community rooms and books through two-story window walls that face the street and provide views to the ocean.”

The first floor of the 104,000 square foot structure utilizes paseos (a.k.a. interior streets) to direct visitors to the major activity centers, including areas for children and teens, the fiction and popular books  collections, a reading room and customer service areas.  A landscaped central courtyard features a  sculpture by Santa Monica artist Carl Cheng titled “Underwater Canopy.”

Also on the first floor are the 146-seat Martin Luther King Jr. Auditorium, the Friends of the Library bookstore, the Bookmark café, and a 5,000 square foot space for the Santa Monica Historical Museum, which has its own entrance on Seventh Street.

The museum will house a permanent gallery, an exhibition space, research library/multipurpose room, a store, multi-media space, storage and staff and volunteer work area.

Nonfiction, reference and periodicals collections are on the second floor, along with study rooms, a  reading room, a computer commons, a computer training room, community meeting rooms and library administrative offices including a board room. 

The second floor will also be home to the Stanton Macdonald-Wright murals, which the renowned Santa Monica artist designed in the 1930s for one of Santa Monica’s earlier main libraries, as   part of a WPA project.  The murals are  on loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Mullen noted that inclusion of the mural is “consistent with the library’s vision statement” which is “preserving the past, serving the present and shaping the future.”

The new library has building-wide wireless Internet access with a capacity of up to 400,000 items such as books, tapes, DVDs and compact disks.  The library currently has approximately 300,000 items. 

All of them will contain radio frequency identification technology tags to protect them from theft., and to permit library patrons to check out books at self service stations.    

A three-level 530-space subterranean City parking garage is also part of the project.  As in other City parking structures parking will be attendant controlled.  A 28-space street-level lot containing metered parking is also available for short-term and handicapped parking.

The “green” structure’s roof has been treated to reflect sunlight and reduce “heat islands” that contribute to smog. It also contains solar panels to generate renewable energy for the Library, and a 200,000-gallon cistern underneath the building will  collect rainwater that will then be used to irrigate the Library’s landscaping.           Grand opening activities will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, January 7 and will consist of a ribbon cutting ceremony, readings, and interviews with those involved with the planning, design, and construction of the Library, and activities for children.

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