Library projects countywide are underway. Last year, newly refurbished libraries in La Selva Beach, Live Oak and Boulder Creek opened, and work continues at many other branches.
More than six years after Santa Cruz County voters approved Measure S, the Library Improvement Bond Measure, we are beginning to see the $67 million approved for revamping Santa Cruz Public Libraries (SCPL) at work.
Aptos Public Library is one of the most significant projects underway. Last year, the branch was shuttered, emptied and bulldozed to make room for an entirely new structure. Construction has moved forward quickly, with the walls and roof completed before winter.
“We wanted to be sure the roof was on before the rain started,” SCPL Director Yolande Wilburn says. “That has allowed work to continue inside, even in the bad weather.”
Aptos is the second most utilized library in the SCPL system, but its size and dated design couldn’t accommodate the heavy foot traffic. This led planners to expand the new library’s footprint by roughly 50%.
“That’s huge,” says Damon Adlao, a project manager for the County of Santa Cruz. “Also, the new layout is a lot more open, which makes it flexible going into the future. We’re trying to build a building that will last 100 years. In theory, this will allow it to adapt to all future changes.”
The Aptos Library is a “design-build” contract, which means the county selected a team, worked together on the structure’s architecture, and walked the project through all the development phases, including permit planning. Adlao says the approach is unique for the county. He adds that it’s been essential to ensure that everything is up to code, including HVAC, seismic and energy efficiency.
“SCPL has been fantastic to work with,” Adlao says. “We’re really appreciative of how they’ve been able to pick up on our process.”
The process has included talking with the community to find out what they want.
“Part of the effort was to get as much input from the community and library staff as possible,” Adlao explains. “Then you combine [the community input] with your budget. It’s a back and forth, trying to give everyone what they want.”
Along with an updated children’s room, a teen room and an adult reading room, three outdoor patio spaces will feature gardens and local artwork. Additionally, the Aptos History Museum will incorporate some of its collection into the space.
The design will reflect the natural beauty of Aptos, from the redwood forest to the seashore. Large windows allow natural lighting and offer views of the surrounding landscape. Wilburn says there will be an ocean view from the adult reading room.
Lead contractor Bogard Construction, Adlao and Wilburn, say they are on track to open by the end of summer 2023.
“We’re in talks with the contractor about us getting access to the building in early summer,” Wilburn says. “That still requires 6-8 weeks for us to get in, get books back on the shelves and computers set up.”
Meanwhile, SCPL aims to open its newly renovated Branciforte Library in March 2023 and its Live Oak Annex at the Simpkins Swim Center sometime in the summer.
“We’re thrilled,” Wilburn says. “The facility we’re in right now has reached the end of its life, so we’re very happy we can move forward with that vital project.”
In addition to Measure S funding, nonprofit partner Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries helped SCPL reach a $1 million fundraising goal in early 2022 through its “Realizing the Promise” campaign. Other local nonprofits and organizations have also stepped in to help with the libraries—Live Like Coco donated to the children’s garden in Aptos.