The refurbished Laguna Beach Library reopened Monday without fanfare — or a fence.
New carpeting, paint, lighting and climate control have freshened the library, which had been closed since mid-August for the $266,000 renovation.
“It is just beautiful,” said Martha Lydick, president of the Friends of the Laguna Beach Library, which contributed more than half of the funding for the project. “The lighting is clever and decorative — but you can see to read.”
As for the fence: It came and went within a couple of days, after residents and officials united in opposition at the Dec. 1 City Council meeting.
The fence was installed to keep vagrants from using the property for a bedroom and bathroom and to protect landscaping that was being trampled.
However, the library at Laguna Avenue and Glenneyre Street is county-owned and operated. It is not subject to the city’s construction or review processes, and the fence came as shock, drawing fire from every shade of the political and philosophical spectrum in town.
Vehement protests influenced library officials and 5th District Supervisor Pat Bates to have the fence removed.
Councilwoman Jane Egly announced at the council meeting Tuesday that Bates had issued a statement declaring that county staff in the future will provide all stakeholders with visuals before moving forward on projects that could have such an impact on existing neighborhoods and architecture.
The refurbishment begins at the front doors, which now open and close automatically. Other interior changes were designed to make the library more user-friendly.
“We moved the reference desk so that it is more visible and opens the flow of the entry,” said Jenny Gassett, senior branch librarian — what used to be called the branch manager.
A ceramic Tree of Donors, created by Beverly Mosier to honor major library supporters, has been re-hung on the entry wall.
“Holds,” books requested by patrons, have been moved to the outside of the check-out desk for more convenient access.
Eventually a self-checkout machine will be installed, Gassett said.
Twelve computers are available for public use.
Gassett oversees a staff of seven full-time employees, including Children’s Librarian Rebecca Porter.
The formerly dreary children’s wing was the trigger for the renovations, Lydick said.
It was dark and not well arranged — but that has all changed.
“It’s so much brighter,” said Nancy Joseph, a Friends of the Library bookstore volunteer.
The stacks — as library shelves are called — have been rearranged and some tall wall cases removed.
Art will be added to the bare walls, now adorned only by a whimsical Mosier sculpture that could not be removed and was covered to protect it during the renovations.
A cozy room at the back of the wing is Porter’s favorite spot in the library.
“It is very special to me,” Porter said. “That is where the little ones come to be read to, where a child gets introduced to books.”
The arch at the entry to the room symbolizes for Porter the commitment of the Friends to the library.
“They have made this happen because they love the library so much,” Porter said. “I like seeing people who want to give back to the community.”
On the other hand, an old couch in the wing symbolized everything that was wrong with the library. New furniture has been ordered, generously donated by the Mark Draper family.
New carpeting, paint and lighting also have brightened the Friends’ bookstore under the library, making it look larger and more inviting. Outlets have been installed in the back room where the always welcome donated books, tapes and CDs are processed and priced.
The donations are the major source of revenue for the Friends. Other sources are the dues and the annual dinner and auction of author-autographed books.
“Everyone should be a Friend of the Library” is Lydick’s mantra.
The Friends evolved from the Laguna Beach Library Building Assn., formed in 1955.
According to a “Short History of the Laguna Beach Library,” available at the branch, Laguna was first introduced to the notion of commercial book lending in 1919 when a Mrs. Bafford opened a small alley store at Cedar Way and Jasmine Street.
The following year some Laguna women conferred with County Librarian Margaret Livingstone about establishing a county public library in town.
A library board was formed in 1921 by representatives of leading civic groups and in 1925 the board bought a piece of property with a small building on Glenneyre Street, near the current site. They paid $2,500.
The present library was constructed in the early 1970s, including the Chamber of Commerce offices and the bookstore.
The bookstore’s winter hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
For more information about the bookstore or Friends membership or volunteering for the store, call (949) 497-7115.
Library hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.