Santa Monica has delayed replacing the asbestos ceiling in its main library while it looks for land for the Westside's largest public library.
The City Council on Tuesday gave the city staff six months to find sites and make cost analyses on a replacement for the library at 1343 6th St.
Widely mentioned as a possible site is city-owned land near Santa Monica Civic Auditorium at Main Street and Pico Boulevard. City Manager John Jalili said that other, unspecified locations also will be studied.
During the study, the city hold off on a nearly $2-million project to replace the library's ceiling and make other improvements to reduce asbestos in the 47,000-square-foot structure, built 20 years ago.
Jalili's Recommends Move
Jalili has recommended finding a new site and delaying the improvement project because of the difficulty of ridding the structure of asbestos, a product associated with fatal lung diseases when inhaled.
Tests to determine the asbestos level have shown the library to be safe according to standards established by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
But library employees continue to be alarmed about working in a building where there is asbestos, Jalili said. "This is an ideal time to explore other alternatives," he said. "In addition to the concern about asbestos, the library also is running out of space."
Library employees told the City Council that there are particles of a white substance on the floor every morning and that they do not know whether the substance is merely dust or flecks of asbestos.
Jalili said the city shortly will attempt to spray the ceiling with a nontoxic substance to make the asbestos stronger and prevent any flecking.
Asbestos was a common building material when the library was built because of its fireproof qualities and ability to lengthen the life of plaster when mixed together.
Its dangers were discovered in later years and its uses curtailed.
The problem with asbestos in the library was discovered two years ago when a firm hired to clean book stacks and other areas stirred up a substantial number of fibers.
The library houses 225,000 volumes and circulates 700,000 books annually, compared to 91,000 and 250,000 volumes in the West Los Angeles Regional Library, the largest in the Los Angeles City Library system on the Westside.