Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About The San Diego Main Library Project


Why does the old Central Library need to be replaced with a new Main Library?

More than 700,000 patrons visit the current Central Library each year to use its many resources. However . . .

  • The collection outgrew the building’s capacity 25 years ago, and there is no room for growth.
  • More than half the collection has to be stored in two basement levels, closed to the public and available only upon request.
  • It has minimal space for exhibits and displays that complement and promote collections.
  • It has inadequate auditorium space for cultural events.
  • As a thriving and growing city, San Diego deserves a first-class Main Library for its diverse population.


Why is the Main Library essential?

A Main Library should be the heart, brain and nerve center of a public library system. It should provide a centralized operating system for 35 branch libraries spread over the city's 342 square miles.

  • The Main Library will hold a vast collection of the region's historical archives, including newspapers and government documents.
  • More than a half-million unique titles, as well as in-depth collections, will bekept at the Main Library. These are prohibitively expensive to duplicate at branches, yet necessary for meeting the information and knowledge needs of the San Diego community.
  • Professional librarians at the Main Library will provide subject expertise and collection development, which support branch libraries.
  • The Main Library will be not only centrally located for the entire San Diego region, it is also downtown’s branch library, serving 29 local schools, 11 community agencies, and a fast-growing residential population.
  • It will be the only patent and trademark depository in the region, and the largest public resource center south of Los Angeles.


Will there be parking and easy access to public transit at the new Main Library?

The new Main Library will have public parking, be near public transit, and be close to three freeways.

  • Unlike the current Central Library, which has no dedicated parking, the new Main Library will have 250 parking spaces on site with an additional 250 parking spaces dedicated for library visitors in a structure across the street.
  • The new Library will be located on the San Diego Trolley line and close to a trolley station that serves both the Blue and Orange lines. In addition, bus lines and bus stops will be in close proximity to the new Main Library.
  • The Main Library will be located near Interstate 5 and state Routes 94 and 163.


How will the Main Library project be financed?

The $184.9 million project will be paid for with $80 million in redevelopment funds, a $20 million state library construction grant, and the rest in donations. No General Fund money will be used for the construction project.


How important is a Main Library to the branch libraries?

The City’s Library Building Program focuses on rejuvenating the entire library system by building not only a new Main Library, but also building or expanding 23 branch libraries throughout San Diego. A central library is the heart of any good library system. Branch libraries rely on the Central Library for selection, acquisition, cataloging, reference, programming and much more.

The Central Library also houses administration, book delivery and ordering services, and technology services. Approximately 70,000 books and other materials are delivered from the Central Library to branches annually. If you want strong branches, you need a fully functioning central library. Branch libraries typically hold books and audiovisual materials that cater to general interest. Usually the collection focuses on the most popular titles and topics. Unlike branch libraries, a central library has staff and a collection with in-depth information about a great variety of topics. Specific sections of the current Central Library include:

  • Art, Music and Recreation – Audio books, DVDs, videotapes, compact discs, sheet music, picture files, and sports.
  • California, Genealogy and Special Collections – Local history, family history, and rare books.
  • Children’s Room – Picture books, curriculum development, parenting kits, and science fair resources.
  • History and Travel – Biography, geography, American and world history, and encyclopedias.
  • Literature and Languages – Fiction, foreign languages, psychology, and religion.
  • Newspaper Room – Newspapers from San Diego and other major cities.
  • Science and Government Publications – Health, tax forms, car repair manuals, cookbooks, patents, and topographic maps.
  • Social Sciences and Business Reference – Investments, business assistance, politics and government, and wedding planning.
  • Teen Space – SAT study guides, homework assistance, comic books, and graphic novels.


How will the new Main Library be an improvement over the current Central Library?

The current Central Library is 50 years old and was built for a San Diego population of only 544,000 people. Today the city has more than 1.27 million. More than 60 percent of the Central Library’s collection is stored on two basement levels that are not open to the public. Its auditorium only seats 180 people. Also, plumbing and electrical systems are inadequate, there’s no dedicated parking, and there simply is not enough public space in the building to meet the needs of the people the library serves. By contrast, the new Main Library will have:

  • 10,255 square foot children’s area, more than three times larger than the one in the Central Library.
  • Outdoor plaza and café.
  • 350-seat auditorium.
  • Three-story, domed reading room.
  • 400-seat multi-purpose room.
  • 3,840-square-foot Teen Center.
  • A technology center.
  • 500 dedicated parking spaces.
  • 407 computers, more than four times the number at the current Central Library.
  • 3,000 square feet of gallery and exhibit space.


How is technology affecting the role of libraries?

In our technological environment, libraries perform the same role they always have: they pool resources to increase access to information and recreational materials for everyone. As technology has improved to make many aspects of our lives easier and more efficient, it has done the same for libraries.

  • Demand for print and audio-visual materials continues to increase, while technology speeds our access to these materials.
  • The Library subscribes to many premier online resources, such as periodical archives and statistical databases, but many publishers will not license these for remote (home) use.
  • Librarians offer professional assistance in online research.
  • Contrary to popular belief, only a very small fraction of information available in book form is also available electronically. Less than 1 percent of the more than 110 million items in the Library of Congress has been electronically formatted.

For more information about the Main Library project, visit the Library on the City's Web site at http://www.sandiego.gov/public-library/.