Library Strategizes for Future Projects

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The Newport Beach Public Library may soon get an auditorium following a meeting this week.
— NB Indy file photo ©

The libraries of Santa Monica, Huntington Beach, and Carlsbad all have auditoriums that are contiguous with the library building, have sloped floors, and a stage.

The Newport Beach Public Library does not have an auditorium at all, but that may change.

The Board of Library Trustees appears to be in the process of building a case for an auditorium at the central branch library again. Library Services Director Tim Hetherton presented data on peer libraries with auditoriums to the board during its Monday night meeting.

The report compared the Friends of the Library room to the auditoriums of six other city libraries. Santa Monica, Cerritos, Carlsbad, Huntington Beach, Mission Viejo, and Mountain View were included in the research, which have income, population, and public funding levels comparable to Newport Beach.

The auditorium project has been on the library’s wish list for over six years; architect Robert R. Coffee was consulted on the project in 2016.

But when City Council unexpectedly postponed the replacement of the Corona del Mar library branch and fire station, or the “fibrary,” last year, desire for the auditorium seemed to be extinguished.

As of May, though, the fibrary is back. Construction is included in the 2017 – 2018 Capital Improvement Program budget at $7.43 million. The library board considers the project back on track, but completely in the hands of City Council. The fibrary is marked as “On Hold” in the CIP.

This has enabled focus to resume on a possible auditorium. Trustee Chair Jill Johnson-Tucker said the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation is “really interested and anxious” to move forward, but more research is needed before they can present to City Council.

Board member Paul Watkins agreed.

“I think we’re aware that the appetite of the council is not particularly favorable for major special projects,” Watkins said on Monday, but noted that momentum for an auditorium was strong within the board and foundation.

Watkins said Hetherton’s research on peer libraries will be advantageous in the future.

“I think this is critical for the eventual presentation to city leaders,” Watkins noted.

Assistant City Manager Carol Jacobs, who was present at the meeting, advised the trustees in attendance that they should consult with City Manager Kave Kiff before moving forward with council.

“The city manager will have a better understanding of where council is on projects,” Jacobs said.

The board on Monday also asked Hetherton to compose a list of short-term and long-term needs for the Central, Balboa, and Mariners branches of the library. The Corona del Mar branch will not be included.

One future possibility is an expansion of the Mariners branch, which the board agreed is consistently busy.

Hetherton wrote that the Mariners branch could benefit from additional public space in his facilities review. He suggested that the building could be expanded into an adjacent park or even have a second story added.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Hetherton said, “to know you’re supported by the public. But I don’t ever want to read a Yelp review that says ‘This place is so crowded that you can’t enjoy being here.’”

The Board of Library Trustees meets every third Monday of each month.

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