San Mateo ‘green’ library opens Sunday

It could feel like switching from a boxy gas-guzzler to a sleek, luxurious, new built-to-order hybrid car when San Mateo residents step through the doors of their new library this weekend.

The new San Mateo Public Library will open its doors Sunday at noon with a special ribbon-cutting ceremony, more than five years after the old building was torn down.

The new library is significantly “greener” than the old. Ninety-eight percent of the old library was recycled when it was torn down. Designers estimate that the new building, with its intricate system of natural lighting, floor ventilation and automated window shades, could save the city 40 percent in energy costs versus a standard building of comparable size.

The “greening” of the new library and its commitment to state-of-the-art technology and learningwas a focus that emerged during the approximately 50 community meetings held to determine what the city wanted and needed, chief architect Jennifer Devlin said.

“The community told us what to do and I guess we did it,” Devlin said.

“This building was designed to be only at Third and Dartmouth,” she added, emphasizing the customized furniture and fabric for the library.

Noting that 95 percent of the reader seats in the new library have natural lighting, San Mateo City Librarian Ben Ocon said the old 37,000-square-foot “bunkerlike” library building saw roughly 1,000 patrons a day.

Ocon estimated that the new 90,000-square-foot building would get three times that total.

To put it in perspective, the first-floor children’s area of the new library alone occupies the entire footprint of the old building, he said.

In its collection, the library has materials in English, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, French and Farsi, and there are story hours in English, Spanish and Chinese, just like the signs around the building.

Funding for the structure came from a $35 million bond measure passed by San Mateo citizens in 1999, $20 million in state grant funding and $10 million from private donations and a capital campaign.

Ocon said the capital campaign has collected more than $8 million toward their goal. In February the San Mateo Redevelopment Agency approved a $3 million loan to the project to help it open on time. “We’ll continue to raise interest from donors for the new programs and activities in the new building,” said Dildar Gill Pisani, president of the library’s foundation.

The new library boasts an increase in titles to 325,000, up from 250,000, and a spike in the number of public computers from 10 to more than 100. Visitors are welcome to bring their laptops to make use of the wireless Internet network.

At the Genentech Foundation Biotech Learning Center, visitors can learn about the industry and even find out about job opportunities.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at the new library, 55 W. Third Ave. in San Mateo, on Sunday at noon.

library features

At the new $65 million library,

55 W. Third Ave. in San Mateo:

» Biotech, business and journalism resource centers

» Self-checkout and a $1.2 million automated book return system with curbside access

» Cafe, operated by local vendor Bean Street, and terrace

» Teen lounge, next to multi-media collection

» Storytime amphitheater in children’s library with child-sized restrooms

» Wireless Internet access

» Access to electricity and data ports in all seats

» Full-time business librarian and life science librarian

» Computer-training lab

» Group study areas and quiet reading rooms

» “Green” design, making it one of the most energy-efficient buildings on the West Coast

» 157 underground parking spaces

Source: San Mateo Public Library Foundation

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