In the News: Millions of dollars going toward transforming Santa Ana’s public libraries

August 10, 2023 OC Register

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The city of Santa Ana is investing more than $46 million in renovating its local libraries and adding new branches to reach more residents.

Santa Ana is home to two public libraries: the Main Library and the Newhope Library. Annually, both branches serve about 125,000 people. The hope, officials say, is that by modernizing and adding new library branches, that number will increase by 25%.

The biggest lift will be renovations and upgrades at the Main Library downtown. Over the next two years, the Main Library’s electrical and plumbing and HVAC systems will be repaired. Plus, the building’s marble exterior will be restored.

Originally built in 1960, the city plans to bring back much of the building’s original design and layout, but it will also add an interactive children’s learning area. The project is estimated to cost about $34 million, with most funding coming from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

The Newhope Library, located in the city’s westside, will also be getting an estimated $5.5 million facelift. The branch will get new reading areas, study spaces, a modernized outdoor patio, updated technology and a new innovation center that will provide STEM learning opportunities.

Completion of the Main Library renovations is expected in 2025, and the Newhope Library is expected to be completed by next summer.

For a city that is home to more than 300,000 residents, two libraries are too few, city leaders said. To address gaps in service, the city is investing $8.8 million to build two additional branches.

“One of the things that I set out to do when I came on board with the city was figure out ways that we could increase our presence throughout the entire community,” Brian Sternberg, Santa Ana’s library services director, said. “The last time the city did this kind of expansion I think would have been in the early- to mid-1970s. So, about 50 years since the city’s done this type of expansion with the libraries. And then over the years, it actually sort of dwindled a little bit or services had been reduced because of difficult economic recession.

“But now we’re really doubling down on our library services,” he said, “and putting a lot of resources into it.”

One facility will open inside the Delhi Center, which provides programs for health, education and financial stability. The new library will feature a glass storefront-like entrance, modern furniture and a “knowledge bar” where staff can assist residents. The $3.3 million project will also include the construction of an outdoor patio space for library programs, events and activities for people of all ages.

“The Delhi Center is on the southern part of town…so if you live all the way down there, the library services aren’t super close to where you live and there might be barriers to transportation for some of the kids and families,” Sternberg said. “Getting something down there in that southern part of the city is a really great opportunity to expand our library system.”

Jerome Park will also become home to a new, outdoor library. Like traditional libraries, residents will be able to rent books and movies, access wifi and explore outdoor learning areas. The space will feature a library kiosk that will be stocked with materials for library-card holders to choose from.

“The idea behind the Jerome Park project is to create everything that you would see in your local brick and mortar neighborhood library, but outside in the park,” Sternberg said. “You’ve got books that you can check out, you can attend a program, you can read a story with your child, you can get on the Internet. Everything that you can do inside, you’ll be able to do outside right there at Jerome Park.”

The Delhi Center and the Jerome Park libraries are expected to be completed next year.

“If you’re not at work or school, you could be at the library,” Sternberg said. “Especially in Santa Ana, we have people who live in very dense communities. A lot of people may not have a great spot to do homework at home. I really think our physical buildings and our infrastructure are so important here because the community really relies on the library as that third space.”

Additional funds will go toward adding a second bookmobile to take the library directly to residents.

Between July 2022 and June 2023, the city’s current bookmobile, also known as the Knowledge Mobile, made more than 340 site visits, 9,925 books were checked out and 728 new library cards were created.

The new vehicle will cost about $460,000 and have more room for library book collections, technology, and additional space to get folks onboard the vehicle.

Sternberg added that the Santa Ana Public Library is moving beyond being a place for books. The “Library of Things,” for example, allows people to rent almost anything from cake pan sets and kitchen scales to extension cords and karaoke machines. The library also hosts a number of interactive learning experiences, such as robots programs and technology workshops.

“The idea is really to engage kids and families and parents in active learning because that’s really what the library is about now,” Sternberg added. “And the renovation will allow us to do even more of that, especially with all of our newly renovated spaces.”


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