The books are as new as the shelves and walls at the Corona del Mar library, but the programs and the regulars — even the littlest ones — are the same.
The Newport Beach branch library at 410 Marigold Ave. fully reopened Monday after 14 months of construction on the site of its predecessor. The shelves are restocked with fresh-off-the-presses tomes courtesy of local beneficiaries; the colorful carpet is vibrant and the furniture nearly unused.
On Tuesday morning, the smooth spines of those sharp-cornered, glossy books were cracked for the first time during Books & Babies Storytime, a popular introduction to literacy for infants and toddlers.
Branch Librarian Annika Helmuth posted up by neat rows of picture books — some penned by Dr. Seuss, others starring Pete the Cat or the Berenstain Bears — to read to about a dozen children and their caretakers, interspersing books with nursery rhymes, games of peekaboo and a parachute tent.
Bonnie Tam brought her 8-month-old daughter Eleanor Puswella from Irvine. Eleanor was born during construction, but Tam’s 4-year-old, now in preschool, regularly attended story time at the old CdM branch.
“We really liked it because it was like a little house,” she said.
Nanny Heidy Rodriguez walked Kaylie Kaberna, 2, over from the girl’s nearby home. Rodriguez has cared for the toddler since she was 6 months old, and the two have always enjoyed story time, at the CdM library or elsewhere. They walked to the city’s Central Library on Avocado Avenue while the CdM branch was being rebuilt.
Kaylie was clearly comfortable with books, handling them gently, following attentively with her eyes and asking for “good-night baby,” as she gets a story before nap time.
“She’ll go to the park, but she’d rather be at the library,” Rodriguez said.
Newport Beach celebrated the near-completion of the library and the adjoining fire station in July but some interior construction — like a workroom off the main floor — were not yet finished, Helmuth said.
The full facility cost $6.8 million and covers 10,300 square feet. About 3,800 of that is the library.
The previous library, a venerable but dated building, closed along with the similarly aged Fire Station No. 5 at Marigold Avenue and East Coast Highway in March 2018. They were demolished so the city could build a new combination library and fire station.
The former 2,000-square-foot library was nearly 60 years old and had limited air conditioning and restroom facilities. The deck had termites and the carpet and furnishings were worn. The fire station was no longer up to code.
Now, the new branch is bright and airy, central-air-cooled and kid-friendly, featuring a large fenced patio with ample room for reading in the sun and parking strollers. Modern insulating building materials soften the noise from the fire station.
Other family-friendly touches include expanded restrooms with baby-changing tables and a water fountain with a bottle-filling spout.
Aside from the centerpiece children’s corner, most of the materials are what librarians would call “popular,” such as magazines, movies on Blu-ray and newly released fiction. Classic literature and specialized topics are abundant at the Central Library, about a mile away.
“Space is at a premium here, [so] we like to fill it with things that will check out,” said Helmuth, who grew up in Corona del Mar and visited the Marigold library branch long before she started working for the city six years ago.
The CdM branch knows its neighborhood audience, and that includes young readers and pre-readers. The location hosts Books & Babies on Tuesdays, Preschool Storytime on Wednesdays, and drop-in crafts on the first and third Mondays of the month. The children’s section is toward the rear, and study tables for adults and older youth are in the sun puddle of the front picture windows facing Marigold.
Helmuth said she expects the library to recapture its users.
“We had a couple waiting for us at 8:50 in the morning” Monday, eager to be the first to walk in, she said.