A new initiative to rebuild the aging, cramped El Cerrito Library has been launched by an ad hoc community group.
"Help grow our library — let's write the next chapter together," say the opening words on the homepage of the new Web site of the El Cerrito New Library Community Campaign. The Web site was launched earlier this month.
"Everyone agrees that our library is undersized," said Tom Panas of El Cerrito, a member of the six-person campaign committee. The group also includes El Cerrito's former librarian, Grace MacNeill, president of the Friends of the El Cerrito Library.
There has been a longstanding and widespread desire in the city rebuild the popular, city-owned, county-run library in a larger space, but pinched municipal finances have prevented plans from going forward. Its current home opened in 1949 and was expanded in 1960.
The campaign describes its Web site as "an information center for supporters to stay in touch and be informed of related news." It urges those who support the effort to "sign up for our mailing list to join us as a supporter and receive periodic updates on our efforts."
Part of the effort is build and channel support, Panas said. "Nothing is going to happen without the community telling its elected representatives that we want a facility that is modern and properly serves our needs."
Circulation has been increasing in Contra Costa County libraries across the board, .
The El Cerrito Library has managed to fare better than many other libraries that have seen their hours and budgets reduced. The library remains in operation 35 hours a week. Although all libraries in the county with budget cuts, El Cerrito has been able to make up for a good portion of those costs thanks to the fundraising efforts by Friends of the El Cerrito Library. The Friends raise money through and membership dues.
Panas said estimating the cost of a new library at this stage is premature because of many unknowns, including where the library would be relocated, what it would include and whether it would occupy a new building or a renovated one.
He said he's inspired by the potential for a library to be a "community hub," citing for example, a visit he made to the library in Cerritos in Southern California.
"The place is flooded with middle and high school students because it's a desirable place to be," he said, recalling its computers, Wi-Fi access and refreshments. "What could be better than having your kids want to go to the library?"
The group's vision wants to make it a place attractive to adults too, with room to accommodate a larger collection of books and multi-media materials as well provide spaces for study and interaction.
The campaign's email address is email@example.com. The committee members, as listed on the Web site, are:
Amalia Cunningham and her husband are El Cerrito homeowners with two small children, who are frequent library visitors, especially at the very crowded storytimes.
Grace MacNeill is a retired El Cerrito branch librarian and long time volunteer with the Friends of El Cerrito Library.
Al Miller and his wife have lived in El Cerrito since 1979. Al has served on several city commissions and committees and currently serves as a Director of the Stege Sanitary District.
Tom Panas, a County Library Commissioner and an officer of the Historical Society, lives at the the south end of town with his wife and two children.
Steven Poulos has lived in El Cerrito for 28 years and is retired from the Center for South Asia Studies at UC Berkeley. He is El Cerrito’s Commissioner to the Contra Costa County Library Commission.
Amy Rogers and her husband have lived in El Cerrito since 2000. Amy is a non-traditional librarian in education. She envisions a new beautiful community library that will become a pride and joy of El Cerrito.
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