A renovated Branciforte Branch Library at 230 Gault St. in Santa Cruz is expected to open in late spring. (Allison Gasparini — Santa Cruz Local)

SANTA CRUZ >> Renovations at Santa Cruz County’s branch libraries are expected to finish this year, with a newly renovated Branciforte Branch Library set to open in late spring, a Live Oak annex anticipated this summer and a new Aptos library in the fall. 

Funded in large part by Measure S, a $67 million bond measure approved by county voters in 2016, branch library renovations and new buildings already have opened in Capitola, Felton, Boulder Creek, Live Oak, La Selva Beach, Garfield Park and Scotts Valley.

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“I walk into some of the renovated branches and I look at the plans for the new ones and I am just amazed and grateful,” said Janis O’Driscoll, president of Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries.

Libraries’ roles have changed from places to find and read books to public meeting spaces, places for teens after school and even daytime shelters during storms, fires and floods. This month, County of Santa Cruz leaders reminded residents that they could take shelter from rain and floods in the county’s libraries. 

Many of the Santa Cruz branch libraries were built in the 1960s. Ideas about renovations started about a decade ago after years of insufficient budgets and maintenance left the 10 libraries in “various stages of disrepair,” O’Driscoll said. A local architect was commissioned to evaluate all the branches and provide initial cost estimates.

Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries began campaigning for money in 2015. Measure S was adopted by 70% of county voters in 2016. After many plans and public meetings, construction began on the Capitola and Felton branches in 2018.

“The Measure S investment from the community is creating — and sort of facilitating — a space where the library can meet the modern needs of our community,” said Amanda Rotella, community relations specialist of Santa Cruz Public Libraries. The renovations are a testament to the work of individuals and community organizations who gave feedback and money, O’Driscoll said.

The Downtown Santa Cruz library will be the last to begin construction. The Santa Cruz City Council approved permits related to it on March 14. Construction is estimated to start in 2024.

The following renovations are in the works.

New furniture and lights are part of Branciforte Branch Library’s renovation, shown in November. (Santa Cruz Public Libraries)

Natural light floods Branciforte Branch Library during construction in November. (Santa Cruz Public Libraries)

Branciforte Branch Library, 230 Gault St., Santa Cruz

Status: Construction began in May 2021 and continued in March 2023.

Estimated reopening: Late spring 2023.

Renovation highlights: The Branciforte Branch Library renovation will include a new community room, a new outdoor patio, dedicated reading areas for teens and children, electrical and lighting upgrades and improved accessibility for people with disabilities.

Estimated cost: $4 million.

A rendering of Aptos Branch Library renovations. (Santa Cruz Public Libraries)

Construction in September at the Aptos Branch Library. (Santa Cruz Public Libraries)

The Aptos Branch Library renovations include computer stations and dedicated areas for teens and children. (Santa Cruz Public Libraries)

Suggestions for the Aptos library remodel are collected on a poster. (Santa Cruz Public Libraries)

Aptos Branch Library, 7695 Soquel Drive, Aptos

Status: Construction started in June 2022 with demolition of the building.

Estimated reopening: Fall 2023.

Renovation highlights:

  • Outdoor reading area. 
  • Garden and patio. 
  • Dedicated reading areas for teens and children.
  • Community room including a terrace area.
  • Updated energy efficiency to make it a net-zero energy building. 
  • A history section which will include ongoing materials and exhibits from the Aptos History Museum.

Anticipated cost: $14 million. 

A rendering shows the Live Oak Annex at Simpkins Family Swim Center at 979 17th Ave. in Live Oak. (County of Santa Cruz)

Live Oak Annex, 979 17th Ave., Santa Cruz

Renovation description: The annex will be an addition to the Simpkins Family Swim Center with study rooms and a classroom that can be used for meetings. 

Status: Construction started in spring 2022 and continued this month.

Estimated completion: Late summer 2023. 

Estimated cost: About $6 million.

Other details: A 2022 Santa Cruz County Civil Grand Jury report stated that Measure S money was supposed to go to “most urgent needs” in the libraries’ Facilities Master Plan, “likely misleading voters” about the money for the proposed Live Oak Annex. Leaders of the Santa Cruz County Joint Powers Authority essentially said the money was not limited to upgrades for current library buildings and that the annex “is an expansion of library facilities in the Live Oak community,” according to their civil grand jury responses.

A rendering shows the Downtown Santa Cruz library project at Cathcart and Cedar streets. (Ten Over Studio and Jayson Architecture)Your Content Goes Here

Downtown Santa Cruz, 119 Lincoln St., Santa Cruz. The library’s main entrance is slated for Cedar Street, and the project spans Cedar Street from Cathcart to Lincoln streets. 

Status: Building permits are due from the city in late 2023 or early 2024. Construction is expected to start in May or June 2024 and finish in late 2026 or early 2027, Santa Cruz Development Manager Brian Borguno wrote in an email to Santa Cruz Local on Friday. The remainder of 2023 will be working through the next design phases including construction ready documents that will lead to building permits (at the) end of the year or early 2024,” Borguno wrote. The Santa Cruz City Council approved permits for the project on March 14. The project requires no more approvals from the city council or other elected bodies and could only be challenged through litigation, Santa Cruz Senior Planner Tim Maier said.

Estimated construction start: May or June 2024. Construction is expected to take two years.

Estimated cost: $40.6 million for the library, Borguno said March 17. Refined cost estimates for each part of the project are due in late spring or early summer. 

Project details: The eight-story complex is expected to include:

  • A three-story library with two indoor levels, a rooftop terrace and patio.
  • Five levels of affordable housing above three levels of parking.
  • A three-story area for businesses with 9,600 square feet of commercial space.
  • A child care facility with an outdoor play area.
  • 124 homes, including 19 units for residents with “extremely low incomes,” 59 units for “very low incomes” and 45 units for “low incomes” based on state-determined income limits, according to a city staff report.

More information and images.

Capitola Branch Library reopened in 2021. (Stephen Baxter — Santa Cruz Local file)

Capitola, 2005 Wharf Road, Capitola  

Renovation highlights: 

  • Expanded children’s wing. 
  • Outdoor deck.
  • Family play area.
  • Dedicated teen area 
  • Community meeting room 

Status: Reopened June 2021

Construction cost: $13,190,813.

Felton Branch Library reopened in February 2020. (Stephen Baxter — Santa Cruz Local file)

Felton, 6121 Gushee St., Felton

Status: Reopened February 2020

Renovation highlights: 

  • Dedicated teen area and dedicated children’s area.
  • Improved wireless internet access.
  • Access to Felton Discovery County Park.

Cost: $10 million.

Live Oak, 2380 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz

Status: Reopened October 2022.

Renovation highlights: 

  • Improved floor plan.
  • Acoustic wood ceiling and wall treatments.
  • New carpet and redesigned seating.
  • Dedicated children’s area.
  • “Under-the-sea” themed reading lounge and homework room.

Cost: About $500,000. 

Scotts Valley, 251 Kings Village Road, Scotts Valley

Status: Reopened August 2022.

Renovation highlights: 

  • New roof.
  • New heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.
  • Parking lot repairs.
  • Acoustic improvements in the community meeting room.

Cost: $3,727,700.

Garfield Park, 705 Woodrow Ave., Santa Cruz

Renovation highlights: 

  • New floor plan.
  • Uncovered windows for better natural light.
  • Dedicated children’s area.
  • Community meeting room.
  • Refreshed outdoor space.

Status: Reopened June 2022

La Selva Beach, 316 Estrella Ave., La Selva Beach

Renovation highlights:

  • New lighting, electrical and mechanical systems.
  • Glass wall between children and adult areas for improved acoustics.
  • Lounge seating areas for reading.
  • Expanded outdoor deck area.

Status: Reopened March 2021.

Boulder Creek, 13390 W. Park Ave., Boulder Creek

Renovation highlights: 

  • Renovated community reading space.
  • Updated children’s reading area.
  • ADA accessibility upgrades.
  • Improvements to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems
  • Upgrades to plumbing, electrical, and lighting systems.
  • Additional lighting added to parking lot.

Status: Reopened May 2022

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Allison Gasparini is a science writer and recent graduate of the UC Santa Cruz Science Communication master's program. She has written for the Monterey Herald, the Mercury News and Forbes' science section.