Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The GRAND New Public Library - Two Views, Joe Nalven and Lonnie Bernstein Hewitt

San Diego's new Central Library (330 Park Blvd, SD, 92101) is now open for business seven days a week and with 250 parking spaces and a 350 seat auditorium. Check it out and the new art displayed inside.
 

San Diego continues to be a place to see

by Joe Nalven

Libraries go back more than 4,000 years. And one with a classification system at Nineveh dates back to 700 BCE. The first to be endowed for public borrowing was in 1598 in England.

My experience with libraries does not date quite that far back. I grew up in Brooklyn from the 1940s to the 1960s. The Brooklyn public library system started at the end of the 1800s and the main library at Grand Army Plaza opened in 1941. That was a grand library.  

But when I grew up and went on travels, I remember other libraries that were built with an architectural flair. 



Janine Free / View 1 of the Public Library

I remember visiting Seattle's 11 story Central Library, built in 2004.

Now, it is San Diego's turn. Though not quite as tall, San Diego's new Central Library is amazing in a number of ways. Yes, there is the architecture; but there is also the challenge of the very basic question about whether there still should be such an investment in a bricks-and-mortar building for that quaint object — the book. Of course, not just one book, but thousands of books.

The new San Diego Central Library cost over $100 million dollars. Considerable support came from private donors. So, the belief continues that the City of San Diego needs, or merits, one of these buildings.



Pasha Turley / View of the Public Library
There are several challenges, the most important of which are the internet, laptops, iPads and Kindles, and smart phones. How can a modern public library building compete with that? Part of the answer lies in adopting this new technology rather than competing with it.

Marti E. Kranzberg / View 2 of the New Public Library (with PhotoSynth)


Joe Nalven / Distance view of library, enhanced digital infrared image

In an article written by Marion Moss Hubbard, we find some of those tech answers: At the heart of the Central Library's infrastructure is the cutting edge Gigabit Passive Optical Network fiber optic architecture. GPON takes up less space in the building, allows for high bandwidth transmission and supports next-generation services. It allows for separate high-speed broadband networks for public and staff use. It also allows the library to use Voice Over IP (Internet Protocol) to transmit voice over a single broadband connection, which reduces communication and infrastructure costs.

Another innovation is Radio Frequency Identification materials tagging, which allows for more efficient materials handling. The book return at the lobby’s customer service desk, known as the San Diego Padres Home Plate Book Return, uses an automated conveyor system to transport returned materials to a back office area where they are automatically sorted for quick return to the collection. RFID processing means faster check out for library users and reduced staff time required to ready materials for re-shelving.

In addition to free WiFi throughout the library, there are multiple opportunities to learn, use and interact with the latest technology:

Nearly 300 compuer workstations and digital devices are available for use in the library.


Marti E. Kranzberg / View 2 of the New Public Library (with PhotoSynth)


Joe Nalven / Inside and Outside Panoramas on Upper Floors

Another part of the answer to what the building is for is about those other things that could fit within this concept of library: a high school, an art gallery, a sculpture garden, an auditorium and interesting public spaces on the premises.

There is, of course, the intended uses and the wily unintended uses that some in the public invent. The issue of porn on public computers that may be visible to children is one (as one Seattle library writer muses about); and then there are the homeless who are looking for comfortable public areas to clean themselves and otherwise hang out in. Maybe the old central library will become the preferred homeless shelter in the downtown area. 


Janine Free / View 1 of the Public Library


Joe Nalven / An infrared cutout view of the Public Library

The worry was expressed in 2010:

The new home of the central library sits on the corner of J Street and Park Boulevard, in the heart of the East Village, which is known to residents as a hot spot for the city’s homeless despite recent relocation attempts.

Residents and those who oppose the new library say the city is doing nothing but building a multimillion-dollar homeless shelter, with no intention of penalizing those who seek refuge from the city’s streets.


But the building is a public place. How does one honor those who may not smell as nice, dress as nice, have shopping carts to carry around their belongings, are often burdened with mental health issues, and otherwise do not meet the expectations of the wider public about what a public library building is for?




Joe Nalven / Trolley Dance on the steps of the Public Library


The chief architect, Rob Quigley, provided an institutional response that showed that the problem of the homeless in the library was a visible concern:


Q: How will the homeless problem be handled at the new location?


A: Two contract security guards will be on duty during library hours and one will be onsite off hours. They will rely on staff, the public and security cameras to alert them to any incidents. At the old Central Library, police were called only once or twice a month if unruly visitors refused to leave when requested. Visitors may not bring anything larger than a backpack into the building and may not park their belongings in or around the library. Other security measures include security gates and radio frequency tags on all materials that will set off alarms if the items are taken out of the building without authorization.


This magnificent new building by itself, including its staff, will not be able to solve social problems that are part of the wider social fabric.


For the present, let us enjoy the building and the expansion of San Diego's places to visit and photograph.


And maybe read a book.

Joe Nalven / A visitor sits inside the library

Stories Full of Stories: San Diego’s new Central Library is a landmark achievement

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

first printed in the La Jolla Light


The new San Diego Central Library is located at 330 Park Blvd., Downtown San Diego (at 11th Ave. and K Street).

After 30 years of planning, controversy, fundraising and hard work, the new San Diego Central Library is finally a reality, and deserves a rousing cheer, or three.

An impressive triumph of form and function, it is the city’s grandest collaboration, a partnering of private and public sectors, including the Library Foundation, San Diego Unified School District, dozens of corporate sponsors and more than three thousand individual donors.

“We’re the repository of so much information, but we’re also a space which is truly something special,” said Head Librarian Deborah Barrow.

It certainly is. For starters, as Interim Mayor Todd Gloria pointed out at a Sneak Peek event Sept. 25, “Architecturally speaking, this building is a work of art, and it has some of the best views in the city.”
There are more than 1.2 million books in its dome-topped, nine-story, almost-500,000-square-foot expanse, not to mention 1.6 million government documents, many of which have never before been accessible to the public. There are special sections for children, teens and disabled people, a multimedia TV studio and tech center and a full-service homework center, with computers and tutors.

Stories No. 6 and No. 7 are leased to the e3 Civic High School, which has its own separate entrance. There’s a main-floor gift shop and outdoor cafĂ©, a rooftop art gallery and sculpture garden, and plenty of art, including murals and special exhibits, throughout.

There’s also a 350-seat auditorium and a glass wall in the main lobby that slides open to create an indoor-and-outdoor area large enough to accommodate 1,000 people. And there’s a rentable space on the ninth floor, perfect for weddings and private events.

On the Saturday before the official Sept. 30 opening, there was a day-long celebration, an East Village street festival with live music, interactive activities, food and library tours. Upcoming events include bi-weekly Sunday concerts with top-flight local musicians.

“This building was born in workshops with San Diegans,” said the architect, Rob Quigley. “It’s about community. We listened when people said: we want to look toward the future, but respect the past. I don’t know if there’s ever been a building that had the participation of so many to make it a reality.”
Standing on the roof on a breezy day, you can hear the wind singing through the open dome. Said Quigley: “We knew the building would have an acoustic personality as well as a visual one. That really gives it depth.”

All the following photos are by Maurice Hewitt
Sue Hunter, a member of the Library Foundation Communications Committee, relaxes in a McMakin armchair.

Sue Hunter, a member of the Library Foundation Communications Committee, relaxes in a McMakin armchair.




The library’s three-story grand entrance is framed by a gravity arch, which adds drama plus stability for the weight of the six stories above.

The library’s three-story grand entrance is framed by a gravity arch, which adds drama plus stability for the weight of the six stories above.










In the Teens-Only center, which Kearny High School students helped design, Larry Hoeckelmann, library clerk for Youth Services, enjoy the downtown San Diego view on a beanbag.

In the Teens-Only center, which Kearny High School students helped design, Larry Hoeckelmann, library clerk for Youth Services, enjoy the downtown San Diego view on a beanbag.

In the ninth floor art gallery, Kathryn Kanjo posed with a painting by Gail Roberts. Kanjo, chief curator at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, organized the inaugural show, ‘Renewed.’

In the ninth floor art gallery, Kathryn Kanjo posed with a painting by Gail Roberts. Kanjo, chief curator at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, organized the inaugural show, ‘Renewed.’


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