Sebastopol's small but popular library will close today for three to four months for a long-awaited renovation.

The project, expected to cost $649,000, includes installing new shelves with seismic bracing, staff work stations that have better ergonomics, more computers for the public, better access for the disabled, improved lighting and new rugs.

The closure will leave a gap in the daily life of the community, librarian Sue Struthers said.

"It's the center of this community," she said, noting that some people come in four and five days a week. "It is Sebastopol's community center."

There were dozens of people at the library Thursday perusing the shelves, reading periodicals and using the computers, many with children in tow.

Randoph Houghtelling, 74, of Sebastopol said he is at the library three to four times a week.

"It is quiet, I like books, it gets me out of the house," he said.

Sara Ritchie of Sebastopol takes her twin sons, Reach charter school seventh-graders Moses and Josiah, to the library every day to do homework.

"We'll have to find another place," Ritchie said. "It is a special place."

Terry Ronine of Sebastopol takes his 18-month-old daughter, Isabella, once or twice a week to spend time in the children's section and for story time.

"It is close and convenient, and it is also nice," Ronine said. "We came down special today because we knew it was going to close."

The library will close at 4 p.m. today for the duration of the work. An "express station" will open Wednesday at the Sebastopol Youth Annex for people to drop off and pick up materials ordered online and to read daily newspapers and magazines. There will also be children's story time on Wednesdays.

The express station will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, with extended hours to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays.

The branch library gets 1,000 to 1,300 visitors a day to the 10,000-square-foot facility.

"After our three largest libraries — Rohnert Park, Petaluma and central Santa Rosa — Sebastopol is a near fourth in level of use," said Sandy Cooper, Sonoma County library director. "They have an incredibly busy, little tiny library. The activity per square foot is high."

Cooper said the library reflects the people it serves.

"It has to do with the nature of the west county community. They are passionate about their library; there are many well-educated people there," Cooper said.

The structure was built in 1976 and is owned by the city of Sebastopol.

The group Friends of the Sebastopol Library raised more than $200,000 for the work. The city is putting in $30,000 and the remainder is being paid for with a bequest and county library funds.

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.