Forty-three community members gathered at the shuttered Hunt Library on Sunday, April 18 to tour the facility and share their vision for its next 50 years.
Thanks to a $2.5 million grant secured in part through the efforts of State assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, the Hunt Branch will be undergoing renovations starting this fall, with plans to reopen to the public as early as spring of 2022 (though probably not in time to allow a 2022 Easter egg “hunt at the Hunt,” as suggested by one attendee).
The bones of the Hunt Branch Library, an elegant midcentury structure designed by famed architect William Pereira, will remain the same. However, the City, under the leadership of Derek Wieske, acting City Engineer, is working with John Loomis of Thirtieth Street Architects to, as Loomis put it, “renovate the shell of the building.” That renovation will include moving the restrooms to allow compliance with current ADA standards, but no other structural changes. The goal is to repair, not replace; plans include repairs to the roof, upgrades for fire safety, electrical work, upgraded heating and air conditioning, and new paint and flooring, according to Loomis.
Just how to use this upgraded library space, including a grand main room graced with natural light from surrounding clerestory windows, was the question of the afternoon. As Loomis put it, the Hunt’s open floorplan means that “You couldn’t have a building to accommodate a wider variety of uses.”
Seated in the shade of Pereira’s ample front overhang, relieved by an intermittent breeze, and undeterred by the freight trains rumbling down the tracks behind the library and the dogs howling in the dog park out front, those 43 attendees offered in 45 minutes what felt like 43 different ways to use the renovated Hunt—open a café, plant a community garden, hold book clubs, or animation seminars, or acting, or yoga, or tai chi, or parenting classes. The local arts nonprofit that facilitated this visioning session, Arts OC, employed two scribes who struggled to keep up with this fire hose of creative thought.
Sharon-Quirk Silva had prefaced the discussion by asking that people “make sure that there is a literacy aspect” to whatever uses the library is put to, and many of those gathered echoed that sentiment. But it remains to be seen which of the many literacy options the library might pursue, let alone what other events it might host or sponsor.
Perhaps some answers will emerge at the next community visioning session, an English/Spanish bilingual event that will be held in May at a date and time yet to be announced.