This month, the doors of the Billie Jean King Main Library will swing open for the first time, welcoming the public to its airy, light-filled spaces and state-of-the-art resources.
The new library is one sparkling component of the Long Beach Civic Center Project, which also includes the new City Hall, the new headquarters for the Port of Long Beach, and within the next two years, a completely refurbished and re-energized Lincoln Park.
In contrast to the old Main Library, which sat mainly below ground, the new library is open and welcoming, its shelves full of books clearly visible from the street through its picture-window walls. Douglas Fir wood was used as a primary external building material, adding an earthy warmth to the building’s design.
The use of wood in the library’s construction has a functional aspect as well: The library sits on top of the City’s underground parking structure, which had its walls reinforced as part of the library’s construction. The decorative external wood and the structural timbers within the framework of the building serve to decrease weight and stress on the parking structure.
The 92,500-square-foot library has ample room for new features and future iterations of existing programs, as well as its collection of over 300,000 books.
“Our public-private partnership has provided us with a beautiful building and fundamental elements such as the tables and chairs,” said Glenda Williams, Director of Library Services since 2009. “Every pop of color, everything that’s different and special, has been provided through fundraising.”
For example, the Long Beach Rotary Club gave a huge donation to benefit the library’s children’s area. With funds provided by the Rotarians, the library will offer a story theater, an interactive mural with a nautical theme that will cover an entire wall of the children’s area, and a “reading boat,” complete with a little lighthouse, where children can gather to read.
The children’s area will also feature an arts and crafts studio with a glass wall for ease of supervision.
The library will also continue to encourage creative culture for older kids and adults with its expanded multimedia studio. Classes for video and audio editing, stop-motion animation and robotics will be available.
In another room, musicians and producers can make use of a fully-equipped recording studio, funded by the Long Beach Public Library Foundation. Producers who work with library partner PADNET (Public Access Digital Network) will have full access to these production facilities.
There will also be a room dedicated to 3-D printing.
Near the south library entrance is the Center For Adaptive Technology, which will accommodate visitors with visual, hearing and mobility challenges.
The library will continue to help military personnel in its Veterans Resources Center, and will match students with teachers through its Long Beach Read adult literacy program.
The Long Beach Public Library has been “plugged in” since the beginning of computer and internet technology. The new library will offer even more on-site computers than its predecessor, and its eBooks, digital audiobooks and magazines and other digital resources will continue to be available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Technology has created the opportunity to utilize the Billie Jean King Main Library without ever leaving home—but the planners and builders behind its design have fulfilled a vision of a library that invites the community to partake of it in person, in the fellowship of knowledge. It’s an expansive and uplifting place, and a vibrant and dynamic element of the revitalized Long Beach Civic Center.