In mid-August the main Santa Monica Library will close for a year and its books will go into storage while the asbestos-laden ceilings are removed and replaced.
The City Council on Tuesday approved a contract for the work, which is one step in an overall plan voted in April to remodel the building at a cost of about $2 million. The major remodeling contract is yet to be awarded.
"There are going to be a lot of unhappy people," assistant city librarian Molly Richardson said. "The books will go into storage and will not be available to the public. I'm sorry, but there is nothing we can do."
Largest on Westside
The library at 1343 6th St. is the Westside's largest with 300,000 books, films, documents and periodicals. Its circulation rate is more than 775,000 items a year.
In November, 1983, a firm hired to clean the library's ceilings stirred up asbestos fibers. The city debated until this spring whether to build a new library or save the old one.
Asbestos was commonly used as a fire retardant and mixed with plaster in buildings when the 22-year-old library was built.
Although testing showed that the level of asbestos fibers was below the federal Environmental Protection Agency limit, many library employees feared they might contract asbestosis, a deadly lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibers.
No Layoffs Planned
No permanent library employees will be laid off as a result of the closure, Richardson said. Employees will be transferred to three branch libraries or to library office space in the Santa Monica Municipal Airport's administration building after they supervise the moving of books.
A few main library services, such as video cassette lending, will be transferred to branch libraries, Richardson said. The library will soon issue a pamphlet detailing which services are available in Santa Monica and recommending out-of-town libraries for certain resources.
"It will be a real loss to the community," Richardson said. "But there isn't any way around it. To set up the library in another location you would have to rebuild a building somewhere. Remodeling costs for a temporary site would be too great."
Branch Library Change
The library has tentative plans to keep branch libraries open one extra day a week while the main library is closed, Richardson said. Currently, city branch libraries are open Monday through Thursday and Saturdays.
The asbestos will be removed by February, said Stan Scholl, general services director. It will take from February to September to remodel the library.