No library jobs will be lost during renovation, city official says

The Downey City Library will close between March 2019 and June 2020 for renovations. Photo by Alex Dominguez

The Downey City Library will close between March 2019 and June 2020 for renovations. Photo by Alex Dominguez

DOWNEY — With the recent announcement of the Downey City Library’s upcoming year-long closure, library officials are saying that there is no need for concern.

Shockwaves were sent flying last week when Mayor Sean Ashton announced that the library would be closing for more than a year to undergo extensive renovations as a part of Measure S, the sales tax increase approved by Downey voters in 2016.

However, Ben Dickow – who took over management of the Library in July of last year – has said that the library’s extended closure has been in the plans for a while now.

“This has been a really aggressive timeline. I think we found out that we were going to be a part of Measure S back in maybe February or so; I think the preliminary design conversations happened in March,” said Dickow. “It’s been sort of an iterative process since then.”

The library is currently scheduled to be closed from March 2019 to June of 2020.

The expansive renovations planned with the addition of the need to store the libraries vast materials have left the library with no choice but to shutter its doors while the changes take place.

It’s also a matter of beating the Measure S clock.

“Measure S has a time limit on it; you have to get these things done in three years, and we’re already half way through the process,” said Dickow. “We realized that we couldn’t split the resources and keep a temporary thing open and do all the renovation.”

“And we realized in order to get the renovation done the way we had to, we had to renovate the whole thing at once…it’s just the way the building is built you can’t do it that way.”

The library will not offer lending services throughout its closure.

Dickow has also said that he has been meeting with libraries in surrounding communities, and that they are aware of the Downey Library’s temporary closure. While he declined to name any one library officially, Dickow said that “all of our neighbors are going to be really good neighbors.”

“They know that we’re going to be down for a while; they’re welcoming to the overflow,” said Dickow. “In order to make it easier for Downey patrons to use their resources, we’ll probably do some library card drives in the final months that we’re open.”

There are even talks on potentially providing transport to other libraries for Downey patrons, however those discussions are still in early stages and are not yet guaranteed.

Dickow has also attempted to quell any anxieties residents might have about library jobs during the over year-long absence.

“All the jobs are staying, everybody is staying on board,” said Dickow. “Thinking about it I can realize why people would ask this question, but it has never been a question.”

In fact, not much - if anything - will be lost according to Dickow, except for the carpet.

“Really we’re not losing anything,” said Dickow. “We still got the building at the end of the day, and we’re gaining a lot. Project’s like these come around once in a career for most people here, and what it does is it gives us a very specific time to reset and focus…that year is going to be super busy.”

It’s been 40 years since the library has gotten a little “TLC.”

“Next year is the 60th anniversary of the library; it was founded in 1959,” said Dickow. “It got it’s last major renovation in ’79-80… the previous library director would often tell me about how the carpet that’s in there now is the same one that she sat on when she was at story time as a kid, and that has to change.”

Despite the physical building being out of commission for the year, Dickow has reassured that the library will still have a prominent presence within the community.

“At the end of the day it was decided that the community will lose the building for the year, and they will lose physical lending services for a year,” said Dickow. “What they will get is we will continue most of our marquee programs...some of our digital access stuff, some of our events.”

“In the perfect world we’d love to give everybody everything they want, but I think we’ve struck a really good balance between core programming services and access to the digital collection, trading off the actual physical collection until we open in this beautiful space.”

NewsAlex Dominguez