Community center as new central library?

Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer on Tuesday called for converting the Neighborhood Community Center into a large central library.

If accomplished, the 24,000-square-foot downtown facility in Lions Park would be considerably larger than the other three library facilities in the city combined. The other branches — Donald Dungan, Mesa Verde and Technology Branch — total about 16,000 square feet.

They are run by the county, with help from the Costa Mesa Library Foundation and Friends of the Costa Mesa Libraries.

Righeimer, who made the suggestion during a City Council study session, said funding could come from grants or a mandatory fee levied on developers for new projects.

The council last looked at such a fee around 2008, though it was rejected.

If the center was to become the central library, Righeimer said, the Donald Dungan building could become a good meeting space.

He said he has been working on the idea with Councilwoman Wendy Leece, who was absent Tuesday.

Councilman Gary Monahan said that whatever happens, Costa Mesa needs to think about "the libraries of the future," with their focus on computers and other technological aspects and not just books.

Mary Ellen Goddard, who writes a library column for the Daily Pilot and volunteers with the library foundation and Friends of the Costa Mesa Libraries, on Wednesday said the foundation is planning to meet with city CEO Tom Hatch this week to discuss the proposal.

The idea to convert the community center into library space isn't new, and the foundation has suggested something similar before, she added.

Library boosters have proposed constructing a building that would connect the Neighborhood Community Center to the Donald Dungan.

Under this idea, Goddard said, the center could be an adult library with computer, study and meeting rooms. Donald Dungan, she said, could become a teen's and children's library, completely separated from the adult section.

That proposal isn't "as big as we originally wanted," Goddard said, "but it's a way to have a nice-sized library in Costa Mesa that we can actually do things with and we can be proud of."

Last year, the city scrapped plans for a two-story, 50,000-square-foot central library in Civic Center Park, across from City Hall. The idea fizzled out after about 10 years because of a lack of funding. Insufficient space for parking at the 2.52-acre site was also seen as a problem.

The Neighborhood Community Center contains a large lobby, multipurpose hall, stage, full-service kitchen and several meeting and conference rooms. Though it hosts some city meetings, it is also rented out.

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