The Pleasanton Friends of the Library played host to the 25th anniversary celebration of the present library building Friday night with a silver anniversary event that was also a fundraiser to purchase more books for the children's library area.
The event at $65 per person was sold out, promising not only a library-packed festivity but also generous receipts for the new books.
What was missing, of course, was any promise to expand or rebuild the over-crowded library. Although the Library board of directors and others have long appealed for a new library, and the project has been on the City Council's priority list for years, no money has yet been budgeted even to plan to expand or rebuild the library.
Construction on the $6 million building began in 1987 and the 30,000 square foot building opened to the public in November 1988. Over the past 25 years, the library collection and patronage has grown tremendously. More than 120,000 items are typically checked out of the library each month and the library attracts more than 2,000 patron visits daily.
Additionally, the library has more than 85,000 children's books and other materials for children, which are checked out more than 660,000 times per year.
The Pleasanton library actually dates back to 1908 when the city's newly-formed Women's Improvement Club raised $1,100 at an "Old Maid's Convention" and other fundraisers to purchase a site to house the Reading Room. It opened to the public a year later with books donated by the public and a librarian was hired for $10 a month. Honored guests for the formal opening were Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst and her guest, the Consul of Persia.
After Pleasanton's first city hall (now the Museum on Main) was built in 1915, the city leased a portion of it to the club for $1 a year to house the library and reading room.
In 1964, the library became a full member of the Alameda County library system and, in 1973, the need for growth led to a new 6,900-square-foot building for the library on Black Avenue. In 1987, the city recognized the need for an even larger library and began construction on the current 30,000-square-foot facility, which opened in 1988.
In 1999, in response to significant funding losses to the Alameda County Library system generated by California's "Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund", the city of Pleasanton withdrew from the system to become a municipal library. Since that time, use of the library has more than doubled, with more than 1,100,000 items checked out in calendar year 2005.
Adding to the crowds that now gather at the library daily are some of the tens of thousands of out-of-town residents who come to jobs in Pleasanton at Hacienda Business Park, Oracle, Safeway, Clorox, Kaiser and Stoneridge Shopping Center and other major employers.
Proposals to increase library space have ranged from opening branch libraries in other parts of the city to expanding the current facility into the adjoining parking lot to rebuilding it on the site of the old post office on Main Street.
In fact, a joint city council-library commission in 2009 favored that recommendation by the library commission to move the library from its current location at 400 Old Bernal Ave. to a new 73,000-square-foot public library building that would be built on city-owned property at the south end of Main Street. That would more than double the floor space of the library, which has 30,178 square feet of space.
At the time, then Mayor Jennifer Hosterman favored the idea.
"I like the idea of making the library part of the grand entrance to our downtown, with an opportunity for people to grab a book and walk downtown for coffee," she said.
That plan also called for relocating city administrative offices now located 400 Old Bernal Ave. and at 123 and 157 Main St. into the existing library building, which was not constructed to allow a second floor.
Also considered has been the possibility of building a new library on a 3.3-acre site owned by the city of San Francisco across Old Bernal Avenue from the current library. At one time, Pleasanton thought it could buy the site for $500,000. San Francisco now is asking $3.5 million for the property. That price tag is considered unreasonable for the city to consider buying it nor has any developer indicated an interest in acquiring the property despite its proximity to the ACE train station.
Another proposal has been to build a new library on vacant land on the Bernal Park property and to combine it with a proposal for a community center or a Civic Arts Center, both which are also on the council's priority list of eventual projects to consider.
There are also opponents to spending limited city funds to expand or rebuild the library, arguing that CDs, the Internet, smart phones, iPads, Kindles and other popular tablets are gradually replacing books as we know them today. In fact, CDs are among the most checked-out materials in the library and computers there are in constant use, even in the children's sections.
So for now, it will be up to the Friends of the Library and the many organizations in Pleasanton that support the library and its many programs to continue fundraisers such as the one Friday night to keep the library Pleasanton has robust, inviting and well stocked with books, magazines, CDs and children's reading programs and materials.