Altadena is in the midst of a community outreach effort over proposed renovations to its main library branch that would cost between $16 million and $20 million.
The crucial issue is bringing the library into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Currently, the library does not have adequate access for those in wheelchairs, and the library's collection is currently too large and the space too limited to comply with the necessary adjustments, according to David Datz, a current member of the Altadena Library District Board of Trustees.
If it cannot do the expansion, the library's only other choice to comply would be to cut into the library's book collection space. That solution would still leave wheelchair patrons without access to restrooms.
The proposed renovation will make the library building two stories, rather than the current split three levels. It would add about 10,000 square feet, bring the library up to ADA standards and provide wheelchair-accessible restrooms, an elevator that allows access to all library floors and the parking lot, and expanded aisles so that wheelchair patrons could access library stacks.
For some people, these concerns are not just hypothetical. A wheelchair library patron spoke passionately at an Oct. 2 community meeting about the need to make the library wheelchair accessible. She said that her inability to reach the restrooms makes visiting the library "very difficult."
But the expansion would not be just about ensuring ADA compliance. According to Datz, the Altadena library polled community members and found that they would like the library to provide the community with additional meeting and reading space.
According to Barbara Pearson, the current district director, the proposed expansion would "provide more space for the children's library; expand the Friends bookstore; provide an adult literacy headquarters, meeting and study rooms, a homework center and staff offices."
A concern was repeatedly expressed at the Oct. 2 meeting that the proposed expansion would require the newly formed Altadena Library Foundation, which was founded in October 2009, to raise funds for the expansion.
So far, the foundation has a limited track record of successfully raising money in support of the library. Foundation board members have emphasized that the next step in the process is to conduct a feasibility study in the Altadena community.
They insist that the funding for the library expansion will come out of funds raised specifically for the project and not from the library's current annual budget.
There were also issues raised about preservation of both the building and the grounds of the library. Pearson said at the meeting that all trees currently growing on the property are to be safeguarded and that the library is committed to maintaining the architectural integrity of the existing building.
Local historical preservationists said at that meeting that they were encouraged by the plans. A representative from Altadena Heritage said that members are "huge fans of the library" and appreciate the effort that has been made to preserve the original building as much as possible, adding that it is "evident that you are listening and that you heard us."