Volunteers are scurrying to stack the last of 40,000 children's books on new shelves, landscaping is unfinished and part of the parking lot is still torn up, but the children's wing at Huntington Beach Central Library and Cultural Center is set to open Saturday at 10 a.m.
"We're expecting 2,000 kids," said Jan Palmer, coordinator for the opening-day celebration. "All the books will be in and they can start checking them out."
The nearly $9-million addition will expand and encourage knowledge and literacy, said Palmer, a retired high school English teacher and a member of the Friends of the Children's Library, which has provided a major impetus and raised funds for the new facility, starting in 1986.
"We want the children to know that there is more to a library than a librarian whispering, 'Shhhh,' " she said. The 16,000-square-foot children's wing is part of a 43,000-square-foot library expansion project that will include a 319-seat library theater, a 150-seat Story Time Theater, a learning center for educational films based on books, reception and banquet rooms to accommodate up to 350 people and a children's party room.
Boosters say the children's wing will serve as an outpost of culture, knowledge and imagination for youngsters.
Library director Ron Hayden said residents are fortunate that in times when libraries throughout the state are closing or reducing hours, this library, in Central Park at 7111 Talbert Ave., is expanding and offering more services.
"It's the only game in town where you can come to the library, have a meeting, see a play or use a computer. And if you want to sit back in a serene atmosphere and read a book or magazine, it's an ideal place," he said.
The Friends of the Children's Library, the Friends of the Library and the Library Patrons Foundation have raised nearly $3 million for the children's wing. Bonds from an unused parking project contributed another $5 million, and other funds were shifted to the expansion from other capital projects.
The 75,000-square-foot library was built in 1975.
Free activities on tap for Saturday include visits by clowns, appearances by children's authors, storytelling sessions, a treasure hunt and entertainment by dance and music groups. Children and parents may purchase commemorative T-shirts.
The Friends of the Children's Library, sponsoring the opening day events, will give children bookmarks that say, "Today's readers are tomorrow's leaders."