Stories Full of Stories: San Diego’s new Central Library is a landmark achievement
In the ninth floor art gallery, Kathryn Kanjo posed with a painting by Gail Roberts. Kanjo, chief curator at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, organized the inaugural show, ‘Renewed.’
• PHOTO GALLERY: Click on the NEXT> button above to see all 9 photos from the new San Diego Central Library preview event.
By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt
After 30 years of planning, controversy, fundraising and hard work, the new San Diego Central Library is finally a reality, and deserves a rousing cheer, or three.
An impressive triumph of form and function, it is the city’s grandest collaboration, a partnering of private and public sectors, including the Library Foundation, San Diego Unified School District, dozens of corporate sponsors and more than three thousand individual donors.
“We’re the repository of so much information, but we’re also a space which is truly something special,” said Head Librarian Deborah Barrow.
It certainly is. For starters, as Interim Mayor Todd Gloria pointed out at a Sneak Peek event Sept. 25, “Architecturally speaking, this building is a work of art, and it has some of the best views in the city.”
There are more than 1.2 million books in its dome-topped, nine-story, almost-500,000-square-foot expanse, not to mention 1.6 million government documents, many of which have never before been accessible to the public. There are special sections for children, teens and disabled people, a multimedia TV studio and tech center and a full-service homework center, with computers and tutors.
Stories No. 6 and No. 7 are leased to the e3 Civic High School, which has its own separate entrance. There’s a main-floor gift shop and outdoor café, a rooftop art gallery and sculpture garden, and plenty of art, including murals and special exhibits, throughout.
There’s also a 350-seat auditorium and a glass wall in the main lobby that slides open to create an indoor-and-outdoor area large enough to accommodate 1,000 people. And there’s a rentable space on the ninth floor, perfect for weddings and private events.
On the Saturday before the official Sept. 30 opening, there was a day-long celebration, an East Village street festival with live music, interactive activities, food and library tours. Upcoming events include bi-weekly Sunday concerts with top-flight local musicians.
“This building was born in workshops with San Diegans,” said the architect, Rob Quigley. “It’s about community. We listened when people said: we want to look toward the future, but respect the past. I don’t know if there’s ever been a building that had the participation of so many to make it a reality.”
Standing on the roof on a breezy day, you can hear the wind singing through the open dome. Said Quigley: “We knew the building would have an acoustic personality as well as a visual one. That really gives it depth.”
SAN DIEGO CENTRAL LIBRARY
• Where: 330 Park Blvd., Downtown San Diego (at 11th Ave. and K Street)
• Hours: Noon-8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday;
9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday;
9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday; 1-5 p.m. Sunday
• Phone: (619) 236-5800
• Website: sandiegolibrary.org
A TREE STORY
• “We wanted a native Engelmann oak in the courtyard, but our budget only allowed for a 15-gallon one, which was much too short, at only about three feet tall. We had a picture of a perfect tree, but it cost another $8,000.
• So the contractor went out and bought it for us! That’s the kind of camaraderie we had here. Everyone felt it was their library.” — Architect Rob Quigley
QUOTE ON THE CENTRAL LIBRARY’S EAST WALL
• “Yo, que me figuraba el Paraíso bajo la especie de una biblioteca.” — Jorge Luis Borges (“I always imagined that Paradise would be a kind of library.”)
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