Supporters of library improvements see hopeful signs project is back on track
By Kendall Balchan
Ed McBride, chair of the Palm Springs Public Library Board of Trustees, vividly recalls what happened when COVID-19 hit nearly two years ago.
“The day the city shut down, the contracts for all the library plans were sitting on the city manager’s desk, waiting to be signed,” he recalled. “We all just felt very disappointed that we had worked so hard to get us that far, and the contract just slipped through our fingers.”
The contract he refers to is the use of $623,000 in Measure J funds for planned renovations to the city’s main library. It was among dozens of agreements moving forward when the city went into lockdown nearly two years ago.
As the city emerges from the pandemic, McBride and Library Director Jeannie Kays are hopeful the funds will re-emerge. They were on hand at a Feb. 17 meeting of the Measure J Oversight Commission, asking, “Where’s our $623,000? Where did it go? We’d love to have it back.”
For one, Commissioner Linda Futterer tried to reassure them, saying, “I support this wholeheartedly. I really think we have to move forward to give the library what they’ve asked for years and years and years — however we do it. I give the library 100% of my support.”
Both McBride and Kays will be paying attention tonight as the City Council is expected to approve moving forward with a grant application that could see state money arrive for library improvements. The item is on the consent agenda and is expected to pass easily.
Once passed, the library and city staff will move forward with applying for the California State Library Infrastructure Grant, which could award up to $10 million for library use. Whatever amount is awarded, the city would have to match it.
McBride and the Board of Trustees have been asking for funds for the library for years, and for a good reason.
“There hasn’t been significant renovation since the library was built in 1975,” McBride said, adding that the building has seen only had minor cosmetic updates in addition to new computers and furnishings.
McBride said an expert would be hired to figure out how much work needs to be done to get the building up to code if and when all funding comes through. Depending on those findings, the city might build an entirely new library or renovate and expand the current one.
Whatever the next steps for the actual building, McBride said creating a library that will make all city residents proud is the primary goal of the trustees’ efforts. And as a librarian for almost 40 years, he knows libraries are no longer just about books — they are places to gather, use the latest technology, and learn.
Community members confirmed what McBride knew during a community meeting in 2019 to discuss library improvement. Among the needs identified at the time were additional places for community gatherings.
“What came out of those meetings loud and clear is that the community of Palm Springs loves their library, and they want a new library,” said McBride.
Another priority community members identified was the possible introduction of an archive.
“There’s a feeling that the history of Palm Springs is slipping away,” McBride said. An archive would offer an opportunity to preserve the history of what makes Palm Springs unique, like its mid-century modern architecture and its thriving LGBTQ+ community.
Whatever form the new library takes, McBride knows the community wants it to stay in Sunrise Park.
“We looked at five possible sites over about three months and evaluated those,” he said. “We all came to the conclusion that citizens love the library in Sunrise Park. It wasn’t determined what the building would look like, but that’s where they wanted it to stay. That’s a message we’ve been committed to.”
NO NIGHTCLUB: The Palm Springs Planning Commission unanimously denied an application for the proposed Fuego Nightclub in the south end of Downtown Wednesday evening. The Commission cited concerns that the nightclub’s presence would negatively impact residents of nearby hotels and an adjacent apartment community and contribute to issues of crime and violence in that part of the city. “It’s a great use in the wrong location,” said Commission Vice Chair J.R. Roberts following a presentation by the applicant, Justine Boyer, as well as public testimony by opponents and a Palm Springs police sergeant. As proposed, Fuego would have converted a 9,500-square-foot building most recently operating as “The Bank” event space venue into a nightclub operating Thursdays through Saturdays from 4 p.m. until 2 a.m. Opponents, including residents of the adjacent Orleans Building apartments and managers of nearby boutique hotels, said allowing hundreds of possibly intoxicated people to spill out into the streets after the nightclub closed was “an absolutely horrible idea” that was “absolutely inconsistent with the area around it.”
? Today’s events
- The Mizell Center offers multiple programs and classes today, starting at 8 a.m.
- The LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert offers a chat group for all women — no matter how you identify — at 10:30 a.m.
- FIND Food Bank distributes food in the city today at the James O. Jesse Desert Highland Unity Center, 480 West Tram View Rd., starting at 4 p.m.
- The Palm Springs Animal Shelter holds a low-cost animal vaccine clinic today at 4 p.m.
- There’s a dog-friendly outdoor happy hour fundraiser for Animal Samaritans (appropriately named ‘Yappy Hour’) at Margaritaville, starting at 5 p.m.
- Novelist Andrew Neiderman, the ghostwriter for V.C. Andrews, will be speaking at a private home this evening starting at 5:30 p.m.
- The Palm Springs City Council holds its regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. There are several ways to view the meeting or participate.
- VillageFest is happening Downtown, starting at 6 p.m. Also, there’s free admission at the Palm Springs Art Museum.
- Palm Canyon Theatre performs Palm Springs Getaway this evening at 7 p.m. The musical runs all this weekend.
For more events in Palm Springs today, check the complete community calendar. Want your event listed? Just click here.
? What to watch for
- Dezart Performs continues performances of The Mountaintop this weekend.
- The Richard M. Milanovich Legacy Hike and 5K Run at Indian Canyons on Friday is open for registration.
- Want to help plant trees? More than 150 volunteers are needed on Saturday to plant trees at Desert Highland Park, Victoria Park and Demuth Park.
- The Shamrock 5K will be held Saturday, starting at the Palm Springs American Legion. Registration is open now.
- Heart-to-Heart Palm Springs is selling tickets for its Military Women Appreciation Luncheon on Saturday. Details are here.
- The Palm Springs Post and Palm Springs Cultural Center present their first free “Community Conversations” event on Monday, March 14.
- The Mizell Center’s Third Wednesday Speaker Series continues on March 16 with Bill Goldstein,Larry Kramer’s authorized biographer, discussing Mr. Kramer’s life and work.
- The ONE-PS Annual Neighborhood Picnic is slated for March 19 at Ruth Hardy Park.
- Palm Springs The Musical: Born to Sparkle premieres at Desert Rose Playhouse on March 24. It runs Thursdays through Sundays until April 10.
- A benefit for REAF-Palm Springs and the city’s AIDS Memorial Sculpture is planned for March 26 from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. at a private home in the city.
- Palm Canyon Theatre is staging Cyrano de Bergerac from March 31 until April 3.