Thursday, June 26, 2008

Checking Things Out

Checking Things Out
Crowd gathers at new library in Suisun City
By Danny Bernardini
Article Launched: 06/26/2008

A crowd gathers Wednesday outside the new Suisun City branch of the Solano County Public Library to wait for its official opening. (Joel Rosenbaum/The Reporter)

There was no shortage of compliments and handshakes Wednesday as state, county and city officials gathered to celebrate the opening of the new Suisun City Library.

As politicians, board members and employees gave speeches to commemorate the event, the over-capacity crowd spilled out from beneath the canopy set up between the new building and the YMCA on Pintail Drive, next to Suisun Elementary School.

Sitting in the middle of a neighborhood, the building was designed to resemble the area, but still stand out. Those entering the library Wednesday - which doubles as the school library for Suisun Elementary - were met with brand new equipment and full shelves.

It didn't take long for Melody Osborne and her two daughters to find a couple Barney DVDs to check out, before heading to sign up for a summer reading program.

"We've been waiting. We've been going to the library in Cordelia and Fairfield," Osborne said. "Wow, we have our own now."

The library is lit primarily with natural light from the skylights and numerous windows. But even during stormy weather and rain, the library will stay illuminated, said Bonnie Katz, assistant director of library services for Solano County.

Some other highlights include:

•A research lab filled with 15 computers where classes for the public can also be held. The library offers a total of 26 computers and WiFi access.

•Four self-checkout machines, similar to those in grocery stores.

•A group study room that may also double as an area for one-on-one tutoring.

•A meeting room equipped with a retractable projector screen.

•A teen zone to study with friends and find materials that interest them most.

•Two separate entrances that can only be used by students at Suisun Elementary School.

At 10,000 square feet, the $5.4 million joint-use project replaces the former library, which was 5,400 square feet of space on the second floor of an office building. Suisun City Mayor Pete Sanchez said the new building was well worth the wait to replace the old library built in 1992.

"Oh boy, we finally have a real library with no stairs to climb or elevator buttons to push," Sanchez said before the event. "It's amazing how much can be done with great patience and cooperation. That's the kind of thing that should happen in every city. You have to make arrangements with your neighbors."

What Sanchez was referring to is the joint-use aspect of the library. It's the result of a collaborative effort among Suisun City, Solano County, the Suisun City Redevelopment Agency and the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District.

Starting in the early-1990s, a new home for the library was sought. But because of tough economic times, it wasn't until Solano County voters approved a 1/8th of a cent sales tax in 1998 to restore library services that the ball got rolling.

The search for a new home continued until 2005, when the four partnership groups came up with land and funds to build the new library.

Supervisor Jim Spering said he was most proud that 70 percent of the city could either walk or ride a bike to the library without crossing a major roadway.

Assemblywoman Lois Wolk added that a library can double as a community center, especially when located correctly as the new one.