Bigger, better Pleasant Hill library cuts the ribbon

Bigger, better Pleasant Hill library cuts the ribbon
Stakeholders and dignitaries surround Pleasant Hill Mayor Michael Harris and Councilmember Sue Novak as they wield giant scissors during the library’s ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 30. (David Scholz photo)

PLEASANT HILL, CA (August 16, 2022) — Nearly 70 years and a five-minute drive down Oak Park Boulevard from the city’s original 1,200 sq. ft. library, a new, grander home is now available to the community.

Barely 26 occupants could squeeze into the first library, which was on a small parcel across the street from present-day Pleasant Hill Elementary School. In stark contrast, the newest branch in the Contra Costa County library system welcomed about 3,000 visitors who walked, biked and drove to the long-awaited July 30 ribbon-cutting and open house.

The new building is a stone’s throw from the octagonal former location with its umbrella-like roof. That library had 10 times as much floor space as the first library, distinguished by pink and green colors.

Four years after the original library’s opening, the process began for a more modern facility on Oak Park Boulevard. Officials broke ground on March 9, 1960, and it was dedicated 18 months later on Sept. 9, 1961. This facility combined the central library and Pleasant Hill branch into one building. Thus, the Pleasant Hill Library came to be known as the Central Library.

Huge community undertaking

The new $33 million library, on five acres at 2 Monticello Ave., boasts 25,000 sq. ft. and is home to 60,000 books. As construction was winding down in mid-June, shelving books commenced – a process that continued even 24 hours before the grand opening.

“When we first started talking about making the transition to this new space, I don’t think any of us truly knew what an undertaking it would be, or just how fantastic the finished product would look,” said Pleasant Hill Mayor Michael G Harris, who lauded all those who were instrumental in fulfilling the vision.

He cited key roles played by city staff, the county Board of Supervisors, the Rec and Park District, the county library, Friends of the Library and Library Foundation, the Mt. Diablo Unified School District in cooperation with PG&E, the Central Sanitary District, AT&T and the county Fire Protection District. Harris also noted the efforts of architectural firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, with design help from Margaret Sullivan Studio, the BHM Construction team and Swinerton Management and Consulting and landscaping by EinwillerKuehl and Arborica, for collectively turning the project into a reality.

“Our stakeholders provided us the impetus to move this project forward, but these folks were the boots on the ground who brought the idea to life,” Harris said.

“They brought the project in on time and within cost,” he added.

Councilmember Sue Noack, who served with Harris on a library subcommittee during the design and construction phase, praised the Pleasant Hill community’s 66 percent support at the ballot box for a half-cent sales tax. That 2016 funding vote was critical for the project’s success.

“Without the funds generated through Measure K, we would have been hard pressed to fund the library and make it the outstanding community building you see today,” Novak said.