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With murals and foosball, makeover takes SLO library beyond the books

New features await visitors at renovated downtown SLO library

The San Luis Obispo City-County Library reopens Saturday, March 4, 2017, after closing for renovations in October. The library has significantly more space for children and teens, and the third floor is now open for public use. Chris Barnickel, SL
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The San Luis Obispo City-County Library reopens Saturday, March 4, 2017, after closing for renovations in October. The library has significantly more space for children and teens, and the third floor is now open for public use. Chris Barnickel, SL

The downtown San Luis Obispo library reopens Saturday, now that an $843,000 renovation and expansion is complete.

The renovations doubled the size of the children’s section, created a new teen room and converted the third-floor staff space into a public wing for nonfiction books. In addition to major repairs to the elevator system, the library now has more natural light and a roomier feel.

“Families with children are among our biggest users of the library,” said Chris Barnickel, the county’s director of libraries. “One of the great things about this renovation is that we doubled the children’s area space, but the reading areas for adults are on other floors or kept separate, so those seeking a little more quiet will have plenty of space to settle in.”

Except for a small corner room where patrons could pick up orders and browse a limited collection of materials, the San Luis Obispo City-County Library on Palm Street has been closed since October while the makeover was in progress.

The concept is to get people to use the library. We want them to enjoy the brick and mortar building. Otherwise, everyone will just live in a digital world.

Chris Barnickel, county director libraries

The city of San Luis Obispo is responsible for about $206,000 of the costs as part of a joint powers agreement on the maintenance of the facility, and the county is picking up the rest of the $637,000 construction tab, county officials said.

The overhaul also resolves an inefficiency that required the library to send returned materials to the third floor for sorting and then back down to the first floor for shelving. Sorting now can be done on the first floor. That allowed the library to open up the third floor to the public, where reference and nonfiction books will be kept.

The renovations also mean twice the overall space for the children’s section, including a storytime area that’s now 500 square feet compared with 50 square feet before, among other key features.

Teenagers also will have their own separate reading areas, along with a foosball table and bean bag chairs.

“The concept is to get people to use the library,” Barnickel said. “We want them to enjoy the brick-and-mortar building. Otherwise, everyone will just live in a digital world.”

The upgraded downtown hub includes artistic signage painted on the walls, faux wood floors, second-floor bathrooms, outdoor patio space and significantly more space for reading and activities.

Entering the library, patrons’ eyes will be drawn to a mural that wraps around the atrium walls, Robert Maja’s spectacular “Movimiento Mundial,” which translates to “world movement.” The brilliantly colored painting depicts global scenes with palm trees, musicians, travelers and people dining under an umbrella.

1,816 square feet Amount of expanded public space

1,500Number of books a new automated system will sort per hour

The first floor features a lounge-style ambiance with new books, music, movies and seating to encourage interactions among visitors. The remodel and new layout adds 1,816 square feet of public space. A new 13-bin system for automated sorting will handle 1,500 books per hour.

Last year, patrons borrowed 40,000 materials from other libraries as part of a system loan setup. That, Barnickel said, indicates a heavy interest for books, DVDs, CDs and audiobooks. But patrons can also download materials from the library’s digital collections of movies, music and electronic books and magazines.

The new library has a technology-friendly design with areas for patrons to charge mobile devices and use self-checkout machines. Radio-frequency identification on all library materials allows patrons to check out multiple items at once.

The two public rooms set aside for groups include digital displays. One group room features a “creative lab” equipped with advanced editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere, and recording equipment for public use.

If you go

The San Luis Obispo City-County Library is set to hold a grand reopening celebration.

Where: 995 Palm St. in San Luis Obispo

When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday

What: Events include a performance by the San Luis Obispo High School Jazz Band starting at 9:30 a.m., short speeches by San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill and San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon shortly after 10 a.m., animal balloon-making from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and face painting from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

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