Check it out: April opening for new library

A view from the south side of the second floor looking east of

Roughly 14 years after city officials penned the first pages, the story of Gilroy’s snazzy new library is wrapping up just as they had hoped: on time, on budget, and on its way to becoming the latest gem in the Garlic Capital’s crown.

“It’s terrific. I was really amazed,” City Councilman Bob Dillon said after taking his latest jaunt through the 55,000-square-foot structure, which is scheduled to open in late April.

“Haven’t found any roof leaks yet, so we’re happy,” chuckled Dillon, who served on the city’s Library Commission in 1997 when the facility was first proposed. “It’s turned out just as I hoped – actually, better.”

He and other local leaders have kept a close eye on the building since the city broke ground on the $34 million project in July 2010. Now, a little more than two months until the grand opening, workers are putting the finishing touches on the community’s newest focal point.

“As you can see, we’re moving right along: grinding, cleaning and polishing,” Library Project Manager Dan Johnson said as crews worked to complete a second-floor dropped ceiling and smooth terrazzo floors. “They’ve managed to stay on schedule. We’re real happy.”

While the two-story structure and new parking lot total approximately $18 million, other costs show up in permits and fees, design and engineering, inspection and demolition of the old facility, Johnson said. The construction is funded by Measure F bonds, which voters approved in 2008.

The new structure sits on Sixth Street between Hanna and Rosanna streets – adjacent to City Hall and across the street from the Gilroy Police Department’s new headquarters, which opened in 2007. Large second-floor windows will give visitors bird’s eye views of people going in and out those nearby municipal centers.

The city’s previous library, just 13,000 square feet by comparison, was built in 1975 on the same site as the new building. The old library was demolished in 2010, and patrons have used a temporary site located at 7652 Monterey St. downtown. The current site is roughly 9,500 square feet.

“I’m very excited. We’ve been in this very lovely space, but it’s very cramped,” said Lani Yoshimura, Gilroy’s community librarian. “It will be wonderful to be in a large facility where we’ll actually be able to serve the population.”

Gilroy’s current library is a popular spot, especially after school when children flock to the downtown location, Yoshimura said. Employees and patrons have handled the unenviable combination of high traffic and small quarters with smiles, Yoshimura said, but they’re looking forward to the extra leg room the new building will offer.

“I think there’s many people who don’t come to our library because it’s too tight,” Yoshimura said, citing some Gilroy seniors who unwittingly share spaces with rambunctious youngsters. “Now there will be spaces for everybody.”

Gilroy’s interim library transferred about 120,000 items from the previous site, though almost of third of that has remained in storage because of space issues, Yoshimura said. The new facility should be able to hold up to roughly 160,000 items, Yoshimura said.

Local developer Gary Walton, who owns the building that houses the interim library, said he’s spoken to several potential tenants but isn’t sure what he’ll do with the property once the new library opens.

Two main compartments will make up the new building: There’s the library side – books, computers, study areas – and the community side, which can stay open for events and committee meetings even after the library closes. The community side features several conference rooms, including ones with drop-down screens and projectors. The largest room will hold up to 100 people.

A new parking lot and walkways leading to the building will include a wealth of new light standards, Johnson said, enveloping the complex in whiter, natural light, as opposed to the murkier, yellow lights prevalent in Gilroy.

“This area is not going to lack light anymore,” Johnson said.

Fearing that a lack of parking may become an issue, the city is also looking at acquiring five properties on nearby Dowdy Street to make room for more parking, Johnson said. If that doesn’t work, the city may look into building a two-story parking structure at Church and Seventh streets, he said.

When completed, the burly building will include about 7,000 yards of concrete, 380 tons of steel and more than 90 tons of red tile, Johnson said. The interior includes an array of glass walls, ensuring long stretches of visibility throughout for library staff, which Johnson said isn’t expected to increase despite the move to a bigger facility.

And, fitting for a library, Gilroy’s newest building will be a “smart” one, especially when it comes to conserving energy. More than 200 solar panels dot the roof, powering 12 to 20 percent of the building, and overhead lights lining second-floor bookshelves operate on motion sensors, Johnson said.

Individual rows of lights dim when no one’s browsing and brighten the moment bookworms take their first steps between the shelves. In addition, there are 28 “solar tubes” that will channel outside, natural light into the building through skylights, Johnson said.

A rooftop weather station also will feed live climate information to flatscreen TVs on the first floor, he added.

For its design, Johnson said the building would receive a “gold” rating from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, an internationally recognized building certification system. Gold is the second highest rating possible of LEED’s four benchmarks, though the city will have to wait a year after the library opens its doors to learn if the building performs as designed, Johnson said.

Johnson said the new library, built to handle Gilroy’s growth through 2040, is often referred to as a “50-year building,” he said, because, “the longest warranty you can get for anything is 50 years.” The furniture, however, likely won’t last that long, he said.

7652 Monterey St.
Monday: Closed
Tuesday: 1 to 9 p.m.
Wednesday, Thursday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday, Saturday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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