SAN JOSE -- In recent years, four newly built but mothballed branch libraries stood as stark evidence of San Jose's budget mess, built with bond proceeds voters approved more than a decade ago by a city that could no longer afford to staff them.
On Saturday, the first of those four new branch libraries, Seven Trees, is set to finally celebrate its grand opening.
"People have been waiting a long time for it to open," said Anne Cain, San Jose's interim library director. "It will make a huge difference in this community."
The city's original Seven Trees library opened in 1967. It was closed in 2008 and demolished to make way for the new version, which occupies the upper floor of a new Seven Trees Community Center that opened in September 2011.
The Seven Trees library was completed and ready to open in October 2010. But the city was grappling with record budget deficits and mass layoffs that year, and city leaders decided it should sit mothballed until sufficient funds were available to open it.
"This is a significant milestone for the Seven Trees community," said Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen, whose district includes the library. "This is a community that has been significantly underserved. I think the community will be very excited about this."
There will be a ceremony Saturday that will include Nguyen, Mayor Chuck Reed, local library boosters and dozens of families in an event that will include face painting, crafts and music.
The other three mothballed new libraries are scheduled to open soon: Bascom next month, Educational Park in May and Calabasas in June.
"After so many years of operating on staff reductions, it's great to have some good news for a change," said Jean Lee, chair of the city's library commission. "We're very, very excited."
The new Seven Trees library cost $8.9 million, funding made available by a voter-approved library bond measure in 2000.
The library occupies more than 15,000 square feet of space and is built to the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold standard. Near the entrance is an artwork called "Potential" by Samuel Rodriguez and Matthew Rodriguez that resembles a model bicycle kit.
The library boasts colorful floors and walls to create a livelier and more inviting atmosphere. Many shelves in the children's section have the books facing outward to capture kids' attention.
Cain explained that the new libraries are designed to reflect shifting uses and expectations. Gone are the days when libraries were just cavernous rooms lined with row upon row of books, all overseen by a humorless hush-meister.
The new library features spaces for young children, a quiet study area, a technology center filled with computers, a room designed for teenagers, a place for families, a quiet study area and a "living room" with a faux fireplace for magazine reading.
"People are looking at libraries now as a place where they can spend time," Cain said. "This looks like the kind of place where you would want to come and spend a couple of hours."
Contact John Woolfolk at 408-975-9346. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/johnwoolfolk1.
Seven Trees Library Grand Opening facts:
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Second floor of Seven Trees Library and Community Center building, 3590 Cas Drive, San Jose.
About Seven Trees Branch Library
Size: 15,567 square feet
Construction cost: $8.9 million (source November 2000 library bond)
Public Art cost: $210,000
Project began summer 2008, completed spring 2010
About San Jose's library system:
Annual visitors: 6.1 million
Inventory: 2 million items
Budget: $31.9 million
Locations: Main library downtown, plus 18 branches.