Santa Ana Library closed for $34 million in upgrades

Santa Ana Main Library will reopen to the public in spring 2026.
(File Photo)
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In the first step of a major overhaul of Santa Ana’s public library system, the city’s Main Library closed to the public on Thursday as renovation and restoration projects get underway.

The marble-veneered building first opened in May 1960 after voters passed a bond to help cover $805,000 in construction costs.

Federal pandemic relief funds will cover much of the $34 million in planned upgrades this time around.


“My goal is to make the Santa Ana Public Library a county hub for library services like it was before,” said Brian Sternberg, the city’s library services director. “We want it to be recognized as the gold standard in providing library and community services to everyone, especially the residents here.”

By the time the main library reopens in spring 2026, the renovations will have transformed it into a “modern, dynamic space,” according to city officials.

Construction accounts for $22.7 million of the project’s costs. Grant funding and the city’s Measure X sales tax revenue are also being allocated for the renovations and restorations.

Sternberg deemed the 64-year-old library’s mechanical, plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems “antiquated.”

Beyond the upgrades buried in the walls, slated improvements also include a new interactive children’s learning area and a second-floor maker lab to help foster creativity and innovation with up-to-date equipment.

“The focal point of this project is our children’s area,” Sternberg said.

Originally designed by architects Harold Gimeno and Francis Keally, part of the library’s upgrades will also include restoration projects.

The Italian marble façade that front-faces West Civic Center Drive and gives the library its iconic look is set to be fully restored.

Approvals for the project went through in a tight 4-3 vote of the City Council in January. The total cost of the lecture hall, $23.4 million, will be split between the city and the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation.

Feb. 28, 2024

Rounding out other changes to come, amphitheater-style seating for library programming is slated for a reimagined east patio. The Santa Ana history room, a well-traveled repository for researchers, will be expanded with enhanced services on the second floor.

In an effort to modernize, a STEM lab is slated as part of the renovations instead of an old-fashioned newspaper reading room.

“When it reopens, this library is going to be ready to serve the community for another hundred years,” Sternberg said. “It will be of service to generations of people who aren’t even born yet. We’re really excited for that.”

In the meantime, Santa Ana is adding eight hours of extended services per week at the Newhope branch library, which will become the city’s de facto main branch, starting Monday.

Community centers across the city will also host library services and programs in the interim.

In addition to upgrades to the main library, the city is anticipating new library projects before its completion.

City officials hope to open a new branch location within the Delhi Community Center by early 2025. Later that same year, Jerome Park will host an innovative outdoor library with nearly 400 self-serve books and movies.

Newhope Library’s doors will remain open until $6.8 million in upgrades get underway this winter with an expected completion date by next summer.

A new-and-improved bookmobile ready to hit the streets rounds out the ambitious library overhaul to come.

“Santa Ana is a city of over 300,000 people,” Sternberg said. “This community deserves the same type of high-quality library services enjoyed by other cities in Orange County.”