HAYWARD The main downtown library would need to be at least twice as large as its current size to accommodate growing demand, according to a consultant's study based on a community survey conducted in the fall.
Library circulation in Hayward's two-branch system has spiked by roughly 25 percent in two years, with more than 900,000 items circulated in the last year, said Lisa Rosenblum, the city's library director.
And the 57-year-old main branch on C Street has grown increasingly crowded as local youth take advantage of Internet access and other services there.
"The good news is we've got teens interested in coming to the library," Rosenblum said. "The bad news is they're noisy. ... And there are no quiet study areas."
City officials have talked for years about building or expanding the main library, or building new regional branches, but have yet to identify a source of funding for a capital project expected to cost more than $30 million.
In June, the Hayward City Council appropriated $220,000 to a consultant, Noll & Tam, to analyze community library needs and design a new main library. The firm was the lead architect on a 2001 project to expand the Weekes Branch library in South Hayward.
But a project to expand the C Street facility, which is 25,000 square feet, is more complicated and expensive.
City leaders are counting on a promised $10 million library donation from San Jose-based Calpine Corp. as mitigation for the 600-megawatt gas-fired power plant Calpine intends to build on the Hayward shoreline.
But that project is facing appeals filed with the California Air Resources Board and the Environmental Protection Agency, and the gift is only to be granted to Hayward once concrete begins to pour.
Meanwhile, statewide finance problems are a sign that Hayward shouldn't "count on the state coming to the rescue anytime soon," consultants told city leaders Tuesday.
That leaves the possibility of some kind of revenue-producing local ballot measure, such as a bond or a tax. But in 1997, the last time city officials tried to get voters to support a library measure, voters defeated the proposed monthly utility tax.
City Councilman Bill Quirk said the current process to analyze community needs is already "much better than what we did 10 years ago. The process is just so much better than what we did before."
The consultant's report, presented to city leaders Tuesday, recommends a new main library building of 50,000 to 55,000 square feet, on two to three levels.
It also recommends eventually building a new branch library, probably someplace west of Interstate 880. In the consultant's survey, which fielded more than 1,800 completed responses, some said they found the main library too remote and inconvenient to get to because of the distance between parking spaces and the library entrance.
Others expressed concerns with safety because of the homeless people who frequently loiter outside.
But Lisa Brunner, a member of the Hayward Library Commission, said Tuesday that it's important the city commit to expanding the library at its existing location.
"I like the library where it's at," Brunner said. "If we want to restore the vitality to downtown, we need to keep the library there."
Mayor Mike Sweeney said the report and survey were a start, but that there needs to be a "much more focused, more scientific survey" to determine what Hayward library users want, and where they want it.
Reach Matt O'Brien at 510-293-2473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.