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Woodside Library gets ready for the 21st century

Open house on Sunday

When the new Woodside Library opened the day after Christmas in 1968, the community was excited to get a brand new state-of-the-art facility that held far more books and people than the various temporary quarters the town's library had shuttled through since the first county branch opened in town in 1927.

Today, 46 years after Woodside finally got its own library, the town says it is time for an update. A long-anticipated project that will completely remodel the interior of the library building and add a modest amount of space is scheduled to start in June with the library to be closed for six to nine months during construction.

The Friends of the Woodside Library have invited library patrons to attend an open house at the library (3140 Woodside Road) on Sunday, Jan. 25, at 4 p.m. to see the plans for the library remodel and meet library employees.

Joyce Rosenstiel, a longtime member of the Friends of the Woodside Library board, says it's not just that the building needs upgrades, such as handicapped-accessible bathrooms and a more workable layout. It's that the whole concept of a library has changed since 1968.

"We built this library at a time when we had paper books on shelves," Ms. Rosenstiel says. "If you look around ... we now have CDs, we now have books on tape, we now have five computers that are almost always in use, we now have large print books, we now have an assortment of ways you can get information; in a building that was built with shelves for paper books."

The remodeled library is designed for all those current forms of getting information to patrons, but also for the other ways the library is now used. It will have an area for children, another for teens, a glass enclosed room for "quiet study" (that can also be used as a classroom), a "tech space" for computer use, and a dedicated space for the Friends of the Woodside Library to sell donated books and other materials.

Patrons who want to browse magazines, newspapers or use the library's wireless Internet will have comfy chairs with a view of the library's native plant garden.

More practically, the bathrooms will be rebuilt to be handicapped-accessible and the work area for the library staff will be renovated.

All the library's shelves and furniture will be movable, so areas can be easily reconfigured to host large or small gatherings.

"This building is not just a repository for books," Ms. Rosenstiel says, but a "vital part of the community."

The exterior of the building will remain much the same; although a porch area now in front of the library will be enclosed and become part of the interior. A storage area for books donated to the Friends of the Woodside Library will be built on the west side of the building and the book return will be moved to the front of the building.

The library is part of the county library system and run by the county; but the building and land are owned by the town of Woodside. The town is paying for the remodel with property-tax revenues reserved for library use.

Town Manager Kevin Bryant said the Town Council is scheduled to approve sending out bid proposals in February, and hopes to have a contractor hired and ready to begin construction by June.

Thomas Fortin, deputy director of the San Mateo County Library, says the library's architect, Group4, estimates the project will take six to nine months to complete. While the library is closed, the county will work with the town to try to find a place to continue the popular children's programs and for residents to pick up and drop off materials.

"I would expect that most people will use the Portola Valley Library," Mr. Fortin says. That library, at 765 Portola Road, is a less than 15-minute drive from the Woodside Library.

The new library will have "a more flexibly-designed space that can work for us in a number of ways," Mr. Fortin says. "It will kind of bring us to the 21st century."

Instead of being simply "a warehouse for materials," the library will focus on bringing patrons the latest in best-selling books and other media and new technology such as e-readers.

"This new space will allow us to do more," Mr. Fortin says. "We can offer programs in a way we haven't been able to do in the past." Woodside, he says, "is a community that really loves its library and now we want to show that we love the community by providing a really welcoming space."

Renovation cost

According to the town's 2014-15 budget report, the renovation project will cost about $2.2 million.

The town expects to have more than $3 million in its library fund by June, but wants to have in reserve -- after paying for the remodel -- at least three years of funding for maintaining the library, which costs about $150,000 a year.

Until the town gets back its bids for the construction project, however, it will not know for sure how much the library renovation will cost.

The library remodel was originally planned to take place in 2011, but budget problems postponed the project.

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