… Where there is no vision, people perish. – Steven S. Choi, Ph.D. Mayor, City of Irvine
I recently spoke with Mayor Choi about his vision of a ‘great metropolitan library’ in the Orange County Great Park (this link, btw, will take you to my blog as a Great Park Ambassador in the summer of 2008). Needless to say, I am very excited by the idea of a Great Metropolitan Library in Irvine, for Orange County, and am fully on board with it. My family, friends and I have long felt that our city’s public libraries could be much, much better. Besides answering my questions, Mayor Choi kindly provided me with some of his writings/speeches. They flesh out his ideas for the great metropolitan library, including how it will be paid. In the Q&A section that follows here I ask the question and provide the answers from Choi’s paper titled Irvine has a vision for a metropolitan library. You can read the full paper by downloading the entire pdf file (click on link to download and read the Adobe Acrobat file). A short version (800 words) has been submitted to the Op Ed section of the Orange County Register. At the very end I list the ways in which you come alongside in support and help to make the Great Met Library a reality.
Q. What is the vision?
A. When the Huntington Beach Library, Information and Cultural Resources Center was dedicated on April 5th, 1975, its City Council declared in the Program brochure, “The Right to Know: Where There is No Vision, People Perish”.
The Huntington Beach motto fits perfectly with the spirit of this writing that “Irvine has a vision for a Metropolitan Library”. While I stay with the short name of “Library” the Huntington Beach description of the Center as “Library, Information and Cultural Resource” is more descriptive and accurate to depict the modern library concept.
Q. Why does Irvine need another library?
A. Irvine has been served by the Orange County Library System since the City’s inception …
Calculating the total space to the current population of 250,000, the space ratio is 0.18 square feet per capita, and is projected to go down to 0.14 sq. ft per capita at the build-out with population 309,000.
However, the neighboring cities’ library space is about 1 square feet per capita or higher (Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Cerritos, Santa Monica, Pasadena)
The library space is important in that no programming or amenities are possible without the space.
… Libraries serve as heart and soul of any community, but unfortunately Irvine has been underserved by the County Library System from the inception of the City.
If you look at great cities around the country or the world, most of them boast reputable library facilities.
…OCPL’s direct operating cost of Irvine’s three branches is about $3.3 million per year while we pay over $10.13 Million a year to OCPL through our property tax.
Q. Why now? Why should we build a library now?
A. The City has more than enough capital to construct the main library of ours. I call it a “Golden Opportunity” we must capitalize. Here’s why:
1. The land is available for free at the Great Park.
2. My calculation shows that City is expected to have more than $750 Million available between now and 12 years, and the money is not yet designated.
3. Irvine already has Library Special Tax Set-Aside Fund authorized by the County Supervisors. The amount is projected at about $250 million in about 7 years.
4. Irvine Library Foundation will raise 1/3 of the total cost, up to $50 million.
5. We need our libraries to be up to Irvine’s high standards.
... The Library Needs Assessment Study conducted in 2006 points out “the deficiencies in library service in Irvine as almost entirely a function of the square feet of library service area provided and the accessibility to the two current branches, rather than the quality of the collection or electronic resources available.”
Q. You say the land is available for free at the Great Park. Where exactly do you envision it?
A. A tentative library site within the Cultural terrace, the social and cultural center of the Great Park, has already been identified as a component of the Great Park Master Plan.
Q. Who will pay? Where is the money going to come from to build the great metropolitan library?
A. There are several sources of funds WITHOUT COSTING THEM [taxpayers] EVEN A CENT OF NEW LIBRARY TAX! These include:
1. The OCPL and Orange County Supervisors recognized the inequity of Irvine’s contribution to the county library system, and agreed to set aside the “future excess library tax” in a special account for Irvine beginning in 2011. The City Manager and I worked hard to reach an agreement with 24 OCPL city members and the account is expected to grow to $20 million in 7 years.
2. We have a similar situation with the OC Fire Authority – the property tax portion paid for fire protection. Irvine and the OCFA Board had reached an agreement to “reimburse” the over-paid tax in 2013 although this agreement is being challenged at this time by the County Supervisors. If the court ruling is reached in our favor, the OCFA reimbursement would range between $200 to $300 million depending on the property valuation in the next 12-15 years.
3. The state of California also has agreed to pay Irvine $292 million over the next 12 years as a settlement over the redevelopment funds at the Great Park.
4. The temporary Library Foundation Steering Committee indicated their willingness to raise 1/3 of the total cost (up to $50 million) once the City Council gives approval to build the library at the Great Park.
5. 21 acres of Great Park land sold to OCTA has brought in $14.2 million
Here are some ways in which you can help:
1) Tell your neighbors, friends and the media about why you support the idea of a “great metropolitan library’ and ask them to support it too.
2) Email one or more City of Irvine Council members (other than Mayor Choi) and encourage them to support this – Contact info is here http://www.cityofirvine.org/council/contact_the_council/default.asp (Members to write to are: Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lalloway, Beth Krom, Christina Shea, and Lynn Schott).
3) Attend the City of Irvine Council meeting on February 10th (5 pm onwards) and speak to urge the Council members to support the motion for the great Park metropolitan library.
4) Join the Great Metropolitan Library Support Group on Facebook, email or call charis dot coleman at gmail dot com | 949 682 9603.
Related article: Matt Morrison. Irvine mayor advances central library concept. January 16, 2015. The Daily Pilot. Irvine. http://www.dailypilot.com/news/tn-dpt-me-0118-irvine-council-20150116,0,7064033.story