Modesto library is set for asbestos removal, other renovations. Temporary closure planned

The Modesto library is headed for major renovations and modernization in a two-year project that will temporarily relocate its services.

Stanislaus County supervisors approved the plan Tuesday and accepted $9.97 million in state funds that covers about half of the $18.1 million project.

County Librarian Sarah Dentan said the project still is in the planning stage and some details could change. The exact timing for construction and temporary relocation of library services is uncertain.

The work will include long-overdue renovations to the library building at 1500 I St., including an elevator retrofit, ceiling tile replacement, asbestos removal, lighting upgrades, new wiring, heating and air-conditioning improvements, a redesigned main floor and better access for the disabled.

The draft project plan in the Board of Supervisors agenda materials calls for moving the collection and services from the county system’s flagship Modesto library to the Salida branch. Library administration and 27 staff members also will move into temporary quarters at the Salida library during renovations at the Modesto facility.

Dentan said the Modesto library will be closed during much of the construction work. Some library services will be provided at other locations downtown during the renovation project.

“I want to stress we are very early in the process,” Dentan said. “We want to be closed for the shortest amount of time possible, but there is a significant amount of work we want to get done.”

The Modesto library in Modesto, Calif., in 2022.
The Modesto library in Modesto, Calif., in 2022.

Under an estimated project timeline, construction will begin in November 2024 and be completed in November 2026. Exact dates for the temporary move will be released closer to the start of construction.

An additional 21 staff members in collections, youth programs and other services also will be moved to Salida if the Modesto library basement should need to be vacated for asbestos abatement.

County leaders were pleased the state funding was awarded for the renovations from the California Library system’s Building Forward grant program. The state funding requires matching dollars from the county, which includes $4.1 million in library enhancement funds from the county general fund and $4 million in library fund balance.

Staff said at Tuesday’s board meeting that $16.2 million in library fund balance remains.

The first phase of the project will be removal of materials containing asbestos above the ceiling of the main floor. The work will remove the old ceiling tile, contamination and fireproof coating. When that is completed, crews will replace the carpet and remodel the main floor with features including a classroom for tutoring and other programs, two reading and study rooms, a redesigned reference desk and security enhancements, the renovation plan says.

Some new offices and cubicles for staff are planned in the basement area.

According to the project plan, the asbestos hazard over the years has postponed maintenance and system upgrades at the Modesto library. “It will be necessary to empty the main floor of the library to safely abate the asbestos without damaging the collection,” the plan says.

A brighter, refreshed interior

Dentan said a lot of the necessary renovation work, such as asbestos remediation, won’t be visible to the public after it’s completed. But the public will see a brighter, refreshed interior that’s more accessible to library patrons.

The 62,000-square-foot library serves Modesto’s 218,000 residents and has an annual circulation of 437,000 library materials used by the public.

There is surplus shelving for books at the Salida library on Sisk Road, as well as space for temporary administrative offices. The county also will move shelving from the Modesto library to Salida, the plan says.

One possibility for temporary library services downtown, such as new book checkouts and children’s story time, is 1,400 square feet of county-owned space on 10th Street formerly occupied by the Graffiti Dogs restaurant. Dentan said the Graffiti Dogs space is only one of the options.

Dentan said the timing for the closure and temporary service locations will be communicated to library patrons as early as possible.

Modesto Library in Modesto, Calif., on Tuesday, September 6, 2022.
Modesto Library in Modesto, Calif., on Tuesday, September 6, 2022.