New Library to Anchor Downtown
The new library Brentwood is building has the potential to change the world, for the better.
It can energize the downtown community, sparking an increase in activity at a time when the city’s Downtown Specific Plan and Economic Subcommittee is looking for ways to bring more people to the city’s core.
“We have to be proactive,” said City Councilman Steve Barr in a recent Brentwood Press article. “We can’t just wait for someone to discover downtown.”
New libraries have the ability to dramatically increase foot traffic in their surrounding areas, according to statistics, sometimes as much as 160%. This added pedestrian activity could be a boon to the 19 eating and drinking businesses located downtown, as well as the 20 or so retail establishments.
For many years Walnut Creek had a small, outgrown downtown library. In 2008 the community tore it down and built a new, modern facility that reflects the current ideals of what a modern library ought to be. Foot traffic, as reflected in Door Count statistics, went from 196,818 in FY 2006-2007 to about 500,000 in FY 2010-2011.
With a current population of about 87,000, Walnut Creek is larger and has a different demographic and downtown mix than the 70,000-plus population of Brentwood and Discovery Bay. But the planned Brentwood Library will be adding the same type of facilities, including a Community Meeting Room that will hold 100 people along with Conference Rooms and Study Areas, as were added in Walnut Creek. None of these facilities exist today in Brentwood’s library.
“Regarding downtown foot traffic, if you build it, they will come. The downtown library is now part of the landscape and daily life for the many people who work and visit downtown. The coffee shop serves people in the area, not just the library, and it is a central meeting place for many,” said Kristin Anderson, Executive Director of the Walnut Creek Library Foundation, in an email recently.
“I feel that a vibrant downtown includes a library. People need a place to gather, meet, relax, and to get work done. Starbucks can only do so much and you don’t have to buy coffee to sit and use the Wifi at a library,” she said.
In a Walnut Creek Library Foundation document from 2009 is this nugget:
“Experience and statistics show that older libraries like Walnut Creek’s have “pent up” demand for service. Every new library sees a dramatic increase in both the number of visitors and in the circulation of materials in the first year, both of which continue to be strong thereafter at the new, higher level.
“The experience of San Pablo’s new library demonstrates this growth trend: Since opening five years ago, the library has charted a 66% increase in circulation, a 122% increase in visitors, and a 315% increase in program attendance. Because Walnut Creek’s downtown library has been out of space for more than 20 years, the County Library projects that use will double when the new library opens.
“Beyond raw numbers, we expect the new Walnut Creek Library to serve as the cultural and intellectual center point for all of our diverse communities as well as a cornerstone of Walnut Creek’s vision of itself, as something considerably more than a retail hub.”
Pedestrian traffic numbers, as reflected in on-going Door Count statistics, reflect this new level of activity through each of the years since the Walnut Creek Library opened.
Brentwood’s Door Count total is 163,011 for FY 2013-2014. With new facilities and programs it is likely that this number will increase by a dramatic amount.