After a makeover that took a little more than a year, the newly expanded Cesar Chavez Library in east Salinas is ready for its close-up.
Workers are applying the final touches to the library this week in preparation for a long-awaited grand opening on Sunday, which marks the completion of an ambitious $3.9-million upgrade for the most heavily used library in the city's system. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, and the library will re-open for business after being closed during construction since October 2011.
A sneak peek at the expanded facility for project donors and local officials will be held at 5 p.m. Saturday, and will feature an appearance by poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, who also marked the project's groundbreaking last year.
Mayor Dennis Donohue and Salinas city library director Elizabeth Martinez announced the grand opening at the city's regular news conference on Monday.
Martinez lauded the new facility as the "most modern new library in the city and probably in Monterey County," and marveled at the completion of such a project during tight fiscal times. The project was funded in roughly equal parts by Measure V sales tax revenue, Williams Ranch development fees, and private contributions from such organizations as the California Endowment, Packard Foundation and Monterey Peninsula Foundation.
Donohue pointed out the Chavez Library's big party follows the approval earlier this month of Measure E, which permanently extends the Measure V half-cent sales tax enacted as a way to help keep the city's libraries open seven years ago. The mayor, who will leave office next month, said the new library's services would have been at risk without the sales tax extension, which he suggested represents a "happy ending" for the city's library saga.
The library grand opening will take center stage at Tuesday's City Council meeting, which will also feature a formal recognition for the efforts of San Jose State University School of Design chairman Brian Kimura and his students who donated thousands of hours of work on the library's interior design.
The project nearly doubled the library's size, adding about 6,000 square feet of space capped off by a new tower. The expansion includes a new literacy center, Alisal community history room focusing on seven different inhabitants of the area from the Essalen people to Dust Bowl refugees to Latinos, a new community meeting room, an outdoor performance courtyard, and a new entrance, checkout space, and restrooms.
Martinez said the expansion is a major accomplishment given it takes a quarter century for most U.S. communities to build new library facilities, and the last time Salinas built a new library was 1978 when the Santa Lucia Library was built. The library was renamed for the late, revered labor leader in 1993.
In other business, the council is slated to accept a $24,705 Packard Playgroup Expansion grant from First 5 of Monterey County for the Salinas Public Library system for expansion of its early literacy playgroup sessions program.
In addition, the council is slated to accept a pair of antiÐviolence grants, including about $125,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice for evaluation of the city's "comprehensive strategy for community-wide violence reduction" plan over the next two years, and about $423,500 from the state CalGRIP program for implementation of gang-related violence strategies.
The council will also receive an update on a request for proposals issued to prospective consultants who would be charged with investigating the Salinas city housing foreclosure conditions and recommending potential solutions.
Jim Johnson can be reached at email@example.com or 753-6753.