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Downtown Library: Always Too Popular, Too Small

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Video published November 12, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: San Diego took a long time -- decades -- to decide whether or not to build a new central library to replace the aging facility on 8th and E. As Pat Finn reports, this is a case of history repeating itself.

San Diego took a long time -- decades -- to decide whether or not to build a new central library to replace the aging facility on 8th and E. As Pat Finn reports, this is a case of history repeating itself.

Transcript

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.

SAN DIEGO TOOK A LONG TIME TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO BUILD A NEW CENTRAL LIBRARY TO REPLACE THE AGING FACILITY ON 8th AND E. AS PAT REPORTS THAT IS CASE OF HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF.

Reporter: THE RELIEF AND EXCITEMENT AT THE SUMMER 2010 GROUND BREAKING FOR SAN DIEGO'S NEW CENTRAL LIBRARY COULD BE SEEN ON EVERY FACE, HEARD IN EVERY VOICE, AND IMPLIED WITH EVERY SHOVEL FULL OF DIRT.

BOY, THAT GROUND BREAKING CEREMONY --I HAVE BEEN TO LOTS OF GROUND BREAKING CEREMONIES IN MY ARCHITECTURAL CAREER. NOTHING LIKE THIS. IT WAS WONDERFUL. THERE WAS AN EMOTION. A JOY THAT I HAD NEVER FELT. A

Reporter: THE FACT IT TOOK SEVERAL DECADES TO SHOVEL THIS PARTICULAR DIRT IS A STORY THAT'S TYPICAL SAN DIEGO.

THIS PROJECT HAS TAKEN 13 YEARS SINCE WE HAVE BEEN INVOLVED. WE ARE THE NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK. THE FIRST STUDY ON THIS LIBRARY WAS DONE IN 1973. 37 YEARS AGO.

Reporter: FROM THE BEGINNING IN 1882, THE CENTRAL LIBRARY WAS MUCH USED AND TOO SMALL. THEMES THAT REPLAY MANY, MANY TIMES OVER THE YEARS.

THE FIRST LIBRARY WAS FIFTH AND G. IT WAS A RENTED SPACE IN A TWO STORY BANK BUILDING. THEY SHARED SPACE WITH A DENTIST OFFICE AND A BANK BELOW.

Reporter: FIRST CITY LIBRARIAN WAS THE JANITOR. THEN A LAWYER GOT THE JOB. EVENTUALLY THE CITY HIRED SOMEONE WHO KNEW WHO SHE WAS DOING.

SHE CAME FROM IOWA. SHE WAS NOT A PROFESSIONAL LIBRARIAN. SHE HAD A COLLEGE DEGREE. SHE HAD AN EDUCATION. SHE WAS VERY GOOD. SHE CATALOGED THE ENTIRE COLLECTION.

Reporter: THE LIBRARY MOVED SEVERAL TIMES IN SEARCH OF LOWER RENTS AND LIMPED ALONG WITHOUT REPLACING BOOKS OR BUYING NEW ONCE. ALONG CAME A SCOTTISH AMERICAN BUSINESS MAN NAMED ANDREW CARNEGIE. PROBABLY THE RICHEST MAN IN THE WORLD. HE HAD BEGUN FUNDING LIBRARIES ALL OVER THE U.S. IN 1887, THE WIFE OF NEW TOWN'S FOUNDER ASKED HIM FOR FUNDS TO BUILD A LIBRARY IN DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO, WHICH EHE PROVIDED TO THE TUNE OF $60,000.

IT WAS IMPORTANT IN SELECTING THE SITE OF THE LIBRARY, WHICH IS THE TRACT OF LAND WE ARE ON NOW. THE CITY ONLY BOUGHT HALF OF THE LOT UNFORTUNATELY.

Reporter: RIGHT OFF THE BAT, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF GEORGE MARSHTON CITY FATHERS UNDERESTIMATED FUTURE GROWTH AND THE POPULARITY OF THE NEW LIBRARY.

IT OPENED 1902. BY 1920 THE CITY WAS FIVE TIMES THE SIZE AS IT WAS BEFORE. THEY HAD SPACE PROBLEMS PRETTY QUICKLY. THERE WERE SEVERAL BOND MEASURES IN 1923, 1925, 1937, THEY ALL FAILED. LAWYERS DID NOT WANT TO SPEND THAT MONEY. IN 1949 THEY TRIED IT AGAIN. THIS WAS FOR $2 MILLION. THE VOTERS APPROVED IT.

Reporter: STAFF AND SUPPORTERS WENT INTO OVERDRIVE. THE ENTIRE LIBRARY WAS MOVED INTO BUILD AING IN BALBOA PARK AND THE CARNEGIE LIBRARY CAME DOWN IN 1952. CONSTRUCTION ON THE SITE BEGAN AS SOON AS THE RUBBLE WAS CLEARED. IT WAS COMPLETED IN TWO YEARS. IN TWO WEEKS BOOKS AND STAFF WERE MOVED IN. THE LIBRARY WAS DEDICATED JUNE 7, 1954 AND WAS OPENED TO THE PUBLIC THE NEXT DAY. YOU CAN GET WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.

POPULATION WAS 350,000 PEOPLE WHEN WE OPENED THIS LIBRARY. TEN YEARS LATER IT WAS TWICE THAT. BY THE EARLY 1960'S WE WERE FULL AGAIN. IT WASN'T FEASIBLE TO BUILD ON TO THIS LIBRARY.

THERE ARE A NUMBER OF CHALLENGES WITH THIS BUILDING. PROBABLY $8 MILLION WORTH EASILY TO JUST BRING THE BUILDING UP TO A STANDARD THAT'S LIVABLE, THAT'S A FUNCTIONING MODERN LIBRARY.

Reporter: AS THE LIBRARY BECAME OUT OF DATE, APPLICANTS GENERATED STUDY, SPEECHES, PLANS AND PLEAS FOR A NEW FACILITY. FUNDING CAME IN SLOWLY. A $20 MILLION GRANT FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA AND MOST RECENTLY A $20 MILLION GRANT FROM JOAN AND IRWIN JACOBS. AT THE LAST MOMENT WHEN THE STATE GRANT WAS ABOUT TO EXPIRE THE CITY COUNCIL TOOK A COLLECTIVE DEEP BREATHE AND VOTED TO START CONSTRUCTION IN THE EAST VILLAGE.

THIS LIBRARY IS 144,000 SQUARE FEET. WE'LL BE MOVING TO A LIBRARY THAT'S MORE THAN DOUBLED THAT. IT WILL BE 300,000 SQUARE FEET. THIS LIBRARY HAS THREE FLOORS. THE NEW LIBRARY HAS 9 FLOORS. THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCES IN WHAT WE'LL BE ABLE DO IN THE NEW FACILITY COMPARED TO THIS CURRENT BUILDING.

EVERYTHING INVOLVES SOME LEVEL OF RISK. YOU DON'T WANT TO TAKE RISK IN A FOOLED WAY, BUT YOU HAVE TO TAKE SOME RISK TO GO AHEAD WITH SOMETHING LIKE THIS. IN THE CASE OF THE LIBRARY, THERE IS $32 MILLION THAT NEEDS TO BE RAISED. S IN IT IT IS -- IT IS A TINY RISK IN WHAT IT WILL CREATE FOR THIS COMMUNITY.

Reporter: THIS LIBRARY, LIKE THE OTHERS IN OURING HISTORY WILL BE SO WELCOMING, SO MUCH OF A MAGNET AND SO USEFUL THAT IT WILL ONE DAY BE TOO SMALL WE CAN ONLY HOPE.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | November 12, 2010 at 3:42 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

I just hope the new one doesn't become a haven for airborne bacteria like the old one.

( | suggest removal )