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While focus has homed in on the new Civic Center’s largest buildings—the new City Hall and the new Port of Long Beach headquarters that sit at the northeast corner of Ocean and Magnolia—the most expensive building per square foot is the new Main Library at the southwest corner of Broadway and Pacific.

It is also one of the most important investments in the public in recent years as libraries across the nation have shifted from simply being places where one can find books to spaces that harbor technologies (our libraries have spaces that include free 3D printing), disperse accredited diplomas (since 2016, 37 adults have scored their high school diploma through the library), and assist with academic and social success.

The massive, 92,500-square-foot-structure will expound on these services and amenities—much needed, given that despite the development and economic boom centered in Downtown, 43 percent of children living in the area (zip codes 90802 and 90813) live below the poverty level.

Photo by Brian Addison.

Photo by Brian Addison.

For these children—and by extension, many of their family members—the library is not just a place for learning and amusement but a space for vital connections. With the new library, for example, a new Veteran’s Resource Center will help assist veterans with day-to-day needs, while the Citizenship Corner will provide a safe, knowledgeable space for those seeking their citizenship.

On top of this, they’ll have these amenities inside one of Downtown’s most beautiful structures: The contemporary building is flanked by exposed Douglas fir across its entire ceiling, a lightweight wood that allows the building to be more sustainable. In fact, the building is on track to attain a LEED Gold or better rating, thanks in part to intelligent features like panels that absorb heat and light to both protect books and keep the building cooler and, in most part, due to its roof being covered in solar panels.

“The building will not just be zeroed out energy consumption,” said Jeff Fullerton, project director for the Civic Center rebuild. “The library will produce electricity that will be funneled to power City Hall.”

Here are some more impressive things about the upcoming space:

  • In addition to housing the current collection and offering the same programs and services as the current library, the new Main Library will offer residents an enhanced children’s area with a dedicated early literacy space and art studio.
  • It will house an improved space for tweens and teens including a teen lounge, expanded study and collaboration area, and dedicated computers offering the latest software suites.
  • The library’s makers space, The Studio, will be greatly enhanced with a media production room, small recording studio, as well as a 3D print shop lab.
  • The Family Learning Center will be expanded by three and a half times the size of the current Center, offering added programs and services to veterans, immigrants, and adult literacy learners.
  • Not only will the new library offer enhanced and improved spaces for residents, it will also offer enhanced programs for babies, toddlers, preschool and school-aged children, tweens, teens, adults and older adults.  Staff has begun, and will continue, targeted program development for each of these population groups.
  • The new Main Library will offer something for everyone, from story times, art workshops, and film and lecture series, to computer coding and robotics classes, health and wellness seminars, financial planning, job skills training, a veterans resource center, citizenship corner and expanded literacy services.

However, these resources are not coming for free.

The majority of the project is funded through private investment, which covers the cost for building the new public structures in exchange for the ability to build a private, for-profit structure on the property. In this case, discussions have revolved around a 36-story hotel/residency mixed-use tower at the northwest corner of Ocean and Pacific.

But the library’s interior amenities like books, computers, and other technology, have to be covered by the library itself.

This is why the Long Beach Public Library Foundation has launched a campaign, much like the one it did for Michelle Obama Library in North Long Beach, to raise funds for the new Main Library.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated that the library has a program that has children fully literate before kindergarten. That statement is inaccurate and has been deleted. 

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

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