Green library Gilroy’s ‘Tree City USA’

Gilroy Public Information Officer Joe Kline talks about the new Gilroy library during a tour Friday, including this community room that has a projector.

Editor’s note: The 2012 class of Leadership Gilroy hung out at the Dispatch Friday and worked on reporting a story and taking photos. Read their story below.

After more than 10 years in the making, Gilroy’s brand-new, $37 million library is “under budget, and on time – which is very pleasant to have with a public project,” said Joe Kline, public information officer for the City of Gilroy.

With a current population of 50,000, Gilroy is now five times larger than it was in 1976 – when its former 10,000-square-foot library building (located in the same location of the new library at the corner of Sixth and Hanna streets) served the public.

The new 55,000-square-foot edifice has a “tree city USA” theme, boasting lovely aesthetics such as etched glass, staggered lantern lighting that gives the upstairs a celestial feel, a Plexiglas panel depicting South County’s hilly landscape and reference desks sparkling with veneers of virtuozzo (countertops made from concrete and pieces of recycled glass).

After three failed attempts over a span of eight years to pass a $37 million bond measure that would fund the ambitious construction project, 69 percent of Gilroy voters approved the fourth attempt to pass a library bond in 2008, “which is amazing because that’s about the time the economy started to hit rock bottom,” Kline said.

Constructed by Michigan-based Harley, Ellis & Devereaux Architects, the new library is slated to open Saturday, April 28, with a ceremony commencing at 10 a.m.

Peering down an outside corridor lined with purple Wisteria plants, Kline said “it reminds me of Disneyland in the sense that everything is first class… there was a great deal of thought put into this.”

Visitors of all ages can sprawl out at a number of tables and couches where an outlet to plug in a laptop is never far away. The library’s ambiance is marked by clean lines and overhead canopies illuminated by recessed lighting. Visitors will admire the use of shape in woodwork, calming colors such as light greens, blues and earthy neutrals, and natural sunlight that floods most reading nooks through spacious windows. Surrounding outdoor patios with tables, chairs and garden landscaping invite locals to bask in the sun with their favorite novel on a warm summer day.

By incorporating natural building components throughout the interior of the building, there is a seamless transition of ambiance between the outside and inside of the library.

The library is all about leaving a smaller carbon footprint. A 20-foot, fire engine-red bike rack (which resembles a piece of modern art) encourages patrons to ride their bikes to the library instead of driving a car. Showers in the employee locker room allow staff to walk, jog or ride their bikes to work without worrying about being a sweaty mess for the rest of the day.

One of the library’s shining features is that it is incredibly eco-friendly. The building is on its way to earning a LEED certification, a “bragging right” that LEED certification provides “independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health: Sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.”

Features such as solar panels, use of recycled materials throughout construction of the building and a roof-top weather station that automates air conditioning, heating, ventilation, and electronic-powered windows. Kline also notes the pavement surrounding the building is “pervious.” This means that rain water can be absorbed through the pavement, where it is funneled back into the natural water table as opposed to storm drains.

With concrete walls cast in place with iron rebar, the building has the architectural stamina of a WWII bunker.

“It would take four atomic bombs to take this down,” said head librarian Lani Yoshimura, “It won’t move during an earthquake.”

Kline said the building should last between 50 to 100 years.

“I would hate to be the person who has to tare this thing down, because I don’t know how they are going to do it,” he said.

The new library is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor: Gilroyans of yesteryear used to check their books out from what is now the Gilroy museum on the corner of Church and Fifth streets.

Community members will have access to more than 50 computers, several enclosed study rooms, an array of literacy classes, and a community room that can fit up to 170 people.

The only thing that’s missing? A coffee cart touting fresh java doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

“Maybe,” said Kline, “There is lots of possibility for future modifications.”

• Years in the making: More than 10
• Budget: $37 million
• Funded by: Bond measure that Gilroy voters passed by 69 percent in 2008
• Designed by: Michigan-based Harley, Ellis and Devereaux Architects
• Total square feet: 55,000
• On its way to a LEED certification in a year
• Features: Outdoor patio, enclosed study rooms, community event room, more than 50 computers, a children’s room, community classes
• Located: The corner of Sixth and Hanna streets
• Grand opening slated for 10 to 11:30 a.m., Saturday, April 28. Activities are scheduled for the rest of the day

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