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Worth checking out Chris Zapata | Sat, Sep 03 2011 12:00 PM

National City's award-winning library is our community center and is the finest library in the entire South Bay.

The Library is a place where young, old and in-between gather to enjoy a multitude of offerings put on by our city library department.

The $19 million dollar facility is more than a shining building - it is a testament to hard work and partnerships. It is a place where learning is advanced, technology is embraced and community spirit is felt. But this gleaming facility was once just a dream.

Former City Library Director Anne Campbell worked tirelessly with different city councils and boards of trustees to realize the vision of a place where residents, students and visitors could come to learn in a first class environment.

Once a vision is agreed to it then takes money, and in the case of the National City Library, quite a bit of money. To make this dream reality, it took true community participation in the form of local support. The people of National City agreed to borrow $6 million through a community bond issue.

They also aggressively made their case to state leaders to leverage this money with an additional $11 million library construction grant (Public Library Construction and Renovation Bond) from the State of California.

To add icing on the cake, the city council and private donors raised an additional $2 million rs to bring the total project budget to approximately $19 million. Once the funding was in place and thecity council and board of trustees could agree on the location and design of the new library, planning began in earnest.

National City's old library became a new question in terms of what to do with the building and property. This was solved by renting the space to create revenue and by partnering with the San Diego Repertory Theatre.

The old History Room was renovated and converted to create a visual and interactive history of National City from trains of yesterday to today's history makers. But back to the new Library.

With money in hand to build a first rate facility, the construction process began. The old library is 27,000 square feet and National City had outgrown the aging facility. The new library is almost double the size at 49,508 square feet. The old library was a standard design with no vistas to beautiful Kimball Park. The new Library is a gleaming piece of art - a functional design that allows light and great vistas to Kimball Park. The old library had a traditional floor plan that did not stimulate interaction. The new library's open floor plan is inviting, stunning in its layout and stimulates interaction. With all of this, as well as energy efficiency way beyond the old facility, the new library is an investment in National City and our downtown core.

National City's library today has over 300,000 visitors a year that check out books, read magazines or utilize one of the 109 computer stations to research or complete homework. The computer lab named after Anne Campbell is truly the busiest place in the building. The digital divide in National City is being bridged by City investment in the library as well as our recreation centers.

Computer usage runs around 14,000 visitors per month which is augmented by WiFi in the building allowing laptop usage as well.

The library has always been a fun place for children and adults. Besides reading, there are movies, audiobooks and magazines. There are special children's programs and areas that encourage active young minds. Countless volunteers enrich the experience of going to the Library by donating over 3,000 hours a year to support staff and users, not to mention the Friends of the Library who contribute over 2,000 hours running the bookstore with benefits of their book sales going back to a fund for library programs.

Located at 1401 National City Blvd. and open six days a week - the library complements the state-of-the-art fire station on the same block as well as the award winning Education Village two blocks north. These great investments in our basic infrastructure are part of the City Council's strategic plan to continue building our community and continue making National City a great urban suburb.

Zapata is the National City City Manager.

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