The Coast News Group
Patrons use the Cole Library not only for books, but also as a community center to do work on personal laptops and to listen to music and audiobooks. On average, 2,500 people visit Carlsbad's libraries daily, according to Pizzuto. Photo by Rachel Stine
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Carlsbad considers multi-million dollar library upgrades

CARLSBAD — The city is considering expanding the scope of proposed upgrades to the Cole and Dove Libraries, which could more than double the project’s original estimated costs.

Major repairs and upgrades to the libraries were initially prepared as part of the 2013-14 Capital Improvement Plan budget, which was finalized and approved last summer. But city staff has since identified higher costs for those projects as well as more facility improvements that were not considered last year.

By enhancing both libraries, the city aims to prepare both facilities to meet the changing demands of the community for years to come.

“What the community needs in five years (from a library) is no longer something we can anticipate exactly. Part of that is the speed of how technology changes,” explained Library and Cultural Arts Director Heather Pizzuto.

She said that even two years ago, city staff could not have anticipated that the library would have tablets available for public use.

“(The library is) not just about books anymore,” said Councilmember Lorraine Wood during a presentation on the proposed projects at the April 15 council meeting.

So to prepare for “libraries for the future,” the city is striving to create library spaces and utilities that will be able to provide any range of resources and services.

The goal is to create “libraries that are flexible and able to change with the continuingly evolving needs and interests of the communities,” Pizzuto said.

City staff incorporated feedback from hundreds of citizens about the libraries from the most recent city survey into their proposals.

Projects that were originally brought forth and approved last year include upgraded Wi-Fi, updated public technology, more electrical outlets, and new staff work areas for both libraries.

Though many proposed projects simply reflect needed infrastructure repairs for the aging buildings.

Located on Carlsbad Village Drive adjacent to City Hall, the Cole Library was first built in 1967 and most recently renovated in 2000.

Dove Library, the city’s main library off of Dove Lane, was built in 1999.

The recommended projects at both locations included replacing 15-year-old carpets and flooring, reconfiguring book stacks, meeting rooms with removable walls, painting, and more.

For the Cole Library, replacing the original 1967 elevator, constructing a new roof, and removing the city’s only history room away from the HVAC and boiler were also approved.

City staff originally estimated that the cost for these projects would total just over $5 million.

But now less than a year later, staff says that the actual costs of these projects will total more than $7.5 million.

The changes to the approved projects budget are the result of the city needing to adhere to new prevailing wage requirements, state-required energy efficiency standards, project contingencies, temporary relocation costs, escalation, and soft costs, according to city staff.

Mayor Pro Tem Mark Packard said at Tuesday’s meeting: “I was distressed to see how much we missed the mark on our improvement estimates.”

He emphasized that as these projects move forward, he wants to see more detailed cost estimates.

In addition to presenting the new costs to city council, staff also brought forward more library improvement projects for consideration.

For the Dove Library, the new proposals included removing one of the main staircases in the lobby to allow for more open space, replacing the roof, replacing the exterior stucco, and creating a patio in back.

Several improvements for the Schulman auditorium at the Dove Library were also suggested. Because of the way the stage and seating were originally built, some audience members sitting in certain seats cannot see people on stage. The auditorium also lacks a green room for performers to change into costumes.

Replacing the fire suppression system at the Cole Library was suggested as well.

Staff emphasized that they are only looking to complete essential upgrades to the Cole Library, which they hope to have replaced in about 10 years.

The costs of these suggested new projects add up to another $5 million.

Because staff presented a number of new multi-million infrastructure improvement projects for the first time on Tuesday, city council provided feedback rather than making a final decision on the projects.

Staff will come before council at a yet-to-be-determined meeting with a narrower scope of new projects and supporting information about how the city could pay for them.

Mayor Matt Hall requested that the staff research what kind of community services and potential revenue the city would receive in return for its investment in the proposed library projects.

“If we are going to spend $7 million, $10 million, whatever that number is, are we looking at the right type of technology, the right type of business?” he asked.

“If we are going to invest, we want to invest in the future. What does the library 10 years from now look like?”