Writing from the Lafayette library Sunday… If Walnut Creek’s new library is anything like this place …

I might have a new hangout

As I write this, it is Sunday afternoon, and I decided to work at the new Lafayette library—or, officially, the Lafayette Library and Learning Center.

Perhaps it will become my office away from my home office—or my work office. That is, until Walnut Creek opens its library in mid-July. (Yes, that “damn library.”)

In the meantime, here at Lafayette’s library, each table has someone like me sitting at it, typing away at laptop. The various sitting areas, with sofas and chairs, are occupied with people—kids, teens, soccer moms or dads, grandparents—reading magazines or books they are going to check out. Each of the smaller conference rooms contains one person or small groups of people working together. People occupy most of the 12 computers in the technology center, and several teens are sitting and working in the homework room.

Oh, and in the separate wing, which contains the children’s area, a group of kids are gathered around a computer. Others are poking through the book shelves, and a mom is sitting with her toddler, reading a story aloud.

It also looks like people are browsing the aisles, looking to check out—No way in our era of everything digital and everyone suffering from some form of attention deficit disorder–books!

This is my second visit to Lafayette’s new three-level 30,000-square-foot library, and it’s a lovely building. A quiet, inviting place to hang out, and read, do work, or, as I am now, blog (free wi-fi!)

It has soaring ceilings with exposed, rough-wood beams, tall glass windows, dark-wood tables and shelves, and outdoor decks and a garden. With paintings on the walls and cool, modernist sculptures filling some spaces, it’s like a home I wouldn’t mind living in.

I last visited last Saturday. I arrived just before 1 p.m., when the doors open on weekends, and people were standing outside, waiting to get in.

This is a busy place on weekends. It’s like a coffee house, except I don’t have to buy a latte and pastry in order to feel like I have the right to stick around. 

As I’ve said in the past, I didn’t involve myself one way or the other in expressing a viewpoint on Walnut Creek’s effort to build its own new downtown library.

Maybe–I still think–Walnut Creek saw what its neighbors to the west were up to in Lafayette. If Lafayette could have a stylish new downtown library, Walnut Creek’s civic and community leaders thought, so should Walnut Creek! Maybe there was some civic ego involved.

Also, as I’ve said in the past, I was fond of the old Walnut Creek downtown library.

But sitting now in Lafayette’s new pride and joy, I can definitely see the advantage of a new, more spacious, comfortable, and user-friendly building. I can’t say I ever wanted to hang out too long in Walnut Creek’s dear old library.

Some say that libraries are a thing of the past—what with the advent of the Internet.

Well, this place I’m sitting in right now feels like a thing of the present and even the future.

As for people not going to libraries as much as in the past to obtain books, DVDs, or other materials? that’s not the case. Walnut Creek Librarian Cindy Britain writes (in an e-mail shared with me by Walnut Creek Library Foundation Executive Director Kristen Anderson):

–In fiscal year 2007-08, the number of number of items checked out from Contra Costa County libraries was 6,132,207, a 13 percent increase over the 5,428,511 items circulated the year before.

–The greatest area of circulation growth is in fiction books, with a huge growth in the children’s and young adult areas.

The New York Times reports that, especially during these economic hard times, libaries across the country are seeing double-digit increases in patronage, often from 10 percent to 30 percent, over previous years.

Brittain adds in her e-mail: “Providing pleasure reading is where we have excelled. Our circulation growth is quite impressively due to people doing more book reading! The figures show that choices to purchase large quantities of new releases has made us more relevant in people’s lives. Biographies show great growth as well. Again, pleasure reading. Picture books and Easy Readers are the most popular of our text materials. More children’s books are checked out than Young Adult and adult books combined.”

Oh, and regarding complaints about the garage being built under Walnut Creek’s library, and the added cost involved? Lafayette’s has a below-ground garage, and I have to say it makes a visit here extremely convenient. In fact, trying to find street parking around this building, even on a Sunday when businesses are closed, would have been impossible.

21 thoughts on “Writing from the Lafayette library Sunday… If Walnut Creek’s new library is anything like this place …

  1. I think the Contra Costa Library does a great job integrating computers into operations. You can go online and search for books, reserve them, and have them shipped to any branch of your choosing or even delivered to your home (for a small fee). The only problem I have with reserving is when it's a new, popular book — forget about it, you'll be somthing like 400th on the list with 10 or so holdable copies!


  2. This post made me more excited about WCs library. These rainy days are perfect for the library. I need to head over to Lafayette's new one and take a look.

    DL Contributor


  3. SM-

    “People occupy most of the 12 computers in the technology center”
    Lafayette only has 12 computers? Why does WC have so many going into their own new downtown library?

    “Lafayette's has a below-ground garage, and I have to say it makes a visit here extremely convenient. In fact, trying to find street parking around this building, even on a Sunday when businesses are closed, would have been impossible.” Lafayette had no choice but to do below-ground parking due to the configuration of the lot on which the library is built. WC has spent $$$$$ to do below-ground parking for a net gain of 50 parking slots when there is a city owned garage less than one block down the street that is never full. What a waste!


  4. Anon 10:33
    The new Lafayette Library has 42 computers throughout the library. Their technology center has 12.
    Their library serves a community of roughly 24,000 people. Walnut Creek is a community of 66,000 plus, thus the need for a larger library and more computers. The new library will have 90 computers, 21 in the technology center.


  5. 10:58

    66,000 people with two libraries + order/delivery service in Rossmoor which is 10,000 out of the 66,000 you cite as residents.

    Doubtful that a great majority of the prople who live in the Ygnacio Valley area frequent the downtown library. The County Library system has identified that the major portion of the folks who live in N. Walnut Creek go to the Pleasant Hill library.

    Walnut Creek's own survey identified that 85% of residents have computers/internet in their homes.

    All this equals no logical reason to have the expense of 90 computers in the new facility.


  6. 12:03PM

    What library development consulting firm do you own?
    15% of 66,000 = 9900 without residents without internet. So if 1% of those need to use the internet at the same time we don't have enough computers. We would be 9 short! How dare the city council make such a mistake! Damn library!


  7. 3:20

    Believe it or not, there are many, many people out there who have no interest in using a computer and certainly not the internet.

    Is it really the government's responsibility to provide computers and internet service for everyone?

    The role of government is to provide needed services……police, road repair, flood control etc. The rest is just frills that should come at the end of the food chain.


  8. 3:55,

    I submit that the following are not frills in our City:

    Open Space
    Art and Recreation programs
    Programs for seniors
    Bicycle trails
    Landscaping of public property
    Street sweeping
    Removing graffiti

    If these are not included in the “etc.” of your list, we disagree.


  9. Bob,

    We don't really disagree on what is important in our city …..we just might disagree however on how the list should be prioritized.

    When one item on your list takes a greater share of the pie and is not a life essential thereby jeopardizing other vital services, then we have a problem and it can be called a frill. The City is not duty-bound to provide libraries as this is a function of the County.

    Schools are not the responsibility of the City. They are funded on their own so cross them off your list.


  10. I love the library, my kids and I go weekly (and we have a computer at home). I can't wait for the new library to open and thank all the people who have worked hard/donated money to help make it happen!


  11. Anon 11:55am,

    Thank you.

    Like many other donors, we gave until it felt good. We all hope you enjoy this library very much for many years.

    WCL Donors


  12. Agree, I have computers at home with other electronic devices. I will be at the library to expand my horizons. What an excellent investment in the community. Thanks to all who assisted. I hope to find a way to teach a class there.

    See you at the grand opening!

    To the pundits, everything is too expensive!


  13. It is never too expensive to provide vital services to the citizens in a timely manner. Literary monuments hardly qualify as vital services, hence, the library is too expensive, nice as it may be.


  14. Anon 12:29

    One doesn't need to have professional credentials to know when spending is excessive. Do you have professional credentials that would help you to know what you think would be a reasonable cost?

    I realize that the cost of the library is a very emotional issue for many, in fact, the whole idea of building the library is an emotional issue for almost everyone in WC.

    My point was that when one “non-essential” service is so costly that it takes money away from or delays providing essential services to the citizens that would make that one service too expensive. Also, one could argue that a perfectly adequate library could have been built on the same site for about half of the cost.

    The studies that were done and stacks of papers prsented regarding the cost of the new library are all one needs to see that this building is very costly and is adding to the economic crunch WC is facing.


  15. 4:41,
    Thanks for your “common sense” argument.
    The children of Walnut Creek WILL have a fine new library, no thanks to you. They are even helping to raise the funds.


  16. Anon 8:44 –

    Don't play the guilt card. It won't work.

    Be realistic….the children are raising money because some adult planted the idea in their heads. I think this is a great endeavor for kids and being taught to share with others and volunteer for something that is important to them is a great lesson in life.

    Giving children one side of the story however is not a great lesson. Teaching them that the biggest, best and most
    glamorous is not always the most important thing in life is vitally important. Teaching them that one has to set priorities in life when it comes to spending money for the common good is probably the most important lesson we can pass on.

    Because we “want” something does not always mean that we will get it on our schedule. Other vital life serivices are suffering because of a showpiece building and that is not the message we should be imparting to our children.

    And yes, the children of Walnut Creek can thank me too for their fine new library as I have been a tax paying citizen here for over 40 years and have more that contributed to it's construction. I have also been willing to contribute where I can to other citywide services that have been shorted because of a lack of funds.


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