August 12, 2005

National City Spotlight:

This Gleaming Place of Ideas

By Ted Godshalk

It’s Monday morning, with five days until the Grand Opening, and some quiet, seriously dedicated people are very busy at 1401 National City Boulevard. A rectangular, low-rise building of smoked glass, black marble, and golden yellow stone has risen on the former site of a car dealer. City Librarian Anne Campbell and the many supporters of the National City Library are now poised to realize their long-held dream. On this Monday morning the construction crews, working side by side with the library staff, are putting the final touches on the most attractive civic building in the community.

Andrew Carnegie, millionaire supporter of libraries at the turn of the last century, viewed the public library as the “cradle of democracy.” In Carnegie’s day libraries were few and far between, but through his donation of 90 percent of his personal wealth, over 2,000 libraries were built. Since those days, libraries have played a very vital role in the life of city dwellers.

At the entrance to the library there is an impressive black granite wall with a quote from Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges. His quote that, “paradise will be a kind of library,” has been engraved into the stone in seven languages. The seven-language greeting is testament to the diversity of National City. Inside the library, the design is breathtaking. Twenty- two gray columns hold up the elliptical shaped ceiling as it fades from the front to the back, and gently reclines on one side, reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax office building from 1939. The building’s orientation toward the south lets the natural sunlight stream in through the many small windows.

A stainless steel Atomic Age light fixture hangs over the entrance’s central foyer. This area’s padded benches will no doubt welcome first-time visitors to the newest books in the collection. In the cavernous main room, the Adult section of reading material is displayed in maple-trimmed bookcases of seven shelves each.

But it is the collection on the shelves that is so astounding. There are almost 40,000 new titles in the adult section, and over 15,000 new additions to the Children’s Library as well. The Spanish language collection is superb. Every one will find a new friend at the National City Library.

This biblioteca is welcoming in a way previously unseen in our city. While the old library, which was built in 1954, had a comfy feeling sort of like a modest mountain cabin, the new library arrives as a modern cruise ship. Many visitors will eagerly take a vacation from the stresses of city life among the books, magazines, and other media aboard this ship.

There is much to be proud of. At an overall cost of $17 million, our community now has a library that should meet our needs for at least one hundred years. The technology upgrade is a significant portion of the new facility, and it represents an investment in the community. One hundred ten computers will be available for the public’s use, either in the second floor’s flexible, three-in-one classroom/ computer center, in the adult literacy center, or at small cubicles. At the rear of the library facing Kimball Park, television news will be continuously broadcast on a big-screen plasma TV. The students of National City have gained a new study area, complete with quiet rooms for group work. Other amenities include a Community Meeting Room and an upgraded Local History Room, which will be named for former mayor Kile Morgan after his donation of $175,000.

Libraries play an essential role in our society. This role is to honor the past while fostering new ideas in everyone who enters. They are important to our democracy. The new National City Library now waits for you to enter and see for yourself what this paradise has to offer.

Ted Godshalk can be reached at

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