Extensive Pacific Grove library renovation coming to a close



a group of people in a room: An artist's rendering of what will greet visitors at the Pacific Grove Library when it is able to fully open to the public. (Courtesy of Pacific Grove Public Library Foundation)


© Provided by Monterey Herald
An artist’s rendering of what will greet visitors at the Pacific Grove Library when it is able to fully open to the public. (Courtesy of Pacific Grove Public Library Foundation)

PACIFIC GROVE — A grand reopening of the Pacific Grove Library has been put on hold as final touches are made on a $2.5 million renovation project, but it isn’t preventing city officials from at least quietly celebrating.

“It’s within an eyelash of being finished and it’s fantastic,” said Pacific Grove Mayor Bill Peake. “It’s as if everything had been redone. It’s opened up the interior and is more expansive when you walk in.”

Certainly city staff and members of the Pacific Grove Public Library Foundation and Friends of the Pacific Grove Public Library, which helped raise capital for the project, couldn’t have anticipated the pandemic some 18 months ago when the renovation began.

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“It won’t be as joyous as we had hoped,” Peake said, addressing the shelter-in-place order that prevents libraries from opening to the public.

Now-retired library director Scott Bauer said when the project started last spring that it had received little if any upgrades for decades. The structure received additions in 1926 and 1938, followed by two expansions in 1950 and 1978. Its original construction in 1908 was funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

“Since the 1978 expansion not much has been done to the building,” Bauer told the Herald at the beginning of the project last year. “That was 40 years ago and time has aged the building quite a bit.”

The renovations had three primary focuses. The first is a renovated “Carnegie core,” the original 2,500 square-foot structure built in 1908. It was swallowed up when the library expanded to 12,500 square feet with the addition of what is now the front section of the library.

The second focus is long-neglected maintenance issues, such as missing ceiling tiles, stained walls and sub-par restrooms that were updated for families and visitors with disabilities. Old lighting was replaced with modern lighting, including replicated chandeliers for the old portion of the library.

Finally, new construction included accommodations for future growth and new technologies. New wiring was installed and Wi-Fi upgrades were made. Libraries used to be the depository of knowledge, and they still are, but have evolved new roles since much of that knowledge base has migrated to cloud databases.

“Our library is many things,” Peake said. “It’s the books and videos, but it’s also a cultural hub where friends can meet up and catch up on the news or where parents can take their kids for active children’s programs.”

Other added amenities include wider areas between book stands, also to accommodate people with disabilities. A dedicated space will house local community history, something that would be hard-pressed to replicate online. The children’s room has been refurbished with new carpeting, paint, furnishings and shorter shelving for kids.

The Pacific Grove library has a distinction of being one a few Carnegie libraries still used as a library in the state. Between the 1880s and the 1920s, Carnegie poured more than $2.8 million — roughly $76.4 million in 2020 dollars, adjusted for inflation — into libraries in California. Many of the original libraries have been converted to churches, law offices, museums and even vacant lots.

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