Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon
Visit the Midday Edition homepage

San Diego's downtown central library funding secured.

January 12, 2012 12:12 p.m.


Mel Katz, Chair of the San Diego Library Foundation

Related Story: San Diego Downtown Central Library Funding Secured


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Read Transcript

CAVANAUGH: In his state of the city address, mayor Sanders says fund suggest secured for the new downtown library. But who's writing the check? And we'll hear from mystery writer, Elizabeth George about her new inspector Lynley novel.

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Thursday, January†12th. Our top story on Midday Edition, during last night's state of the city address by San Diego mayor, injury Sanders, construction on the new $185†million downtown central library was singled out as one of the city's success stories. But the last time we talked about the pressure's progress, there were doubts that a new year's fundraising deadline would be met. Well, they apparently did it. Mel Katz is chairman of the library association, and he's here to tell us about did.

KATZ: Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: We talked about this looming deadline of $34†million for construction to continue on the hash. How did you raise the funds?

KATZ: And all of the funds are there right now, which is so exciting. The last time I was here, your question to me, okay, you're very optimistic, but what if it doesn't happen? It's happened. We now have all $32.5†million, are the construction is going to continue. And this library will open on time, July†2013.

CAVANAUGH: You say you have all the funds. I need to ask you this because of my next question. Are they actually in a bank account? This is not just promised money?

KATZ: There are pledges, and they come in probably over four years. But we have someone who has guaranteed all the money, and therefore it's all there.

CAVANAUGH: Can you tell us who has pledged, this donor who has been unanimous up to this point?

KATZ: No, they really -- and might not even be an individual. It could be a foundation, some type of entity. But it is there. It's all guaranteed. And so many San Diegans who I can mention, have come forward, and are, you know, supporting this project with big, big dollars. Of and they have been so generous. People like Denny Sanford, Pauline foster, Phyllis and Dan Epstein, Morgan dean Oliver. So many people that you and your listeners know have come up and really supported this project in a big way. And then we continue to get support from people who gave us money in Phase 1, people like Irwin and Joan Jacobs, David Copley. So it really is a project that so, so many San Diegans who you see who support so many things have come and embraced.

CAVANAUGH: Can you explain to me, though, if you don't have all the funds designated in -- as I say, in a certain bank account or something like that, how is it guaranteed?

KATZ: This entity came forward and has guaranteed it up against the pledges, and when you're building a project like this, we're going to use all of our construction dollars by next January. So by January†2013, all of the money, $185†million for this project will be spent. And pledges are going to come in over the next four years. So we have this legal entity who has guaranteed these dollars.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. Were naming rights secured for the library? When we talked about that last timing that was one thing that you were holding out as a possible way to raise more funds.

KATZ: Yeah, and we're going to continue to fund raise, and we're going to fund raise for capital, and we're going to fund raise for endowment, and also for some special programming. And there are some great visible fund -- naming rights that are still available. We have this unbelievable 3-story glass reading room on the very top of the library. Panoramic views. That's still available as a naming opportunity.

CAVANAUGH: Do we know what the actual name of this new downtown central library is going to be? I mean, we have Petco Park, we have a number of things that bear the name of either a business or a person. Is that what's going to happen with this library?

KATZ: I'm not sure. The people that we've been talking to as far as their name on the library really feel strong that their name shouldn't be on the very top. But it might be Library Center, or Library Campus, something like that with their name on it down below. It brings up a very interesting topic on everyone that we take on a tour of this library, they'll go on a tour and then look at us and say I now get it. This isn't just a building filled with shelves and books. It's so much more. And you're really not doing a good job letting people know what it is. And maybe it's because of the word library. And they're challenging us to come up with something else. In the Netherlands, there's this unbelievable library called the library concept center. Ours is just like that. So we've been talking to a class at San Diego state university that does graphic design. And their specialty is branding and messaging. And we're going to be their client, and we're going to say to them exactly what I just said to you and see when they come back without any type of prejudice of what this really is. And we're going to take them on a tour of it, talk to them about it, they are going to be blown away at what this building really is.

CAVANAUGH: Now, mayor Sanders, in his state of the city speech yesterday, didn't mention that this library will also house a new school. Is that part of the construction going well?

KATZ: It's going fantastic.


KATZ: And that school is going to be on two floors, it's on the sixth and seventh floor, it's going to have five hundred students, it's going to open one month after the library opens. And the school district has been an unbelievable pattern. This is really the library foundation, the City of San Diego, and the school district, they could not be a better partner with us. They hired LPA architects to layout the new design for the new school, and we probably have had 15 meetings with them, and they're part of it, the city is part of it, and the foundation is part of it.

CAVANAUGH: I am going to give you an opportunity to tell the audience again about all the things that this library will encompass. But I want to talk more about that fundraising. If you have secured all the money for construction of the library, why are you still fundraising?

KATZ: It's more fundraising that we want to do. We would love to have an endowment for this library. This library is going to be opened right now 48 hours a week. We think this library should be open 61 hours a week. We want some new technology that's not in the original plan. Technology like when you come into the library, you get an app on your telephone and it will be a GPS that takes you throughout the library and tells you what's on every single floor. A piece of technology -- we have a rare book room in this library that has material back to the 15 hundreds. We're going to have a book like that open, and put it under Plexiglass so people can see it, but right next to it, we want a tablet that will have every page on it, and you can stand there and flip through the tablet and see every page in this book that's back to the 15 hundreds. And that's the kind of technology that we want to be able to now invest in because we have hit our goals, and all the funding is secure.

CAVANAUGH: Is there a plan that anyone can look at on this wish list of technological wonders that you want to include in the new library?

KATZ: Yes, yeah. We have had some amazing forums where we've been brainstorming on this, and we've brought in corporations like Sony and Qualcomm, and HP, and Cox communications, just to sit around and brainstorm on what this should look like in the future.

CAVANAUGH: Do you still conduct tours of the construction?

KATZ: Yes.

CAVANAUGH: When people go and see the construction site at park boulevard and J street, what can they see at the facility at this time?

KATZ: We are working right now on the ninth floor, and the ninth floor is considered the penthouse. It is the top floor. And that's what we're working on. And when that gets done, then we're going to start working on the dome, which is going to take four months to work on the dome. And under the dome is this three-story glass reading room that I talked about. But on the penthouse floor, the ninth floor is the rare books room, genealogy center, and a multipurpose room that can hold up to 500 people that goes over the street, and when we take people on a tour now, we put them in hard hats, and they it walk all around the building. We go inside, look at the lobby, which is also 3†stories, and then we usually take them up to the third floor so they can look down on the lobby. It's just so exciting.

CAVANAUGH: There are still critics who say the idea of a big downtown library facility is old fashioned. People really don't need them anymore. How do you see people using this library in the 21st century?

KATZ: They're going to use this library like no one has used the libraries before. Especially what's in their mind as far as libraries. When you think of it, today we get ten thousand people a week in our current library. We're going to get 40,000 people a week. One week, in our new library. Today, 50% of teenagers 14 to 18 use their library computer to get on the internet. 1/3 of all Americans use their library computer to get on the Internet. When you look at this library, we probably have 50 different reading nooks throughout the library, most of them with great views, and over the streets. We have six conference rooms. We have 22 study rooms. We are going to have consoles that kids in this library that will have Wii stations, and come Playstations. The first floor of the library has all of our popular material, 1/3 of the floor has a children's library. And this children's library is so interactive, it's going to have big panels on the wall that will read you stories and you can push on it and it tells you what the thing is that you're pushing on. All of that is going to be in this library. On the second floor, there's going to be a teen center, and the teen center is right in front looking out at the Coronado bridge, and it's designed by the students at Kearney high construction academy. People say, why do you have such a big children's center, such a big teen's center? 57 schools are within 2.5 miles of this library.

CAVANAUGH: So you expect a lot of young people to be using it. Again, in the mayor's state of the city address last night, he pointed out the construction of this new library and the fundraising having been met, and the fact that it had taken no money from the general fund of the City of San Diego. But other people might say, well, you know, how much are the branch libraries in San Diego suffering because of all the attention and all the money being given to the downtown library? How do you answer criticisms like that?

KATZ: Answer that we as a library foundation are 17 people. And we are working on not only the central but the branches. A year.5 ago, we opened up the Logan Heights branch. Logan Heights library is 25,000 square feet, and it took the place of a 4,000-square foot 80 year-old library. It's having record attendance. And interestingly, it's on the ground of Logan elementary school. Here's a library that the kids can use because it's on the ground. In our new library, we're going to have a high school in the library.

CAVANAUGH: So what will you be doing between now and the projected opening in 2013? Are you going to be nonstop fundraising? Or are you going to be adding new little gadgets and gizmos to this library center? What is your plan between now and the opening?

KATZ: We're going to talk about this library, go into the community and make it a community campaign. We have pavers in this library that we would love people's names to be on, and it's going to cost anywhere from $50 on up. But we really want people in San Diego to feel like this is my library, and I own a little piece of it. Of so we're going to be fundraising for this, especially for different enhancements that you and I have been talking about. But also for some branches. We would love to open up a brand-new Skyline library. We have the design, the location, and we're very close in our fundraising. We're $1†million away to have that happening. We'd love to open up a new Mission Hills library. Again, fantastic location on Front and Washington, the design is there, we want to build it. And we want to build one in the University City around right by the school district headquarters.

CAVANAUGH: I see. So you're going to be a busy guy.

KATZ: And the more and more I get involved in it, the more passionate I get. And what we're doing here is for everyone in San Diego. And it's going to help people get on the computers, because we're going to have four hundred of them for the Internet. It's going to really, really make an outreach. Do you know in the new high school, 82% of the kid kids that are going to be going there are having free and reduced lunches? And that's very similar to the clientele that's right around this library. 24% fall below the poverty level. This library, what we're going to be doing as far as technology, as far as helping people reach into and get onto the Internet, and what we're going to do as far as literacy is unable.

CAVANAUGH: When are we going to know who this unanimous donor, this entity is who who's guaranteeing the remaining funding for the library?

KATZ: I'm not sure. I'm not sure if that person or entity ever wants to come forward. And that's really fine. People will see, the money will be coming in, are and it's coming in from this entity, and this library is fully funded, and it's going to be opening on time with no liability to the city.

CAVANAUGH: Well, I hope we find out. I hope you tell us. I've been speaking with Mel Katz, chair of the San Diego library foundation. Thanks so much.

>> Thank you always for your support.