The bookworms began gathering Tuesday before noon. Clutching library cards and wearing looks of expectation, they waited until 12:30 p.m. for the opening of the Montrose-Crescenta Branch of the Glendale Public Library. After all, what's half an hour after waiting almost two years?
That's how long it has been since the Montrose branch was last open to the public. It closed for renovations May 1, 1985, and was originally scheduled to reopen last October. But electrical and other construction problems postponed the opening several times and almost doubled construction costs, originally pegged at $900,000, to $1.7 million.
"I've been waiting for this for a long time," said Carol Hale of La Crescenta, peering curiously through glass doors into the library's muted pastel and blond wood interior.
Hale said she reads one adventure novel a day and has read nearly all the books that interest her at the Los Angeles County branch library on nearby La Crescenta Avenue.
The reopening was cause for celebration among Glendale library officials as well as La Crescenta residents.
On Tuesday, Jack Ramsey, director of libraries for the City of Glendale, surveyed the building's redesigned interior and well-stocked bookshelves with evident satisfaction.
"Finally, after all this time," Ramsey said. "This comes none too soon for any of us." He added that the Montrose branch's opening was not widely publicized because officials plan a formal rededication sometime next month.
With more than 50,000 books, the Montrose library's collection is second only to that of Glendale's Central Library on Harvard Street.
"For a branch library, it's extremely well-stocked," Ramsey said. He added that, since the library has been closed almost two years and most books are on the shelves instead of checked out, this week's patrons "are going to have a heyday."
With its high skylights, blond wooden paneling and comfortable pink-toned couches, the Montrose library would fit just about anyone's idea of a clean, well-lighted place to read or browse for books.
Scandinavian wooden chairs designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto adorn a reading room. A carpet in muted gray contrasts with the pastel tones of most furnishings. Blue and pink tubes of neon arch above an entryway to the young adult reading room, which walls are glass.
"We wanted to get a little whimsy in there," said architect Stephen Finney of Charles Walton Associates, the Glendale firm that redesigned the library.
Library officials said the renovations were needed because the library had outgrown its existing area. The interior was gutted and workers added several rooms to the existing building that expanded the library's size from 7,000 to 11,000 square feet. Additional parking was also installed: spaces increased from 23 to 36.
During the repairs, the Montrose branch's three librarians and two clerks divided their time among Glendale's Central Library and the city's four other libraries. All have returned, including head librarian Virginia Barbieri.
Library officials said that more than 130,000 books were checked out of the Montrose library in 1984. They hope that, as word gets out about the revamped facility, that number will rise to about 200,000.
Linda Helscher of La Crescenta said that she, for one, plans to patronize the Montrose branch regularly. She said she prefers the Glendale library to the nearby Los Angeles County branch library.
"This one's got a better book selection and it's more organized," said Helscher, who plans to bring her two school-age sons on her next visit.