Walking into Salinas’ new El Gabilan Library, visitors are welcomed by warm rays of light that penetrate the floor-to-ceiling glass wall.
The $20 million library is filled with rooms that came from the requests of Salinas children, teenagers and parents through community forums hosted by the Salinas Public Libraries.
“You can understand the desire of the community to have that safe space where they can go and gather together,” said Mila Rianto, deputy librarian for the Salinas Public Library. “That’s what we’re trying to provide by having all of the new features that we don’t have in our other libraries, like the multiple study rooms and the community room.”
What was once home of a 3,500 square-foot brick library just south of Navajo Drive and North Main Street, next to the all U.S. Credit Union, is now a curved two-story 20,800 square-foot library.
The old El Gabilan Library, which opened in 1967, closed in July 2018.
Construction of the new library began in September 2018. On Saturday Feb. 22, El Gabilan Library will have its grand opening with various performances and activities noon to 4 p.m.
This new two-story library offers a digital studio, multiple study rooms, a community room, amphitheater, learning deck and a maker space where youth can learn different skills such as woodworking, graphing arts, modeling and how to use 3-D printers.
“I’m very excited because I’ve been here since the very beginning of the community outreach process,” said Rianto. “Everything that we have here has come from all the outreach and surveys that we did with the community before we did the design process.”
The feedback and outreach activities helped draft many of library features, said Ernesto Lizaola, community education manager for the Salinas Public Libraries.
Community input for the library involved online and paper surveys as well as three focus groups, including one with North Salinas High School students. In addition, there were four community meetings, and outreach pop-ups with library staff and architects at Kammann Elementary School, Harden Middle School, North Salinas High School, Target, the farmers market at the Salinas Sports Complex and all library sites.
“We had a focus group based with some of our regulars users of the building because we wanted to see what their experiences have been and what they hope for this place to become,” said Lizaola. “…We really want to hear the voice of those that aren’t coming yet and why they’re not coming yet.”
The Salinas Public Libraries plans to reach out to different partners around the community to teach skills such as wood craftsmanship, tutorials on 3-D printing, graphic arts and modeling.
“Our programming model is to bring the community in, to lead and facilitate,” said Mary Ellison, marketing and development coordinator for the Salinas Public Libraries.
The project totaled just over $20 million, said Ellison.
In May 2018, Salinas City Council approved a funding plan for lease revenue bonds to build the library. The city will be making payment installments through 2049. The Salinas Public Library also raised $540,000 from local and regional foundations, and personal donations.
The library will also have items for all ages available in a variety of languages and formats such as books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs, music CDs, books on CD, and more.
Other future services for El Gabilan Library include:
- free WiFi
- public use of computers with internet access and printing capabilities
- literacy resources and programs, including Read Grow Play playgroup
- Homebound Services Program to provide library services for city of Salinas residence with limited mobility
“It’s just a larger space overall where we can incorporate new technology in the library,” said Rianto. “Hopefully this represents what the community needs and they’ll be able to come in here and actually use it and gain something that could hopefully better their lives or make their lives more entertaining.”
The library will also equip children with early literacy computer stations, children story time and programs.
“Part of the goal of the library and the city is to serve our residents with what they need and have their voice not only heard but be the driving force (for change),” said Lizaloa. “This is a community driven project.”
The El Gabilan Library’s grand opening will be Feb. 22 and is scheduled to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony, library tours, performances, activities, and an opportunity to receive a commemorative library card.
The other two public libraries in Salinas, the John Steinbeck and Cesar Chavez libraries, will be closed for the day. They will resume regular service on at 1 p.m Sunday, Feb. 23.
For more information, call Deputy Librarian Mila Rianto at (831) 758-7447.
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