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Plan to Relocate Earthquake-Damaged Library Gains Support : Thousand Oaks: The main branch may be moved temporarily to the old city hall while crews complete repairs. Librarians and some officials back a move.

November 18, 1994|MATTHEW MOSK and MARY F. POLS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The main branch of the Thousand Oaks Library may move temporarily to the recently vacated city hall while work crews replace ceiling panels, lighting fixtures and sprinkler pipes damaged during the Jan. 17 earthquake, city officials said.

Librarians and some City Council members said Thursday that they strongly favor the relocation plan and have already applied for added federal disaster assistance to fund the move and pay for one year's rent at the old city offices on Willow Lane.

"I think that it's the best way to deal with our construction problems," library Director Marvin Smith said. "If we don't move it will place a serious strain on our staff and on the public."

Smith said the city began considering the move when officials learned it would take 18 months to complete earthquake repairs while the library remained open to the public. Work would need to be parceled into five stages and would create dust, noise and safety problems, he said.

By moving temporarily, project manager Ed Johnduff said crews could undertake all the repairs at once and finish much sooner, perhaps within nine months.

Residents have already endured a number of inconveniences at the library. Contractors have spent the past four months repairing the library's leaky roof, a problem blamed on flaws in the building's design.

From January to April, library-goers were sent to the smaller Newbury Park branch to give officials time to assess quake damage, clean up fallen ceiling panels and treat water damage.

The idea of trekking back across the city with boxes full of books is less formidable to Steve Brogden, library deputy director, than staying at the Janss Road building.

"It beats being around here until June of 1996 with all this construction going on," Brogden said.

City officials said they would support any plan that would speed the latest repair project, so long as it did not increase the city's cost.

"The people of Thousand Oaks want their library back," Councilwoman Judy Lazar said. "Everybody considers the library to be one of our greatest assets and they are anxious to see all the work completed."

Some federal emergency assistance has already been awarded toward the estimated $2.5 million in earthquake repairs.

In other instances when a move is required due to a disaster, Johnduff said, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has offered assistance with those expenses.

FEMA officials said Thursday they had not been contacted by the city on the possibility of the move and did not know whether such requests for additional aid are traditionally granted.

If approved, the move would require all of the library stacks and books to be relocated to the first floor of the Willow Lane building, Johnduff said.

"The reason that site came up was because there are few other places in the city that are the proper size to house the library's collection," he said.

The old city hall site is about 35,000 square feet, contrasted with the 59,000-square-foot library, Johnduff said.

Smith said the space would be adequate.

City officials have contacted Amgen Inc., the corporation that owns the building. Although Amgen officials could not be reached Thursday, Smith said the bioengineering giant has been receptive to the proposed move.

City Councilwoman Jaime Zukowski said the matter could come before the council as early as next week. She said she would support the move if it did not require added expense for the city.

The sooner the move happens, the better, as far as library officials are concerned.

"We have to make a decision on this fairly quickly," Smith said. "We don't want to waste any time."

Construction on the ceiling tiles and earthquake repairs is scheduled to begin after the roof work is completed. Those repairs should be done by the end of this month, Johnduff said.

The chronically leaky roof of the $9-million building has caused library officials to periodically close the facility, most recently during a two-day storm in October that dropped two-thirds of an inch of rain in Thousand Oaks.

Since August, workers have been replacing inadequately sized drainage pipes and increasing the pitch of the roof in some places. During each rainy season since the building was finished in 1982, rain has collected in pools around the skylights, then gushed into the library's interior.

Most of the earthquake damage occurred when metal ceiling panels collapsed, rupturing sprinkler pipes and crashing down on books and shelves.

Nearly the entire children's collection was lost, and Smith, the library director, said book damage alone will cost the library $1 million.

Pols is a Times staff writer and Mosk is a Times correspondent.

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