About an hour south of LA and close to Disneyland, Newport Beach boasts scenic hills, gorgeous sands, wetlands, fun filled isles and an historic waterfront. Around 86,000 people call this California vacation destination home.
Close to Fashion Island, which acts as a quasi downtown for the community, Newport Beach Public Library (NBPL) shares a park and garage with City Hall. A patio at the back has abundant seating overlooking the verdant expanse linking these buildings. Used for concerts, children on scooters zip around the sidewalks bordering the green space.
The café just inside has tables and chairs, but on nice days, the shade afforded by the roof makes the veranda the perfect place to relax.
Though the public had been able to borrow books for twenty years, the first structure built with a bibliographic purpose in mind opened in 1929. By the 1940’s the library was a popular spot to catch up with friends and branches were being added. In the eighties and nineties, creation of the Friends and Foundation helped provide locals with more services and space and a 54,000 square foot facility was built here in 1994. A 17,000’ expansion was completed in April and included this resplendent staircase with tiny high windows and an eye catching skylight.
The front entrance, one flight down, is surrounded by palm trees and ivy covered trellises while pines and xeriscaping adorn a path that meanders through the grounds passed statues and three circular picnic benches. A polished granite sculpture of a boy and a girl with their chins propped in their hands called Nakayoshi – Good Friends honors NB’s affiliation with its sister city in Japan while a rabbit sculpture pays tribute to the desert cottontail, a common sight here. One of 16 scattered throughout the complex, the big tough bunnies are a source of delight for the younger set who are encouraged to climb on them.
Inside, off the first floor lobby, you can shop at the Friends of the Library Bookstore or get creative in the Media Center and Sound Room which have the latest equipment for audio and visual production including PCs and Macs with graphic design, video editing and recording software.
The Friends Meeting Room has a big screen for watching movies and seats 200. There’s a smaller conference room too.
In the downstairs entryway you can scan a wall of plaques honoring NBPL’s many donors, view photos of the library through the years, or admire a collection of old radios in glass cases near an exhibit of paintings by Millard Sheets, one of the California Scene artists.
Spacious, with stone tile floors, the foyer has dark gray rock on the lowest part of its walls while the plaster above is painted to look like grayish green marble. Wood racks hold book suggestions and the color scheme continues into the magazine section, where leather armchairs and a love seat with an interesting tilted outline complement these interior touches.
A large AV area shows CD’s by genre and there are lots of BluRays DVDs. Patrons use self check and pick up their own holds.
Jeremy at the information desk gave me helpful details for this post. He extolled the value of the Friends and Foundation who raise thousands of dollars each year and mentioned that all 75 staffers are municipal employees. NBPL has four sites – there are three branches and you can also pick up and return items to the Newport Coast Community Center. They have 240,000 volumes and follow the State Library policy by allowing anyone in CA to get a card here.
This location has 30 adult internet computers and 30 Ipads (which you can print from) as well as 10 filtered learning terminals in Children’s. You can get wifi in all the outdoor areas, check out one of six Nooks or borrow iPod shuffles loaded with audiobooks.
And here’s yet another great place to study. Often used for library receptions, its umbrella topped tables, huge potted plants and flower decked walls remind me of a European street scene.
NBPL’s website has downloadable books, audiobooks and magazines. Job seekers can utilize databases like Cypress Resume and Live Tutor Career Center where real people help them write cover letters. Art aficionados and home buyers will appreciate AskART’s auction records and Realquests’s property data. Lifelong learners love Rocket Languages and Universal Class which has modules on such diverse topics as dog psychology and medical terminology. The Foundation page offers podcasts of past speakers like Frances Mayes and Lauren Weisberger and I was impressed to see that since they are hiring a new Library Services Director they are requesting feedback from the public – a great way to emphasize to your users the importance of their opinions.
A sketch of three bunnies welcomes you to Kid’s which has miniature furniture and neat tilted two-tone loungers. Tots perch on little multicolored stools by the computers and play in an enormous brightly painted space reserved for youths and their guardians, who have a choice of couches. There are loads of stuffed animals, wooden puzzles, an early literacy station, Español items and the Stahr Storytime Room. Just outside is the Friends sponsored Children’s Sun and Sea Discovery Garden where stone benches, shaded tables, a fountain and climbing vines make it the perfect place for youngsters to get some fresh air.
Children can drop in for craft programs, hear songs, watch silly science shows, go to Lego and princess tea parties and attend numerous storytimes.
Upstairs passed another pink eyed bunny I peek into the Charles Sword Reading Room and find a quiet space with sea vistas, slatted wood tables and upholstered chairs.
In the main concourse my eyes are drawn up to the overhead lighting facilitating browsing on both sides of the stacks and the intricacies of the exposed ductwork. It’s great how they revel in revealing what’s normally hidden – even the HVAC pipes outside are vividly hued. I see triangles everywhere from the slant of the ceiling beams and the angles of the furnishings to the massive overhang of the roof. Numerous windows fill the building with light but, if needed, see-through screens allow you to block out the blinding rays of the sun. Little two person desks let you study with a buddy and have lamps in between. Glassed in spots hold the copy center and microforms.
NBPL has homebound, literacy and passport services and three small rooms can be reserved. Along with the typical fare, they lend graphic novels, Book Club in a Bag and video games. Blockbuster films cost a dollar and go out for just one day and you can rent bestsellers for a week.
Local History has a shelf holding the Nautical Collection next to vintage photos of the region and the display of blind books. A serendipitous way of choosing your next read, they’re wrapped in green and offer just one rhyming clue about their identity.
Customers can go to musicales, lectures, book discussions, holiday events, business workshops and cooking demonstrations. Twice a month staffers write an article for the Daily Pilot, the regional newspaper, and there’s a facebook page, a Twitter account and a Pinterest site.
A neon sign announces the Teen Center which has manga, paperbacks, hardcovers, CDs, magazines and comfortable niches with oversize plants and great views of Catalina Island. Young adults can use databases like Live Homework Help and Tuition Funding Resources, join the advisory council or attend college admissions sessions. The Teen section of the website promotes an interest in NB’s past with a blog called Kids These Days: Growing up in Newport Beach which features news stories about adolescents and reminiscences about their teen years in the area from people of all ages.
In Periodicals, bound issues of Time go back to 1941 and current papers include the UK’s Sunday Times, and, since style is obviously important here, Women’s Wear Daily.
A multitude of cushy blue study stations, each with its own outlets, privacy screens and little round tables that allow you to spread out, were added during the expansion and residents got reading areas, program space, the Media Suite, the café, and the bridge to the civic center to boot.
Busy and well used, NBPL is quite a boon for this lovely seaside city.