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West End library reopens Tuesday

Submitted by on 1, October 25, 2010 – 5:00 amOne Comment

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“This building has a lot of history to it,” Alameda Free Library Director Jane Chisaki said as she led a reporter on a tour of the newly restored West End Library. “We worked hard not to make too many changes.”

Features of the library’s $1.2 million face lift – which residents can get a gander at themselves when the library reopens on Tuesday – include restoration of the library’s original wood shelves, existing tables and faux-finish ceiling, and of the granite clock that hangs over its entryway. Energy-efficient (but period appropriate) chandeliers have been installed in the library, designed by Carl Werner and built in 1936 as a Works Progress Administration project, along with cork floors. Opaque shades have replaced the old wood blinds to expose the half-circles that top the library’s long windows, allowing in more light than before.

“You get the feel for the shape of the windows you didn’t before,” Chisaki said.

Chisaki said the aim of the remodel was to refashion the library into a gathering space for children, families and seniors, the main groups of people who were using it. With just 3,400 square feet to work with, that meant removing some of the stacks in order to make more people space (the library’s also got more Internet-ready computers and wireless access). Patrons seeking books not in the West End library’s collection can order them through the library’s online system and have them sent for pickup.

The stacks that had once crowded one portion of the library have now been moved aside to create a nook for teens that features “comma tables” – a round table that can be pulled apart into two – and a pair of leather seats with movable desks attached (one each for left- and right-handed teens). Half of the library has been given over to children, with a goodly collection of kids’ books, a cozy reading area for families and computers set at pint-size tables and chairs.

“We didn’t have the chance to bust out the walls,” Chisaki said. “So we tried to be economical with space.”

In addition to the visible, interior changes, the library got a seismic retrofit and was made more accessible to disabled people; new wiring, and heating and cooling systems; upgrades to the library’s bathrooms and staff room; and new roof tiles and a fresh coat of paint.

Chisaki said fresh landscaping is also planned, and she’s hoping the new landscaping will expose the library’s original cornerstone. And she said a carved-wood piece featuring the flora and fauna of Alameda is being readied to hang on the library’s back wall.

A similar renovation is taking place at the library’s Bay Farm Island branch. Chisaki said she thinks that library may be reopened in February.

The official reopening begins with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. Refreshments will be served, and members of the Art Deco Society will appear in period dress. Then at 3:30 p.m., the after-school crowd can celebrate as Benny Bendini performs his Incredible Magic Hat Show.

The library, which is at 788 Santa Clara Avenue, will be open from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays (closed Fridays and Sundays). More information on library programs – like children’s story time, which returns the first week of November – on the library’s website.

The renovations were funded by the Measure O library bond, which voters approved in 2000.

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