Doors of the spacious Newport Beach Central Library had barely opened Sunday when fifth-grader Sasha Stanley settled into the corner of the Story Time reading room with a stack of books.
Under the star-filled dome of the room, the Newport Beach girl found a peaceful spot to pursue one of her favorite past-times.
"I love it," Sasha said of the new library. "I just like to spend hours reading."
Sasha, who planned to check out two books from the popular "Sweet Valley High" series, wasn't the only one thrilled with the new library.
An estimated 3,000 people turned out Sunday for the grand opening of the 54,000-square-foot Central Library.
A rainbow-colored arch of balloons, a red carpet and sounds from the El Toro Marine Corps Wing Band set the scene for the dedication that included remarks from state Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach); Jean Kiger, chair of the library Board of Trustees; City Manager Kevin J. Murphy; Mayor Clarence J. Turner, and Carol A. Hoffman, an executive with the Irvine Co., which donated the four-acre site for the library.
At a time when many libraries countywide have reduced hours and are contemplating closing because of budget constraints, officials celebrated the public-private partnership that created the $8.2-million library.
The celebration culminated about seven years of planning and fund-raising in the city, which boasts the second most used library system, per capita, in the state.
"It really is an impossible dream come true," City Librarian LaDonna T. Kienitz said.
Construction for the city-owned library, officials said, was made possible by a partnership between the city and the nonprofit Newport Beach Public Library Foundation, which raised nearly $2 million toward the total from individuals, families, corporations, businesses and community groups.
Elizabeth Stahr, who along with her husband, John, started the foundation five years ago, watched happily as visitors streamed into the ocean-view building, designed by architects Simon Martin-Vegue Winklestein Morris of San Francisco in association with James L. Pirdy of Newport Beach.
"It's wonderful to see all the people come out and support it," she said.
Indeed, visitors wasted no time putting the library to use, including Mayor Turner and Kiger, who checked out the first books, "America's Outdoor Wonders" and "Where the Red Fern Grows," respectively.
Opening festivities started Saturday night when a crowd of 650 supporters in gowns and tuxedos celebrated the opening with a champagne tour that raised about $300,000 to support programs and services at the new library.
"The support from the community has been overwhelming," event Chairwoman Barbara Glabman said. "The people of Newport Beach believe in their library and support what they believe in."
Many special events are planned in the coming week to mark the opening of the library, at 1000 Avocado Ave. near Pacific Coast Highway and MacArthur Boulevard in Newport Beach. The city also has three other branch libraries.
Designed for a 300,000-piece collection, the Central Library houses current fiction and nonfiction books, paperbacks, large print books, books on cassette, magazines and sound and video recordings. There is also a meeting room, bookstore, children's room, information desk, a business area, reading and study rooms, a local history section and an "electronic village," providing access to computerized publications and resources.