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$3.4 Million Raised in Campaign for New Santa Barbara Children’s Library

Another $2.2 million is needed to create a state-of-the-art library space on the bottom floor of the downtown branch

The fundraising campaign for creating a state-of-the-art children's library at the downtown Santa Barbara branch has raised $3.4 million, officials announced Tuesday.

"If there was ever a community that would have a first-class children's library it would be Santa Barbara, and we do not," said Peter MacDougall, the Santa Barbara Children's Library Honorary Committee co-chair. "A first-class children's library is what is needed in Santa Barbara."

More than 50 people gathered Tuesday at the site of the future children's library to announce the next stage of the capital campaign.

Library officials say they need another $2.2 million to complete the project at 40 E. Anapamu St., the Santa Barbara Central Library. 

MacDougall said he is confident the community will come together to raise the money.

"This is a special community in so many ways," MacDougall said. "I feel so privileged to live here. The reason it is so special is because we all work together. Santa Barbara has to have a children's library that we can be proud of, that will make a difference in children's lives."

Officials plan to transform the bottom floor of the downtown branch into the new library.

They say the current section of the downtown library designated for kids has outgrown its space. The new space for children would more than quadruple, from 1,500 square feet to 6,300 square feet. 

Plans also call for "technology hubs" with computers, parent-friendly spaces, an area for performances and story time, and safety upgrades.

The lowest level of the Santa Barbara Central Library will be transformed into a children's library. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk file photo)

The library wants to feature popular materials and market them more like a bookstore, not in traditional library style.

Construction will also include modifications to the stairwell between floors, the addition of an elevator, reorganization of staff offices, and a new study room on the upper level.

Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider said she could still recall her childhood trips to the library to acquaint herself with literary characters such as Beezus and Ramona and Charlotte and Wilbur.

"When you are in the library you can go anywhere in the world and to any place and time to explore," Schneider said. "The library is a welcoming, inclusive place for all."

Schneider praised the public-private partnership between the Library Foundation, donors and the City of Santa Barbara to help fund the project.

Schneider at one point pointed to an 8-month-old child in the audience, Abigail, noting that the library will be there for her one day.

"By the time she's ready to not be eating the pages, this place will be ready for her," Schneider said.

The current children's library area was designed in 1979. Library officials said in the past two years the library has experienced a circulation growth of 26 percent and a 57 percent surge in the children's summer reading program.

Tuesday's event kicked off with Taj Paszkeicz, a child who read thousands of pages over the summer, talking about his love of libraries.

"The library is very fun, and I get to enjoy it every week," he said. 

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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