Just a quick car ride or bus trip over the Coronado Bridge will bring you to the breathtaking new San Diego Central Library. It’s iconic silver dome is quickly becoming a notable landmark in the San Diego Skyline. Luckily for Coronado residents, one of the best places to view the building from afar is from the lofty reaches of the bridge. October 28th marks the one month anniversary of the grand opening of the nine story, 497,652 square foot building in the East Village of downtown San Diego, near Petco Park. The new Central Library has been 30 years in the making and is being hailed as a “library of the future” by Public Library staff.
A diagram detailing the layout and features of the new Central Library facility.
I was lucky enough to take a tour of the new facility guided by a library volunteer this past week. The tour showcases the stunning architecture and wide variety of services and programs available at the new Central Library, as well other interesting tidbits and fun facts about the space and dedicated employees. It was a wonderful experience that I highly recommend. The hour-long tours are free and offered multiple times a day. To reserve a spot for an upcoming tour, please click here.
The library features a stark, modern design with industrial elements including open ductwork, steel beams and soaring concrete archways. The mastermind behind the building’s design is architect Rob Wellington Quigley, a San Diego native who specializes is green design and sustainable architecture. He was selected in the mid 1990s from an international pool of applicants to head the project. Currently, Quigley is never far from his masterpiece and can visit the library as often as he likes since he moved into a property right next door.
The new Central Library houses an impressive collection of over 1.2 million books spread over nine stories of space. Of those, 71,965 volumes are children’s books housed in the 9,141 square foot Children’s Library, located on the building’s ground floor. The space is decorated with cheerful Dr. Seuss designs and features special child-size computers, reading areas, and restrooms for patrons under 12 years of age. Also featured on the ground floor are New Books, Reserved Books, CDs and Books on Tape, as well as the “I Can!” Center for disability services. In total, the new library has 400 computers available for public use, as well as free wi-fi and numerous plugs and usb ports to accommodate those who wish to bring their personal laptops.
An aerial view of the Garden Courtyard taken from a platform called "Pelican's Perch" on the library's 9th floor.
Outside the spacious and airy lobby sits the Garden Courtyard, complete with cafe (which will open by the end of the year) and a 350-seat auditorium with floor to ceiling glass doors opening to the outdoors. Another fun area to browse is the Library Shop, located just off the main entrance and courtyard, which sells literary themed gifts and San Diego Public Library branded items. I found many great items for sale including a set of four glasses with the Coronado Bridge gracing the side, library tote bags, local cookbooks, and adorable children’s gifts. With the holidays approaching, I can’t wait to return and buy unique items for family and friends with a San Diego flair. All proceeds from the shop benefit the San Diego Public Library.
Since the new library is situated in bustling downtown San Diego, the addition of a two-story underground parking garage is a nice perk, especially at the moment with all-day free parking available for library patrons and anyone else who wishes to drive in. As soon as a company is chosen to run the garage and staff the gates, the policy will allow for 1-2 hours of free parking for library visitors with validation and a fee for everyone else. The parking garage is secure, easy to access and connected to the library above by elevator. Other convenient transportation options to and from the library include city bus and trolley, which will both drop you off only steps away from the grand entrance.
The second and third floors of the library can be easily reached by escalators beneath the Gateway Arch in the main lobby. For access to floors above the 3rd level visitors can either ride one of three elevators or take the stairs. The second level houses the Teen Library, Homework Center, Health and Wellness Information Center, Business, Science and Industry Collection, and Social Science Collection. The Teen Center is beach themed and full of natural light, with private study areas, comfortable bean bags for lounging, a snack area, and even a room just for playing video games on two giant flat screen TVs. The area is geared specifically for children 12 to 18 years old and was bustling with activity when I visited. It was heartwarming to see the book-filled space being used and loved, providing a safe place for San Diego’s youth to gather after school.
The entrance to the beach themed Teen Center on the 2nd floor of the library.
The third floor is home to all the government documents, Patent and Trademark Resource Center and newspapers and periodicals. The fourth floor houses the Literature Collection, Computer Lab, Technology Training Center and Multimedia TV Studio. On the fifth floor, guests can visit the Career Center, browse the History collection, and relax in the Rock Garden and Reading Area. The sixth and seventh floors are home to the e3 Civic High School, which is the first high school to be integrated into a central library in a major metropolitan city. These two floors are accessed by private elevators and are only available to students and staff. The eighth floor has the Art, Music and Recreation Collection, the Innovation and Digital Expression Activity Lab (IDEA Lab) complete with 3D printer, READ/San Diego adult literacy services and the Sullivan Family Baseball Research Center, which is home to the second largest baseball research center outside of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
The main attraction on the library’s eighth floor is the Price Reading Room, fondly called the “People’s Penthouse”. This beautiful 3-story open space has floor to ceiling windows with awe inspiring views of the Coronado Bridge, San Diego Skyline and bustling waterfront. Beneath the grand silver dome, visitors can read or study at large, communal tables or relax in one of the many reclaimed furniture pieces found in urban San Diego neighborhoods. These 25 pieces, all painted bright blue, were rescued from curbs and alleyways and rehabilitated by artist Roy McMakin.
Up a stark, concrete double staircase from the reading room, patrons are led to the last and final floor of the new library complex. The ninth floor is centered around the Qualcomm Dome Terrace, an outdoor patio with stunning views and lots of tables and chairs for socializing and reading. Also on this level is the Rare Book Room, the California Room, sculpture garden, a 3,000 square foot art gallery and a special events suite that can accommodate 500 people (500 standing, 216 dining) and is available to rent for weddings and other special events. This area includes a fully equipped catering kitchen and two terraces with sweeping views of Petco Park, San Diego Bay, and the Coronado Bridge.
“If you are a lover of books, the new San Diego Public Library is better than Disneyland.” raves Coronado resident Joyce Russell.
The new San Diego Central Library (Photo Credit: Joyce Russell)
This new San Diego destination is definitely worth the trip and admission is free! I highly recommend an adventure over the bridge to check out the new facility. Unfortunately, residents of Coronado cannot borrow books or other materials from the Central Library since we are not part of the City of San Diego. We are served by our very own public library which has an outstanding collection of books and resources available to Coronado residents.
For more information about the San Diego Public Library and all it has to offer, please visit their official website.
330 Park Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92101
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12:00- 9:30- 12:00- 9:30-
8:00 5:30 8:00 5:30
Fri Sat Sun
9:30- 9:30- 1:00-
5:30 2:30 5:00
Anne Covington Morse
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