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Santa Monica Residents Check Out New Pico Library

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By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

May 6, 2014 – The front façade is white with black dots, with the words “Pico Branch Library” written in green letters.  Green awnings line the sides of the building, giving shade for the patrons sitting on the stone benches outside.

It is a week after the opening of the 8,690 square-foot Pico Branch Library, the first new addition to the Santa Monica Public Library system in more than fifty years, and library patrons are using the new electronic book sorters located outside to drop off items. 

These book drops, says Pico branch library manager Cecilia Tovar, automatically arrange and sort the items by genre.

“The one thing about this library that is different from the others is that it is integrating technology,” Tovar tells the Lookout.  “The book sorter makes it easier for our library pages to shelve items, making sure we give our patrons the quick service they deserve.”

The library is “designed programmatically to enhance early literacy, lifelong learning, and to complement Park programs,” according to library officials.
When entering the main 7,872-square-foot facility, patrons are met with shelves of new books, CD’s, and a wall of DVD’s and audio books behind the front desk.

To the left side of the building is the children’s area, complete with eight computers not connected to the internet, books and a space for activities. 

To the right side are the adult and teen sections, with 12 internet-accessible computers, books, periodicals, newspapers, a copy room, study rooms and self checkout machines. 

Lamps and electrical outlets are built into desks, which, along with free wi-fi, provide a laptop-friendly environment.

The Annex, a separate, 818 square-foot community room, is connected to the library by a roofline trellis with solar panels.  The Annex provides space for numerous events and activities and will be available for public rental.

The space is a venue for story times, after-school activities, summer reading programs, book clubs for both Spanish and English speakers, film screenings, do-it-yourself activities, educational and informational and cultural programs.

“The Annex is really high tech,” Tovar says. “If you have a Bluetooth on your phone or other devices, it will let you connect to the projectors and screens inside.”

The $12.8 million library is stocked with a brand new collection of 25,000 materials for adults, teens and children, according to officials.

In addition to popular books, movies, music, audio books, magazines and newspapers, the collection includes materials in Spanish and large print books for the visually impaired.

“I think it’s a great resource,” says Tovar. “I’m really happy to have this new library here for the community.  I look forward to working with the community and providing for the needs of the neighborhood and Santa Monica.”

Located in the heart of the Virginia Avenue Park between the Thelma Terry Center and the Farmers Market zone, the library, is currently in a soft-open mode, with an official Grand Opening ceremony and festival scheduled for June 28 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In the week that the Pico Branch has been open, it has welcomed nearly 3,000 visitors, according to Rivas.

“The Community feedback has been positive,” Tovar says. “They are really happy that this neighborhood library has finally opened.”

The library is the result of more than 70 public outreach meetings and informational presentations.  Pico residents have long advocated for their own library branch, even though the existing Fairview Branch Library at 2101 Ocean Park Boulevard, which opened in 1956, is less that a mile from the Pico Neighborhood.

The need for a branch library in the Pico Neighborhood first came up in the 1983 Pico Neighborhood Community Plan, “which suggested combining existing private sector commercial activities with public uses to include a library and a post office,” according to city staff. (“Santa Monica to Move Ahead with Construction of Pico Library,” March 27, 2012)

“There’s a very different experience between the weekdays and Saturdays,” Tovar says.  “During the week, we get members of the local community, from the Pico area.  In Saturdays, we get people from the Farmer’s Market. 

“We see people from all across Santa Monica and outside Santa Monica, who come in and love the look and feel of the library.”

Santa Monica Public Library branch hours are noon to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 5:30 p.m. on Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday (closed Sunday).

The Pico Branch is wheelchair accessible. Big Blue Bus line 7 serves the Pico neighborhood; and bicycle parking racks are available.

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