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Sonoma Valley library closure begins Saturday

  • Earlier this year Clare O'Brien, children's librarian at Sonoma Valley library in the town of Sonoma helps Bailey Woodworth, 14, check on the availability of an item. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / THE PRESS DEMOCRAT)

The Sonoma Valley Regional Library will be closed for about a month starting Saturday, a fact that is causing dread in longtime patron Gaylan Paige.

Lounging on a library couch Thursday with a copy of the New York Times in her hands, Paige described the temporary closure as “awful” and “part of the darkening of our times.”

On reflection, she admitted that maybe she had overstated things. On the other hand, there are many people who still harbor passionate feelings for libraries and for actual books in this age of iPads and the Kindle.

Thus explains the reaction to the region's repository of books, located in the city of Sonoma, shuttering on Saturday to move into temporary digs about six blocks away at the Burlingame Hall at the First Congregational Church.

The 30-year-old main library, in the meantime, will undergo renovations that include adding a new room dedicated for use by teens, a periodicals alcove, an enlarged book-drop area and remodeled public restrooms, as well as a new heating and air conditioning system and landscaping.

The Sonoma City Council in February approved $2.5 million in redevelopment funds for the library work, which is expected to take a year.

Sonoma County Library officials authorized spending almost $420,000 for the library to temporarily relocate during that time to the church property on West Spain Street. That amount includes $119,000 in improvements to Burlingame Hall and almost $113,000 in rent payments.

Stephan Buffy, the Sonoma branch manager, said a few people have asked him how the library can justify spending that money on a temporary facility during these recessionary times.

His response Thursday was that many Sonoma Valley residents rely on the services that the library provides.

He also suggested that keeping the library open is a wise political move given that Sonoma's city leaders agreed to underwrite most of the cost to renovate the aging West Napa Road facility.

“I think it's the right call and I think the community will be pleased, even though services will be scaled down,” he said of the temporary headquarters.

He said he's hoping the library will re-open by Aug. 23, which is a Tuesday. The library will be closed on Sundays and Mondays. It also will have fewer books and computers.

Several patrons expressed disappointment Thursday that the facility will be closed temporarily. But they said they understood the reason for the displacement.

Sonoma resident Kathy Murphy said she was trying to find another place where her children can meet with their private tutor.

“I love the library and the resources we have here,” she said. “I have to be patient.”

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