Former Credit Union, Possible Future Business Center in Library

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The retail space in the main library is currently vacant. The Board of Library Trustees approved a proposal on Monday for a business center and gift shop.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

Some new and expanded services may be headed into an empty space at the library soon, replacing a credit union that previously occupied the area.

On Monday, the Board of Library Trustees heard a proposal for transforming a retail space in the central library into a gift shop and business center with expanded passport services, notary services, and more.

Library Services Director Tim Hetherton explained that it would be “extremely feasible” to convert the vacant retail space, located across from Bistro Express on the second floor, into the suggested facility.

“It’s really a nice public amenity that’s easy for us to accomplish,” Hetherton said. “We think it will work pretty well.”

Board members unanimously decided to move forward with the idea and voted 5-0 to recommend the proposal to City Council for review. All five expressed support for the idea.

“I’m excited… It has been on our wish list for a while,” said Jill Johnson-Tucker.

The proposal includes repurposing the space by relocating and expanding passport services, adding notary services, free public faxing, scanning, and a device charging station. Staff also suggested selling library supplies and gift shop items.

Both an online appointment reservation system and walk-ins would be accepted for passport and notary services.

The cell phone/tablet/laptop charging station would include a locker so visitors can secure their electronic and still utilize the rest of the library while it’s charging. Staff received a quote for a 10-bay locker for $6,000.

The ATM will be moved to the front of the central library, regardless of what happens with the space.

Credit Union of Southern California vacated the space in October and the Library Board appointed an ad hoc subcommittee to investigate potential uses of the area.

It’s a valuable asset, noted board Vice Chair Paul Watkins.

The Newport Beach Public Library.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

The current rent is $2,500 per month, so the credit union leaving decreases city revenue by $30,000 annually, according to staff.

But supporters are confident the revenue from the expanded services would make up for it. With the better visibility and expanded services, it might even surpass that amount, Hetherton noted.

“If you look at the numbers, we have a pretty good chance of doing better than that,” Hetherton said.

Passport services are already popular and revenue generating, he pointed out. More availability of the services will likely result in increased revenue, he added.

Passport revenues have averaged $22,100 for the past three years and has seen a steady increase each year, according to the staff report. During that same timeframe, the library averaged $6,760 in passport photo revenues and $1,460 in library supply sales.

Although more staff would need to be trained. The library currently has 12 passport agents, 10 who are active and two who fill in as needed. According to the report, staff is recommending training three more before offering a walk-in service.

“Training some of the part-time staff to take photos and check paperwork before calling an agent to process the passport would free up time for the agents to do the work that they by law are required to do,” the staff report explains.

Hetherton estimated that passport services could be operating in the new space by late spring or early summer.

More library employees would need to be trained and certified to offer the notary services as well.

It costs $40 for an employee to train, file an application, and take the Notary exam, according to the staff report. Additional costs vary depending on the vendor chosen for the required training course, surety bond, live scan background check, passport photo, notary supplies, and county clerk bond and oath of office filing fees.

The report also notes that full time staff in the City Employee Association can earn a certification and receive an additional $22 per paycheck.

Staff suggests the library follow the city clerk’s current $10 per signature fee structure for notary services.

They would likely approach support groups for funding of the cost of some equipment, like the cell phone charging station and/or a vending machine for library supplies.

A rough plan for the layout of the proposed passport office and business center.
— Courtesy city of Newport Beach

“If we can get some indication from the Friends and Foundation of what might be appropriate,” for the space, Watkins pointed out, and if they could fund “by way of (their) wish list, (some of) the bigger ticket items.”

The space would not require a lot of reconfiguration, Hetherton estimated. About two-thirds of the millwork will probably have to be removed in order to open up the space. By opening up the floor plan, the air conditioning unit could be removed, he pointed out.

It would be reconfigured so that a small waiting area for walk-in customers with a table, chairs, and reading materials would be added. Between the business center and the passport services room, staff would like to add a glass door to make it friendlier and more welcoming.

Board members also had a few questions about moving other services or equipment there, staffing, layout of the center, and how the space where the passport services currently are located would be used after the move.

It should be representative of the library and visible and welcoming, noted Board Member Kurt Kost.

“We want something nice in there,” considering it’s location by the entrance, Kost said.

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