Austin Walsh/ Daily Journal
Burlingame City Librarian Bradley McCulley shows off a new conference room at the Burlingame Library, which was built during a recent $3.5 million renovation project.
Due in part to the charity of local residents, the Burlingame Library received a substantial facelift, which library officials claim is necessary to better serve the current demands of a changing, modern society.
The Burlingame Library Foundation raised funds from residents in Burlingame and Hillsborough and donated $1 million to a recently completed $3.5 million renovation project which aimed to modernize the services available at the city’s main library at 480 Primrose Road.
Burlingame City Librarian Bradley McCulley said the project, which also received a $2.5 million contribution from the city budget, will grant residents greater access to technology and allow the library to offer services more aligned with the needs of the public.
The renovation, which took roughly six months to complete, added a new computer lab, study rooms, a conference center and other technological advances such as automated book drop off and checkout stations, among a variety of other improvements.
McCulley credited the graciousness of local residents, and the hard work of the members of the library foundation to raise the funds in making the overhaul possible.
“If it wasn’t for the willingness of the foundation, this project would have never got off the ground,” he said.
The library, which last underwent a renovation when it was seismically retrofitted roughly two decades ago, serves nearly 1,000 people a day from Burlingame, Hillsborough and other nearby communities, said McCulley.
As technology and the Internet has played a more pronounced role in society, the contribution a library makes to its community has shifted, said McCulley, which is part of the reason why the upgrade was needed.
Residents have greater access to information due to the proliferation of cellphones and modern technology, so libraries are no longer the same requisite hub of access to knowledge that the institutions have served as in the past, said McCulley.
There are challenges for libraries associated with keeping up with the rapid pace of a constantly evolving society, said McCulley.
“Libraries are slowly catching up,” he said. “We’re trying to catch up with everyone else to keep us relevant.”
Patti Anixter, vice president of the library foundation, who spearheaded the fundraising campaign, said the library was more than satisfactory prior to the renovation, but the new improvements are appreciated.
“It’s not like we felt our community was failing and we needed to do this,” she said. “But we did want to maintain its importance to the community.”
As the services begin to change, so has the etiquette for use, said McCulley, as libraries are furthering themselves from the model of a sterile, silent room reserved for solitude and isolation to more collaborative workspaces designed as a place for students, seniors, children and adults to join together under the umbrella of community learning.
Anixter echoed those sentiments.
“Libraries are more of a community center for learning,” she said. “We are enhancing the space for today’s needs to keep the library relevant for the 21st century.”
McCulley said the multimedia study rooms, which are secluded areas for large teams to work together on group projects, have been one of the most popular new features.
The services offered in the study rooms have especially resonated with teens and young adults who appreciate having space set aside where groups can work together on homework or class projects while accessing the wealth of resources offered by the library, said McCulley.
“We have made it very comfortable and beautiful for them,” said Amy Gettle, the circulation supervisor at the library, of the study rooms for teens.
And to see the popularity of the new services with a younger audience serves as confirmation the library’s updated vision hit its marks, she said.
“It’s very satisfying,” she said. “We did the right thing.”
But despite the variety of technological advances offered through the renovation, Gettle said there is still an emphasis on the value of books.
“Computers have really changed our lives. The Internet has changed our lives,” she said. “But books are still important, especially in the early years.”
And in an effort to keep an eye toward preserving the traditional services offered by the library, Gettle said it was important to officials overseeing the renovation that the building maintain much of its original design character.
“We didn’t want to lose that same feel of the Burlingame Library,” she said.
McCulley said striking a balance between meeting the traditional service model of the library against the modern demands of users can be challenging.
“We were trying to find that right equilibrium,” he said.
Ultimately though, McCulley said he is proud the entire new, improved library is finally open to the public after months of being able to offer only a portion of its services due to construction.
“It’s been great,” he said. “We’re open and finally able to offer all of these services.”
Anixter credited the charitable donations of local residents for making the renovation project possible.
“We would not have been able to do this without the generosity of our donors,” she said. “Donors from Burlingame and Hillsborough really stepped up.”
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