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New Library Effort Moves Forward

Attendance doubled Saturday at the second meeting of the grassroots campaign to build a new El Cerrito Library. Among those attending were all three of the presumptive winners of the upcoming City Council election.

The to build a new El Cerrito Library saw an increased turn-out for its second public meeting Saturday when about 40 people gathered at the old library to share ideas on how to build community support and find funding.

"Our primary mission is to get the community involved and supportive," said meeting moderator Amalia Cunningham, a member of the seven-person citizens committee that has organized the "El Cerrito New Library Community Campaign."

About 20 people attended the on Aug. 2.

Attending the Aug. 18 meeting at 5:30 p.m. were several people who are likely to have a significant influence on the decision to pursue a new library, including the three candidates for the Nov. 6 El Cerrito City Council election, all of whom are expected to win since three seats are at stake in the vote. They are incumbent Greg Lyman and two former members of the five-person council, Jan Bridges and Mark Friedman.

Since the city owns and maintains the library, the City Council would play a key role in approving a plan to replace the cramped 6,500-square-foot facility on Stockton Avenue. A 2006 "needs assessment" report by a San Francisco-based library consulting firm, Page + Moris, found that the current library should be three times larger.

At the library campaign's first public meeting, Assistant City Manager Karen Pinkos said a 2007 estimate for a 20,000-square-foot library complete with library equipment and supplies was between $18 million and $20 million.

The city remains fully committed to building a new library, Pinkos told the Saturday gathering. "The library has been on our capital projects for the past 10 years," she said. "It's a matter of funding."

Former El Cerrito City Manager , a 23-year resident of El Cerrito and member of the new library committee, said he expects the main source of funding would be a bond, which would require approval of two-thirds of the voters.

Pokorny, who was city manager of Walnut Creek when its new $40-million library was built, said a bond proposal failed in Walnut Creek but that the city's unusual financial resources, plus $5 million raised by the Walnut Creek Library Foundation, made the project possible.

"Very few cities can do that," he said. "As I look at it (in El Cerrito), it seems to me that a bond measure probably makes sense."

And while $20 million seemed to be the assumed ballpark price tag for a new El Cerrito Library, County Librarian Barbara Flynn recommended a look at two libraries in San Diego County, Ramona and Fallbrook, as examples of good 20,000-square-foot libraries that were built for about $10 million each. Flynn is head of the Contra Costa County Library system, whose two dozen branches include El Cerrito Library.

Pokorny recommended looking also at the relatively new libraries in Hercules, Orinda and Lafayette. Lyman echoed Lafayette as a good example since it's about the same size that El Cerrito is aiming for.

No matter what the price may be, there seemed to be agreement that public support would be required.

Friedman, referring to the organized constituency that successfully pushed the campaign to rebuild the El Cerrito Swim Center when he was on the council, said, "We need to take this as a community organizing challenge."

Al Miller, another member of the organizing committee, urged those who want to see a new library to attend one of the two upcoming public meetings on developing  designed to serve as a blueprint vision of the city's future.

He said the meetings – one at 4 p.m. and one at 6 p.m. on Aug. 29 at City Hall – are "the next best opportunity El Cerrito residents have to influence where in our priorities list the new library should be." (Those who wish to attend are asked to RSVP by sending an email to comments@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us.)

Pinkos said residents can give their input on the Strategic Plan by filling out the city's short online survey, and they can also send Pinkos an email at comments@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us or contact her or call her at 510-215-4302. c"I'm taking all feedback," she said. "Send me a letter or give me a call if you don't want to do it online."

It was also recommended that library supporters attend an El Cerrito Democratic Club meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 28 at Zion Presbyterian Church at 545 Ashbury Avenue. The meeting will include a forum with City Council candidates.

As at the earlier public meeting on Aug. 2, attendees also discussed options for generating community support, including coordination with local schools and with youth athletic leagues like El Cerrito Youth Baseball and El Cerrito Futbol Club.

Friedman suggested enlisting singer John Fogerty, who grew up in El Cerrito. "I think it's worth a try."

An audience member suggested approaching Nobel laureates in the city to do a lecture series as a fundraiser.

Also discussed was the need for the library to have separated spaces for different programs, computers and meetings. Lyman said today's libraries need to be "not what you consider a classic library" but community meeting places adaptable to flexible programming.

Said Pokorny, "I'm excited about trying to bring this library into the 21st century."

lisa martinengo August 20, 2012 at 06:32 PM
I like Mark Friedman's idea of enlisting our hometown boy who made good, John Fogerty. Lots of us baby boomers would have fun supporting a fundraising concert by him and his friends. My event biz, High Spirits Event Planning, would love to get involved with that aspect of the new library campaign.
Linda Moss August 20, 2012 at 07:30 PM
A new up-to-date library is a very worthwhile project. Another example to look at is right under our noses. Albany built an outstanding facility just under twenty years ago for $4 million. Maybe we can get useful ideas from them.
Toni Mayer August 20, 2012 at 11:29 PM
I like the idea of a Fogerty concert as well as the Nobel Laureate lecture series. I think there's a Heavy Metal group that started in El Cerrito. Not my music, but it would attract the 40-somethings who like--or liked--it. And Gamelan Sekar Jaya started here as well. We have a wealth of cultural resources, local authors and others.
George September 11, 2012 at 05:47 AM
Can we start a campaign to improve parking here? The several adjacent red zones might be better zoned for parking. And we need some restricted time spaces (like downtown Berkeley uses), to force turnover to allow patrons a space to park.
George September 11, 2012 at 05:48 AM
agree with Toni on the Fogerty Concert!!

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