After an on-again, off-again process over the last several years, the Corona del Mar library and fire station, or “fibrary,” finally opened its doors to both book worms and firefighters.
The grand opening for the facility was held Saturday, and include speeches from Mayor Diane Dixon, Councilwoman Joy Brenner (whose district covers CdM), Board of Library Trustees Chair Janet Ray, and Fire Chief Chip Duncan.
During the speeches, a fire truck took off for a call.
“This is indeed a momentous occasion,” Brenner said.
A few hundred locals gathered at the new facility, a combination of the 3,801-square-foot library and 6,513-square-foot fire station.
Officials are still working on a few last-minute details, like cabinetry and counters in the staff areas and IT work. It should be fully open in a few weeks, Library Services Director Tim Hetherton explained.
It came in on schedule and within the budget, Dixon said. Construction cost was about $6.78 million, according to the city.
It was a great turnout, and a beautiful day for the occasion, Hetherton commented. All the support really shows that residents value the library, he added.
Locals Barbara and Bill Pisetsky said the facility adds to the wonderful sense of community. It’s exciting to have such a top-notch facility so close to home, Barbara Pisetsky said, who is already planning her first visit.
“It’s much more open, inviting, and bright,” compared to the old library, Barbara Pisetsky noted.
It took the entire community uniting and working together to make this project a reality, Dixon and others emphasized.
“This beautiful new building is a symbol of our accomplishment as a community coming together to do great things,” Dixon said. “This day has been a long time coming.”
It started with wanting air conditioning in the library, she continued, and grew from there. The library had served the community for generations and it was time for an upgrade.
The community advocated for it and convinced the City Council to move this project forward and allocate the funding to make this project a reality, Dixon said.
About four years ago they were noticed that the library and fire station were going to be rebuilt, but the library would be smaller, Brenner recalled. She sent out an email to a number of residents and said, “We need to get involved.”
They wanted to make sure that the new library would be something they could all be proud of, Brenner noted.
“We had a group of committed citizens who were determined that the library not only was not going to be smaller than it was, it was going to be something we, as a community, could get behind,” she explained.
There were a lot of starts and stops, including a few times when the library was threatened, but they fought for it, Brenner said.
“Every single time, the community rose up,” Brenner said.
At the end of the day, this is how most city projects should go, Hetherton said, responsive to the residents and aimed to serve the community.
“They spoke and the city listened,” Hetherton commented.
Now, they have a library the neighborhood deserves. It’s a beautiful facility, Ray added.
“This venue encourages patrons to linger in the comfortable and welcoming environment,” Ray said. “It’s taken a village and now we’re proud to have this stunning and welcoming library hub in our village of Corona del Mar.”
Ray added that the staff calls it the “Cheers” model of public service: A place where everyone knows your name.
To emphasize that it’s a neighborhood library, managing the new CdM branch is local Annika Helmuth, who grew up just down the road in Corona del Mar.
Helmuth was the CdM branch librarian before construction started. New amenities at the facility include a reading porch and stroller parking, she explained. It’s a modern, energy efficient building, she added.
The CdM branch also features a brand-new collection, Helmuth noted.
All the books, media, and materials (about 10,000 items) in the library are new, thanks to the NB Library Foundation, Friends of the Library organization, and private donations, particularly a large contribution by CdM resident Karen Carlson.
“Everything on the shelves is brand new,” Hetherton said.
While there may be a spike in usage at first, which is common with a new facility, ultimately the CdM branch will take some of the pressure off the central branch and usage will even out, Hetherton said.
“We’ll be good stewards,” Hetherton concluded.
The shared space with the fire department is really unique, Helmuth said.
The two facilities have always been next door to each other, incoming Fire Chief Jeff Boyles pointed out, but this is the first time they’ve shared a building.
“We’ve always been neighbors,” so they’re understanding that it’s a residential area, Boyles said. “Our guys are sensitive to the neighborhood, the residents, and the library.”
They try to be stealthy and quiet when they’re coming and going, he added.
The library/fire station combo project has a lot of nicknames, like fibrary, but whatever you call it, it’s the heart and soul of the city, Duncan said.
Don’t forget that there is a fire station attached to the library, Duncan joked during his speech.
Previously the CdM station was a single-story building that “almost looked like a house,” Boyles explained.
The new fire station includes individual dorms, unisex restrooms, a large kitchen and gathering room, an exercise room, and large bays for the trucks to easily get in and out.
It’s a more modern work environment, Boyles explained.
Although there is no fire pole, as a few residents pointed out during the self-guided tours. It’s for safety and health reasons, Boyles explained.
It worked out well that the station was able to temporarily re-locate, he noted. Residents have been very gracious and accommodating about the process, he added.
“The community is ready for us to get out of that parking lot,” Boyles joked.