Saturday, September 26, 2015

Biggest 10 Public Libraries in California

By Michael Goldman, co-founder with Deborah Marks  of Citizens for Sunnyvale Parks and Green Spaces

Deborah Marks is also leader of Sunnyvale Urban Forests Advocates

The Sunnyvale 144,000 square foot (SF) Library of the Future described in the "Needs Assessment" by Anderson Brule Architects would have been the 6th largest public library in California.  Even the "interim" 116,000 SF Library of the Future would come in at number 9 in size order.

Sunnyvale is 38th in population among CA cities.  Most cities the size of Sunnyvale get a main library roughly the size of Sunnyvale's and then expand by adding branches.  We look at that here:

Out of over 1100 libraries in California here are the 10 largest with their cities:

1.  Los Angeles Central - 538,802 SF

Pop. 3.8M - 57 Additional Branches

Los Angeles Central - 538,802 SF

2.  San Diego Central - 376,000 SF
Pop. 1.4M - 35 Additional Branches

San Diego Main - 476,000 SF building (but 100K SF used by charter schools)
C.f. post here:

3.  San Francisco: Main - 376,000 SF
Pop. 852K - 27 Additional Branches

San Francisco Main - 376,000 SF

4.  San Jose: Martin Luther King, Jr. - 475,000 SF
Pop. 1.0M - 18 Additional Branches

Nominally 475,000 SF but SJSU students seem to use 85% of it
This is jointly run with San Jose State University.  Why isn't this in position number 3 since the sq. ft. number is higher than San Francisco's?  Because the city residents don't use much of it.  A casual observer would note that 7 of the 8 floors are completely occupied by students from San Jose State University.  The San Jose city librarian says she only pays for 177,000 square feet of it.  I personally doubt the local residents use even 60,000 SF.  It has no parking so anyone going there has to go to an expensive lot, walk a few blocks to the library and get parking validation.  Few live nearby except SJSU students.

C.f.,bottom of blog post:

5.  Sacramento Central - 160,000 SF
Pop. 1.4M (City and County) - 27 Additional Branches

This old library is only 10% larger than the 144K SF proposed Library of the Future
This modern entrance is in the middle of the building facing the street.

Original Building - Currently this comprises only about half the library

This "street view" captures the entire length but all those trees get in the way
The width of the building
This illustrates one way to get a large library.  Don't tear down what you've got, just add on.

6.  Long Beach Main - 135,000 SF
Pop. 474,000 - 11 Additional Branches

This is where Sunnyvale's 144,000 SF Library of the Future would be if it were ever built - the 6th largest library in California.  Long Beach's would then come directly after in 7th place.  Sunnyvale's population is 147,000 or 31% of Long Beach's.  Long Beach is 50 sq. miles (land area). Sunnyvale's land area is 22 sq. miles = 44% the size of Long Beach.  Long Beach has twelve libraries including this.  Sunnyvale has one.

Long Beach Civic Center - Library in foreground under the green roof
The above Civic Center was constructed in the 1970's over the pre-existing Lincoln Park - a small part of which still exists in the corner of the block with more dogs than children and a contingent of the homeless.  The green roof has been closed to public use for well over a decade.  A new Civic Center is planned at a cost of $358M with the current one to be demolished.  It would be partly financed by selling some of the land to developers to build condos and office space including what would be the city's tallest building at 36 stories. C.f.
Interior of Library

7.  Pasadena Central - 135,000 SF
Pop. 141,000 - 9 Additional Branches

Pasadena built a beautiful civic center including a library in 1927.  It is on the National Register of Historic Places.  It was designed with the idea that it could be expanded without hurting the architectural integrity of the building.  Consistent with this intent it was expanded and seismically retrofitted over the years.  Much more of it's history in several pages starting with page one here:

Pasadena is slightly smaller in population than Sunnyvale and has 10(!) libraries including this main one.  Pasadena's land area is 23 sq. miles compared to Sunnyvale's 22 sq. miles.

8.  Kern County Library (Bakersfield) - 128,165 SF

Pop. Kern County = 850,000 (Bakersfield = 369,000)

24 Additional Branches

The officially titled Beale Memorial Library is the largest library in the largest city in Kern County.

Click on this or any photo to enlarge

9.  Huntington Beach Main - 115,000 SF
Pop. 200,000 - 4 Additional Branches

If the "interim" 116,000 sq.ft. Sunnyvale Library of the Future is ever built it would fit in here as the 9th largest library in California.

On the Pacific coast of Orange County, Huntington Beach is a large town famous for it's beaches and surfing.  The main library includes a community center theater which adds significantly to it's nominal square footage.  It is almost impossible to get a good photo of the building.

Google "Street View" - best I could do

Two levels inside (obviously)

Many solar panels over the parking lot

10.  Santa Monica Main - 105,000 SF
Pop. 93,000 - 3 Additional Branches

Santa Monica is surrounded on three sides by Los Angeles and the fourth by the Pacific Ocean.  Santa Monica has a small area of only 8.4 sq. miles vs. Sunnyvale's 22 sq. miles  It has an extremely large main library for its population with 3 small branches totaling an additional 12,000 sq.ft.  It actually has more library borrowers (99,000) than residents.  Clearly, it serves a much larger community than it's own residents.  Pix below from:

Source for all library sizes:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Say, How Big *IS* that Library?

By Michael Goldman with Deborah Marks, co-founders of Citizens for Sunnyvale Parks and Green Spaces

Deborah Marks is also leader of Sunnyvale Urban Forests Advocates

The 2007 Sunnyvale Library Bond measure asked for $108M for a new library.  The city council wanted a 116,000 square foot (SF) (or larger, if possible) library which could later be expanded to 143,500 (144K) SF per ABA's "Library of the Future Needs Assessment".

The City Council meeting transcripts relating to the size are here:
The consultant's cost of this is found here:

Sunnyvale's Public Library is 60,000 SF, Santa Clara's is 80,000 SF (40,000 on each of 2 floors), Cupertino's is 54,000 SF, Mountain View's is 60,000 SF.  A library of 143,500 SF would be the 6th largest in CA (Sunnyvale is the 38th largest in population) because all other library systems expand by building branch libraries.  That issue is partly covered here:
and here:

1.  What Does a 116,000 SF Library Look Like?

It is hard to find buildings (especially libraries) exactly 116,000 SF but a few are close.

The closest would be a relatively recent addition to the UC Santa Cruz McHenry Library.  At 118,891 SF for the addition (only 2.5% bigger than the "interim") it is hard to get closer to the "interim" size of 116,000 SF.

 One side of the 119K SF Addition - click on photo to enlarge

This looks like a long thin glass-enclosed addition, but it is really a square with glass along one side as seen below:
Click to Enlarge - Aerial View shows addition to library - click on photo to enlarge

Reverse View - Glass "front" in previous picture visible in left rear - click on photo to enlarge

Interior of addition - click on photo to enlarge
Interior of glass front of addition - click on photo to enlarge

Here is another academic building very close to the proposed 116K SF interim library.  University of San Francisco's Kalmanovitz Hall at 110K SF with a 7K SF glass addition visible on left.
110K SF Class Room Building with 7K SF glass addition - click on photo to enlarge

Closer to home we have below the Oakmead Tower at 107K SF, so about 8% smaller than the proposed interim 116K SF Sunnyvale Main Library - click on any photo to enlarge:

107K SF at 384 Santa Trinita Ave., Sunnyvale CA - click on photo to enlarge
107K SF is 92% of the 116K SF for the Interim Sunnyvale Library - click on photo to enlarge


If you want to use your imagination, using 50K SF for the Sunnyvale library interior (since that is what people see) double it (add a second floor over exactly the same footprint) to obtain effectively 100K SF or about 86% of the proposed 116K SF.

Alternatively, to imagine what the 116K SF interim library would look like, take the 2-story 80K SF Santa Clara library and add a 3rd floor.  That would be 120K SF, or 3% bigger than the interim 116K SF library.

2.  What Does a 143K SF Building Look Like?

Having looked at what size the interim building might look like, let's look at the proposed final Library of the Future at 144K SF.  Again, it is hard to get exactly the right size building but here is one at 150K SF, 4% bigger.

150K SF Watsonville Civic Building including library, city hall, county court house 

The Tampa, Florida John F. Germany Library is 144K Sq. Ft. which is about as close as you can get to ABA proposed Library of the Future:

This library is 47 years old and there is some talk of renovating it or tearing it down to build a replacement.  C.f.,

To get a sense of scale - click to enlarge
Tampa, Florida has a population of 358,000 and is the largest city in the 2.5M population Tampa Bay Metro area.  The Tampa library system has 25 libraries including the John F. Germany Library above.  Sunnyvale's population is 149,000 or 41% of Tampa's.  Sunnyvale has one library.

Or, using your imagination to get the final "needed" library of 143K, simply triple the existing Sunnyvale library - make it a 3 story building and you are at an "effective" 150K SF library.  Not everyone would agree that we need that much space.

Another way to look at it is if you doubled the size of the Santa Clara Main Library it would be 160K SF.  Lop off 10% and you are at 144K SF - almost exactly the size "needed".

Santa Clara Main Library from Above

Front of Santa Clara Main Library (SC ML) - Click to Enlarge

SC ML Side View (rt.. side of aerial view)  - Double the height to get approx. ABA Proposed Library
As I mentioned earlier a library that size would be the 6th biggest in California - a topic for this other post here:

See more 144K SF buildings at: 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

ABA Libraries

By Michael Goldman with Deborah Marks, co-founders of Citizens for Sunnyvale Parks and Green Spaces

Deborah Marks is also leader of Sunnyvale Urban Forests Advocates

Here we are trying to determine why the Sunnyvale 2007 Library Bond issue was for $108M for a library (close to $1,000 / sq.ft.) and why the proposed branch library is estimated to cost nearly $1,000 per square foot.

Maybe it is the architect we hired now and in 2007?  Maybe they only do expensive projects?  Not in this case.  Everything we have seen so far suggests around $500/sq.ft. would be appropriate as seen in previous posts starting with lots of data here:
and continuing on with lovely real-life examples of CA libraries starting here:

So what is the experience of the current architect?  Anderson Brule Architect (ABA) has worked on five other libraries around the country so knows costs.  These libraries have all come in about the cost we have seen in other libraries - $400/SF to $500/sq.ft. - sometimes under $400/SF !  Can she say why the Sunnyvale bond issue was for $108M and the proposed branch library is estimated at nearly $1,000/Sq.Ft.?

The five libraries are:

1. Virginia Beach, VA (2014)
 (pop 450,000)
Cost: $43M / 125,000 Sq, Ft. = $344/Sq.Ft.

Click on photo to enlarge

It is a joint use library with Tidewater Community College - one of 11 Virginia Beach library outlets.  LEED Gold certified.  It is a lovely library and by no means "cheap" showing that you can do quite nicely at $344/Sq.Ft.  In fact, even if you double that cost, it is still only around 65% of the projected cost (per sq.ft.) of Sunnyvale's proposed Lakewood branch library.

ABA did not do the architecture.  ABA did some of the early pre-design work and interior design

According to their web site "With funding in place, Anderson Brulé Architects facilitated TCC and the City through the pre-planning work necessary to provide the appropriate decisions and information, including the conceptual space program, essential to inform the subsequent architectural design and construction documentation."
Click on photo to enlarge

This library was featured in the American Libraries Magazine's 2014 Library Design Showcase

Cost has been variously quoted as either $32M or $43M.  It is likely that the higher cost includes construction costs and "soft costs" like design, project management, furniture, etc. so I have used the $43M figure above.

RRMM was the architect:

Press coverage:

2. Redwood Shores Branch (2008) 
Redwood City
$11.7M ($15.5M) / 22,558 Sq. Ft = $543 ($720) / SF

We are fortunate that this is one of the libraries constructed with CA State Library Bond money so there was a detailed state audit of the project.  The "value of land" (the 2007 Sunnyvale bond issue would not have included this since we own the land already) was very high here so I subtracted it out to get the actual expenditures.  The higher number in parentheses includes the "value of land".

Click on photo to enlarge

ABA was the principal architect for this project.

Click on photo to enlarge

Above state audit information from

ABA's site:

3. Tully Community Branch Library (2005)
San Jose, CA
$11.7M / 26,000 SF = $450 / Sq.Ft.

Click on photo to enlarge
ABA was the principal architect providing:
• Master Planning
• Conceptual Design through Construction
• Architecture and Interior Design
• Fixture and Furniture Selection (FFE)

From the audit documents below we see that San Jose spent $11.7 Million on the library.  That gives a cost per square foot of about $450.  This is entirely consistent with every other library looked at.  Since we are looking at the total expenditures, the accounting "cost" of "value of land" is (we can reasonably presume) not included.

Click on photo to enlarge

Click on photo to enlarge

Above document available at:

ABA's web site:

4. Cambrian Branch Library, San Jose (2006)
$12.0M / 27,800 Sq.Ft. = $431/SF

Click on photo to enlarge

The data source for costs is the same as that for the Tully Library listed above.  While we do not have the detailed cost audit that we had with the state bond funded libraries we get a price per square foot consistent with every other library which did have such a detailed audit.

ABA was the main architect providing the following services:
• Master Planning
• Design through Construction
• Conceptual Design
• Interior Design
• Fixture and Furniture Selection (FFE)

We have the following from City of San Jose for costs:
Click on photo to enlarge

Click on photo to enlarge

Even if you add another 50% in for other items you get nowhere close to the $1,000/sq.ft. mentioned for the Lakewood branch library or the 2007 Sunnyvale library bond issue.

ABA's web site:

5. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library (2003)
$177M / 475,000 SF = $372/SF
(Joint use: San Jose State University & City of San Jose)

Click on photo to enlarge
You could double the 2003 cost per square foot to $744/SF and not get remotely close to the approximately $1,000 / sq.ft. asked for in the 2007 Sunnyvale Library bond issue and mentioned for the proposed Lakewood Branch Library.  But in fact this is strikingly similar to both the size and cost of the 2013 San Diego Main library discussed here:

There has been very little inflation in the US in wages or prices except for stocks and some local housing markets so the similarity in price/sq.ft. for both San Diego and San Jose is consistent.

ABA was not the main architect.  ABA provided the following services:
•  Community Outreach Process
•  Needs Assessment
•  Library Plan of Service
•  Operational Planning
•  Programming
•  Conceptual Design through Construction
•  Fixture and Furniture Selection (FFE)


Click on photo to enlarge

Principal Architect was Carrier Johnson.  Their web site:

ABA's site:

More information: