More than 6,000 people passed through the new library’s doors during its grand opening on Saturday, gaping at its size and beauty, and enjoying its services for the first time.
There were not enough chairs for the crowd of about 500 who attended the pre-ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday morning, where city and county officials spoke, including county Supervisor Mike Wasserman, head Santa Clara County Librarian Melinda Cervantes and Assemblyman Luis Alejo.
“Gilroy takes the title in the central coast for the nicest library,” Alejo said to a cheering crowd.
World-champion boxer and Gilroy native, Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero, whose children attend El Roble Elementary, nervously but eagerly addressed the crowd.
“Kids, the community made a major investment, so please take advantage of it all,” Guerrero said.
City Administrator Tom Haglund said that he hopes that the new building will encourage the community to read more.
“Today, tour and marvel at this wonderful facility, and then check out a book, and read it,” Haglund said.
Anticipation built as Mayor Al Pinheiro, City Administrator Tom Haglund and Lani Yoshimura, Gilroy’s head librarian, also made speeches before cutting the wide red ribbon, letting the throngs of Gilroyans through double doors to finally enjoy the library they’ve waited for for years.
A classical quartet played in the lobby as people first entered, adding to the ambiance of the moment.
“This is stunning. Our tax dollars at work,” Linda Arballo said to her friend, as they studied the map of the building in the lobby so they “wouldn’t get lost.”
“I voted for this,” Arballo said, looking up in awe at the lobby’s high ceiling.
Within minutes of the doors opening on Sixth and Rosanna streets, children got comfortable on padded lounge chairs as their parents and grandparents read them stories out loud.
Gilroy dad Travis Finucane sat reading books at a table with his two daughters Julia, 3 and Madeline, 2. Finucane remembers going to the old library building, where he said rain leaked onto computers.
“It was a sad state of affairs,” Finucane said. A software engineer for Yahoo, Finucane occasionally works from home, and said that he plans to bring his work to the library, since the building is so roomy and well lit.
AJ Jaimes, 39, read a book at the library with his two children. His 10-year-old son, Anthony, was reading a book on a bench near the children’s DVD section.
“I like these chairs, they’re really, really comfy,” Anthony said. “I’ve never seen a library with so many DVDs.”
Yoshimura said the new library is home to more than 150,000 items (such as books, CDs and DVDs).
Teens quickly discovered the young adult section and made themselves at home on the funky, purple and green furniture.
“This is such a relaxing place to sit, I’ll definitely come here after school to study,” said 15-year-old Christopher High School freshman, Dominique Sandoval from a purple bench in the young adult section.
Sandoval said with all the space, he’ll feel comfortable spending more afternoons at the library, without feeling crowded or stifled.
“This is like the Titanic of libraries,” he said of the 55,000-square-foot, two-story building. Haglund announced before the doors opened that the library was completed under budget with a price tag of $34 million – $3 million less than expected.
Mario Sanchez watched his daughters enjoy a costumed appearance by the Cat in the Hat in “The Nest,” the children’s reading room.
“We love every nook and cranny of the new library,” said Sanchez, who said he was a full supporter of the library project.
“It doesn’t even feel like Gilroy,” Sanchez said. He said at the old building, the family would check out books and leave, but here they plan to spend entire mornings or afternoons, indulging in the space and amenities.
Gilroyans owe it to themselves to celebrate their new library, Yoshimura said, since Gilroy voters passed the library bond measure in 2008 by a 70 percent margin, despite the fact that the project received no state funding. In the three-and-a-half years after that vote, the city got to work demolishing the old library, built in 1975 in the same location, and began to build the new library. The finished product is a state-of-the-art building that could swallow the old building four times – but is still the most eco-friendly in Gilroy.
Outside, the festivities were loud and full of energy. Children played tag in the front lawn and parking lot, where hundreds of brightly colored “Gilroy Reads” balloons flapped in the wind. A troop of Aztec dancers in authentic feathered garb entertained a crowd of several hundred, while other families bought ice-cream cones and children took pictures with costumed characters like Snoopy and Gil the garlic bulb, the mascot from Gilroy Gardens.
From inside, the pulsing Aztec drums could be heard, but only faintly. In the quiet reading nooks on the second floor, natural light poured in from bay windows onto solid oak tables and chairs.
“Wow, this is incredible,” 32-year-old Andrea Pantoja said under her breath as she plopped herself at a bay window table.
“This is so calming, like a piece of serenity in this place,” Pantoja said to her friend. “You get here and you just let loose.”
Twelve-year-old Brownell Middle School student Jillian Roberts stood near circulation with her dad, Joe Roberts, filling out a form for her first library card. Roberts said they were just driving by when they saw the balloons and remembered it was opening day. “This is the biggest library I’ve ever seen,” Jillian said.
As an avid reader, Jillian is thrilled to have her own library card and have access to so many books.
“This is going to save me a lot of money at Barnes and Nobles,” Roberts said.
On Monday after the event, Yoshimura said hundreds of books were checked out Saturday, and there is a “stack” of new library card forms, but staff hasn’t had a chance to count them yet. After finally leaving the library at midnight after a crazy and successful opening day, she and the rest of the staff were exhausted – but still pumped they got to present the new library to the community.
“We got so much positive feedback,” Yoshimura said. “This is really going to do amazing things in this community.”
The community seemed to embrace the advice that Yoshimura gave the crowd before the ribbon was cut.
“Let the library make a difference in your life,” she said. “And don’t forget, that libraries change lives.”