Library makeover planning underway

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Residents and community leaders gather to give input to update “depressing” state of the Malibu Public Library.

By Olivia Damavandi / Staff Writer

Better ambience; a greater selection of books, audio and other resources; a lounge area and an outdoor reading area were just a few of the ideas put forth at last week’s Library Task Force meeting for improving the 39-year-old Malibu Library.

Approximately 20 participants attended the meeting to contribute their ideas toward the library’s $3.6 million renovation, which could begin December next year. The next public input meeting is slated for July 23 at 12:30 p.m. at the library to discuss potential concept designs.

The Malibu Library Renovation Project will be financed by Los Angeles County, through funds set aside from property taxes intended for library services, which total $3.6 million. The project is the result of an uproar that took place in 2004 when it was discovered that nearly a half million dollars Malibu had been paying in property taxes per year was not being spent on services within the city, but was going to other areas of the county’s library system.

The renovation seeks to remedy the library’s limited access for the physically disabled, inadequate lighting, an outdated collection, antiquated technology, lack of security, and lack of programs and resources for various age groups.

In addition to city residents and Malibu Library staff, meeting attendees included several council members, the city’s administrative services director, a planning commissioner, Los Angeles County Librarian Margaret Todd and L.A. County Library Consultant Linda Demmers, all of whom pitched their renovation ideas to Richard D’Amato, principal architect of LPA, Inc., the architectural consultant firm hired last month by the city to perform the renovation.

Proposed library improvements voiced by meeting participants included a change in ambience; a greater selection of books, audio and visual resources; an outdoor reading area or garden overlooking Legacy Park; a children’s area; a teen center; a screening room; a snack bar; homework center; lounge seating and increased reader seating.

Aside from minimal changes to its interior design, the 16,530-square-foot library has physically remained unchanged since it was built in 1970. It currently offers an adult reading area; a children’s area; a meeting room with a 125-person capacity; adult and children reference and readers’ advisory; toddler and preschool story times; summer reading programs for older children; a coin-operated copy machine; a word processor; and public access Internet computers.

According to a 2005 Library Needs Assessment, a written study by a mix of city and county staff members that outlines the library’s strengths and weaknesses, and service goals to be achieved in the renovation, the Malibu Library has been plagued with staff turnover due to its distance from other county libraries, the facility needs revamping and collections have aged as funding to update them has dwindled.

Collection acquisition has suffered since the mid-1990s when the state, through the Education Revenue Augmentation Fund, redirected property tax dollars dedicated to libraries and used them to address budget deficits in other areas. At the same time, the State Public Library Fund, which had been used to purchase collections, was also reduced.

One meeting participant, a Malibu resident since 1972, said her children grew up utilizing the “depressing” library.

“The interior part of the library lacks color and natural light,” the resident said, adding that the currently utilized, fluorescent overhead lighting causes headaches.

“In terms of the depressing aspect, the kids really like bright colors and you have to grab their attention from the minute they walk in the door, almost like it was a store or a restaurant,” she continued. “You have to make them want to be there, make it an exciting place.”

Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Barovsky recommended the renovation include the implementation of skylights to save electricity costs and to provide natural illumination.

“I’d really like to show the community what we’re doing to reduce our carbon footprint,” Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said, requesting an energy audit be conducted before the groundbreaking of the remodel.

Another problem brought up by Kathy Sullivan, a 15-year Malibu Library staff member, was the library’s “really bad” ventilation and air quality.

D’Amato agreed with Sullivan. “The [amount of] chemicals and pollutions coming up from this carpet and the asbestos in the ceiling are probably staggering.”

Participants also voiced their wishes to improve library safety and implement family restrooms. To save money, D’Amato suggested the strategy of bordering the library’s ceilings with mirrors that would both reflect natural light and allow staff to monitor all aisles of the building instead of implementing security cameras.

In regard to the library’s prospective d├ęcor, attendees proposed the integration of art that reflects Malibu’s surf culture, Native Americans, ocean, fish, mountains, Chumash boats, natural disasters and equestrian community. Also mentioned was the inclusion of Malibu tiles (much like those of the Adamson House) and enlarged photos of the city from the 1950s.

It is currently unknown where library books will be relocated and how long the library will be closed during renovation.