Read the financial lines

Three years ago, Barbara Steck looked out at her backyard and saw that a new library was coming to Costa Mesa.

The mini-billboard, posted on a 2.5-acre grassy knoll just west of the Costa Mesa Police Department on Fair Drive, proclaimed: “This is the home of the city’s new central library.”

“I thought to myself at the time, ‘Oh, that’s interesting! A new library! Wow! How can I get involved?’” said Steck, a 60-something who’s retired from commercial real estate management and an assortment of public relations jobs.

Well, one thing led to another, and these days Steck is vice president of the Costa Mesa Library Foundation.

But as of yet, she laments, no central library has been built.

“It’s been a slow process,” she said. “We still need to drum up support in the community and raise the funds. It’s no easy task building a library.”

If you’re one of the naysayers and don’t want to reach into your wallet and help pay for its construction, she said, you might first consider the statistics.

Costa Mesa, it turns out, has 16,400 square feet of library space, compared with other cities similar in size and who boast as much as 50,000 square feet in library space.

Costa Mesa has three libraries: the oldest, the Mesa Verde branch, built in 1965; the Donald Dungan branch on Park Avenue near the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center; and the Technical Library on Bristol Avenue and Paularino Street.

Steck hopes to change all that by bringing a fourth library, the largest yet — at 50,000 square feet.

It would be a place, Steck said, not only for tons of books but for community meetings and student forums.

It would be everything a library is these days in the age of wireless, the Internet and Google: “a sort of community center,” she said.

But first, she said, the community has to get involved and help raise money for the construction. Library-building grants aren’t as easy to come by as they once were, she said.

The recession took care of that, and state bond measures dedicated to such ambitions are hard to pass these days as well.

“We just need to prove that we need a new library,” Steck said. “We call ourselves ‘The City of the Arts’ but we really won’t be a full-service city until we have a new state-of-the-art library.”

So Steck is inviting everybody to a special community forum from 3 to 5 p.m. May 15, where Orange Coast College architectural students will present their conceptual designs for the new library.

The forum will be at the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Ave. For more information, call Steck at (714) 658-2879.

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