Saying midtown H.P. Wright Library is just too small, City Manager Donna Landeros is focusing on E.P. Foster in the downtown to become Ventura’s main library until a permanent one is built.
“We are focusing our attention on Foster and looking at what needs to be done to clear out the second floor and make it usable,” Landeros wrote in a memo Thursday to the City Council.
Landeros confirmed Monday that Foster is the most logical choice as an interim central library although Wright, near Ventura College, is more widely used.
“We are leaning in that direction,” she said. “If Wright were much larger, it would be an easy decision to make. But it is way too small.”
She wants to make a final recommendation to the council in June as part of the 1997-98 budget.
A city consultant recommended in January that Ventura consolidate its three libraries, including a small branch in the Avenue area, into one central facility that could offer longer hours and better service.
The $55,000 study by San Francisco library consultant Beverley Simmons recommended setting up the temporary library until a $16-million, 80,000-square-foot facility is constructed, which will take at least five years.
Simmons did not recommend a specific site for the temporary main library.
But in her report, Landeros dismisses the 12,000-square-foot Wright Library as too small for a central library.
Its space could be expanded, Landeros wrote, with portable buildings. But those would be expensive--costing about $400,000--and only add about 4,800 square feet.
Staff members also investigated leasing space for a temporary library, but Landeros downplayed that option.
“Even if we could find it,” Landeros said Monday, “it would still be very expensive.”
That leaves Foster Library as the main facility. And the city staff is exploring how to keep Wright open as well, as a community center for children and senior citizens, she said.
Foster could provide 33,000 square feet for an interim facility if both its first and second floors were used. The second floor is now closed to the public.
That figure does not include the 1917 brick library building behind Foster, which may be available if it is structurally sound.
The condition of part of the Foster building needs improvement.
“It is pathetic,” said Landeros, after she walked through the building’s second floor last week in a tour for staff members.
Books were stacked on the floor in boxes and on old bookshelves. Canvas bags full of donated books were piled in one corner. Folders of old pictures, pieces of junked computers, and outdated magazines that have never been put on microfiche overflowed storage rooms.
Ventura’s libraries are part of a countywide system, and is not now run by the city. The consultant recommended that the city take over.
“The deterioration goes back a number of years,” Landeros said. “Money has not been spent on maintaining or taking care of the system. It did not happen overnight. It is going to take a lot to turn it around.”
Nonetheless, Landeros said that Foster appears to be the city’s best bet for a main library.
And some local library supporters agree.
“I think economically, it makes sense to close one library,” said Cherie Brant, a member of Save Our Libraries. “Emotionally, and as far as citizens’ needs, it may not make sense. There are lots of children and seniors who now use Wright Library, and since a lot of people live in the east, that is really the center of Ventura now.”
George Berg, also of Save Our Libraries, agreed.
“Wright is a lot smaller than Foster,” Berg said. “You really can’t make it into a full-sized library. If it is a consolidation in preparation for a new library, it’s hard to argue against that. [But] I think people on the east side are . . . reluctant to go downtown.”
Landeros emphasized that making Foster the temporary central library facility would not necessarily result in closing Wright Library.
“We are trying to keep Wright open as a community asset,” Landeros said. “There are a lot of kids and seniors who come up there to use it.”
She said the city might make Wright a community center open as a homework and computer center for children, and for senior activities.