HAYWARD -- The City Council will get its first look Tuesday at a plan to replace the old, crowded main library with a three-story building with more meeting space, a teen center, a digital media lab and greater access to technology.

With Hayward having the least amount of library space per resident in Alameda County, city officials acknowledge they need a new building. How it will be paid for is something the council will have to decide.

"We need more space," said Sean Reinhart, Hayward library and community services director. "We need more room for the library, we need more space for community meetings and more access to technology, and the current facility does not meet those needs."

When the main library opened in 1951, the city had 14,000 residents. Today, almost 150,000 people call Hayward home. More than 400,000 people visit the building each year. Hayward has 0.23 square feet of library space per resident, lower than any other city in Alameda, Santa Clara or San Mateo counties. The Bay Area average is 0.75 square feet.

The new library would sit across the street from the current one on what is now a city parking lot at C Street and Mission Boulevard, next to the Bradford Station Post Office. C Street would be narrowed between Watkins Street and Mission to accommodate the structure, which would be more than double the size of the existing library.

The new building, named the Library and Community Learning Center to emphasize its multiple uses, would wrap around an atrium-like open space. The atrium also would act as a passive cooling duct.

Computer classes would be taught in a 24-seat tech lab, and 120 computers would be available for public use. The current building only has one electrical outlet per 100 feet, Reinhart said.

A digital learning center could offer lessons in video and audio production, web design, software development and computer-generated illustration (CGI). The community room would have seating for 200, and there also would be smaller group study rooms.

The new building would feature two homework tutoring areas: one on the first floor next to the children's area and another on the second floor next to the teen center. "Teenagers will be involved in the design and choosing the furniture," Reinhart said. An outdoor deck would look out over the park.

The old building would be torn down, with the space being converted into possibly a meadow, amphitheater or plaza that would be a focal point of the park, which is filled with dozens of rare and mature trees, some dating back to the 1880s. The site was part of rancher Don Guillermo Castro's original homestead.

"That open space would help restore this beautiful park area," Reinhart said.

If the council approves the concept of the library, city staff members would work with the community on more detailed architectural drawings and a funding proposal. The project would cost almost $60 million, but the city has $10 million already, thanks to a donation from Calpine. The money to help pay for a new library was given as mitigation for a gas-fired power plant on the Hayward shoreline.

No decisions on financing have been made, but one possibility is a bond measure that voters would have to approve. Or the city could pursue a loan, Reinhart said. "That's for the council to voice their opinion on," he said. Grants could possibly cover some of the cost, such as solar panels or restoration of the park.

An earlier bond measure for a new library failed in 1997. This time, residents have taken part in the planning, and more detailed information on the project will be available for voters, including the cost, Reinhart said. No bond measure would go forward unless residents support it, he said.

"We have been sharing information with the community every step of the way," he said. "Everything has been driven by what the community tells us."

While a new library is needed downtown, it does not come close to meeting demand, City Manager Fran David wrote in a staff report. The city only has one branch library, Weekes in South Hayward. In the long term, more are needed, Reinhart said.

"Hayward is a large city, and it's spread out," he said. "A new downtown facility is an important first step, but we need additional branches."

Hayward City Council
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Council chamber, City Hall, 777 B St.