Irvine Mayor pushes for construction of new metropolitan library

courtesy of SEAN LOW
courtesy of SEAN LOW

During his term as mayor of Irvine, which began in December 11, 2012, Steven Choi proposed to Irvine City Council plans to build a library at the Great Park. Mayor Choi has focused his legislation regarding the city’s budget and the Great Park on the library’s construction.According to a transcript of his recent State of the City Address on February 25, 2014, available on the City of Irvine Website, Mayor Choi said, “I firmly believe that a great city needs a great library.” He has submitted plans, which have not been approved by City Council, to design and construct the Irvine Metropolitan Library at the Great Park. Similarly, in last year’s address, Mayor Choi, who has a Phd. in library and information science, envisioned the library as a central gathering place with seminar and study rooms, art exhibit halls and food courts. Currently, Irvine hosts three Orange County public libraries: Heritage Park, University Park and Katie Wheeler. In addition, all Irvine School District schools and the University of California, Irvine maintain their own libraries, which are accessible to students and, for UCI, the public. According to the Orange County Register, Mayor Choi envisions the library to be approximately 200,000 square feet, which is almost four times the size of the Newport Beach Public Library, and projects the cost to be $100 to $200 million. According to the Orange County Great Park website, the Metropolitan Library’s tentative location is the 200-acre Great Park Cultural Terrace, which currently serves as an outdoor performance venue for various movie festivals and other Great Park events. Currently, Mayor Choi has not found a corporate sponsor to help fund the library’s construction. The tentative plan is to fund the library from community fundraising and excess property taxes.
To raise additional funds, Mayor Choi plans to form an Irvine Library Foundation to develop a financial plan that he asserts will not raise any property taxes for Irvine residents. If Choi is reelected in this November’s mayoral elections, he aims to continue to raise financial and community support to initiate the library‘s construction in five years.  When asked about the current fundraising efforts, Mayor Choi said, “I have been serving on the Orange County Public Library Advisory Board for about twelve years, and in addition, a Library Foundation Steering Committee has been recently formed by major community developers, such as the Irvine Company, Five Point Communities and Wells Fargo Bank, to raise the remaining funds for library construction. I am so excited about this library vision for our growing City and to lead the effort as Mayor.
Although they may benefit from increased library space, some Irvine residents do not support the proposed Great Park library’s high costs of construction. James Hariyanto (Jr.) said, “I like the idea of having a food court in the library, but if the city council allocates funds for library construction, it should build several smaller libraries instead of one giant library so that more Irvine residents can live closer to a library. Also, I usually look up information on the Internet to answer my questions rather than in libraries because books in school or local libraries generally do not have the information that I am looking for.”
Other residents do not believe the city needs additional libraries and should improve existing libraries. Jerry Park (Jr.) said, “The city of Irvine already has three local libraries, and I often read books and articles at the UCI library. Building a Great Park Library will require millions of dollars, and after construction, how are we supposed to pay for books and resources in the library? Instead of building a brand new library, the city council should upgrade existing libraries or allocate funds intended for the Great Park library to other organizations.”
Despite the costs of the library, some people view the proposed library as a great opportunity to improve the library needs of Irvine residents and others in Orange County. Mr. Dominic Fratantaro (Staff) said, “I am excited about the vision Mayor Choi has put forth for the Great Park. The library is a place for the community to meet, gain access to information and share information. The idea of creating a space that can incorporate new technologies, educational opportunities, inspiration for being a lifelong learner, equitable access to all people regardless of socioeconomic status, ignite peoples curiosities, and a space that is devoid of corporate advertising is an exciting opportunity for the city of Irvine. The role of a librarian has changed with the introduction of technology and I am extremely excited to be part of the evolution.”
The current Irvine City Council has a Republican majority, which includes Mayor Choi. The fate of the Irvine Metropolitan Library depends on whether Mayor Choi is re-elected and whether Irvine residents will elect a Republican or Democrat majority in the city council this upcoming November.
Students interested in expressing their opinion regarding the library’s construction can respond to the following survey, which is sponsored by Mayor Choi.
Written by ANDREW HONG
Staff Writer
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