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Impact of budget on the California State Library
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Part One: Library and Courts I renovation
New and renovated library openings around the state
A conversation with Dean Misczynski
Reaching troubled young people through literacy
Statewide Reference: Think-Tank update
California Library awards
CCHE corner: Preserving California Lighthouses
Braille and Talking Book Library revives newsletter
California wins 3rd out of 50 States in 'Best of the Web' competition
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Part One: 
Library and Courts I renovation

Just before World War I, California agencies (then “departments”) were becoming increasingly comfortable in fog-cooled San Francisco. Post-earthquake San Francisco had new buildings galore while Sacramento offered only the historic, yet small, Capitol building. Government business (including that of the Supreme Court and the California State Library) was migrating west, and it looked as if it would stay there. Someone had to do something.


Working drawing for Library and Courts neoclassical design showing south side of library, detailing windows, columns, steps by “Weeks & Day Architect and engineer”; 
dated “Feb. 3, 1919”
[Photo courtesy California History Section]

Faced with San Francisco’s commodious charm, state leaders, including State Librarian James L. Gillis, got to work. They launched a bond proposal for an astounding $700,000. They secured a good chunk of land on the west side of the Capitol, and they reeled in one of the nation’s greatest architects, Charles Peter Weeks. It took over a decade and a few more bond measures but in 1928 California’s capital had what it needed, an architectural and cultural anchor, the Capitol Extension Complex featuring the Library and Courts Building and its sister building, the Office Building. Though drably named, the twin classical buildings facing each other over an elegant circle changed downtown Sacramento and lodged state government in the capitol.

Updating a masterwork

Exterior façade of Library and Courts I [ca. 1931] 
not long after public opening
[Photo courtesy California History Section]
 

A masterwork of neo-classical design, for over 80 years the Library and Courts Building has embodied the dignity and longevity of state government, and the great State Library and Supreme Court it houses. This landmark, now on the National Register of Historic Places, is rich with Edward Field Sanford sculptures and statues, Italian marble colonnades, a Sierra White granite lobby, Maynard Dixon and Frank Van Sloun narrative murals, mosaic floors, and emblematic friezes. The building has done its job: it deserves a makeover. Starting this year, the Library and Courts Building will undergo a complete renovation.


Interior view of loan desk in circulation section of library in Library and Courts Building jus after opening; shows tile-mosaic in front of wooden loan desk, chandelier hanging from enriched coffered ceiling; four medallions in granite walls above catalog files.
[Photo courtesy California History Section]

Through 2011, communication technology and structural experts will be working with preservationists, architectural historians, and state representatives to outfit Library and Courts with 21st century technologies, to make it safe and accessible, and to restore its early 20th century grandeur. Once renovated, Library and Courts will be a streamlined e-haven for 21st century government business.

The state contractors’ 2-year task is formidable. In addition to building a new telecommunication infrastructure, they will make fire and life safety upgrades, including improving emergency exits and adding fire suppression systems and alarms.  They will replace the elevators’ mechanical controls and operating devices while retaining the antique wood paneling. They will remodel the main lobby and restrooms so that those areas comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. And they will repair the building’s roof and its exterior “skin” (which includes historic Gladding, McBean terra cotta from the second floor up), both of which would pose falling hazards during an earthquake.

Making it cool, literally

Current view of Library and Courts exterior “skin” and neo-classical columns due for upgrade during renovation.
[Photo courtesy Vincent Beiderbecke]
 

As part of the state of California’s support of environmentally sound design, Pella McCormick, California Department of General Services (DGS) project director, reports the state is going for a U.S. Green Building Council ‘LEED’ rating of Silver, and that the renovated landmark will contain innovative energy and sustainability features. To encourage bike commuters, the basement will have full shower and locker areas for men and women. To prevent heating and air-conditioning waste, energy-saving equipment will replace antiquated heating and ventilation apparatus. To preserve water, efficient fixtures will be added to the landscape irrigation and the building’s plumbing. Further, the state will use sustainable products for changeable items such as carpets which will be California gold standard.

To safeguard the Library and Court’s design integrity though, contractors will not replace the old windows. McCormick says “We will only repair the windows and put a clear film on them to help with glare and heat gain. We’re also adding an automatic shade system, or window coverings.”

Safely renovating, creatively upgrading

DGS retained project architects Carey and Company to conduct the renovation. The firm’s list of past projects is long, and boasts some California’s most beloved architectural gems: the Marin Civic Center (a Frank Lloyd Wright design), San Francisco City Hall, the California State Capitol, the Utah State Capitol, and the Noe Valley Branch of the  San Francisco Public Library.


Panel from Maynard Dixon’s “Pageant of Tradition.” The state of California will carefully preserve the Dixon murals during the Library and Courts Building renovation.
[Photo courtesy Vincent Beiderbecke]

Current view of Edward Field Sanford statue in circulation section of in Library and Courts Building. Renovation plans include opening blocked light well behind statue to allow in natural light.
[Photo courtesy Vincent Beiderbecke]
 

Carey and Company has recruited an architectural conservationist to consult with the team as it peels away decades of wear and hasty add-ons. Working from original 1920’s drawings, they will make the building come alive, opening-up light wells to shed natural light on statuary and murals dimmed for decades. McCormick says “The grand staircase, the sculptures in the library circulation room, and the decorative painting on ceilings will appear almost new. She emphasizes that the state will not “do anything” to the great Maynard Dixon murals but protect them. “Caring for California’s treasures is one of our top priorities,” McCormick says.

Since the 1920’s, California’s Library and Courts Building has been a great architectural fixture in the Sacramento capital. In just over two years, with its original glory restored, Library and Courts will be ready to make history again.

For more information about the renovation of the Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building, please contact the Office of the State Librarian at (916) 654-0266.

July 2010 Update:  Because of budget constraints, the construction phase of the renovation should commence in late summer of 2010.  Completion of the renovation is now scheduled for early 2013.

 

 

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