In north Salinas, we have the tiny El Gabilan Library. It is 2,000 square feet to serve a population of many thousands. Many of us have been saying for years that this library is insufficient for north Salinas, that we need something larger with areas for more programs, public meetings, and more. This became louder while Dennis Donohue was mayor; Dennis was a friend of libraries.
On Wednesday, September 17, Mayor Joe Gunter announced plans to expand the library. On Thursday, September 18, the issue went to the Measure V Committee.
The proposal is to use the vacant land adjacent to the library for a public-private partnership between a credit union and the City of Salinas. Early plans are for a 15,000 square foot library, with public outreach to determine what will actually be within that 15,000 square feet.
We seriously need to expand the postage-stamp El Gabilan Library as much as possible as soon as possible. We need programs for children in the library, we need programs for young adults in the library, we need programs for seniors in the library, we need programs for Spanish speakers (there are quite a few of our Spanish-speaking neighbors), we need one or more public meeting rooms. We will likely need far more than 15,000 square feet. We need to make the El Gabilan Library into the best library in Monterey County, if not the entire region.
The library serves students who attend two public high schools in Salinas, as well as two middle schools and many elementary schools. There are many retired people in the area, and many families. Whatever the size, an expanded El Gabilan Library will serve many.
Our current councilmember held up a cell phone and told Elizabeth Martinez that the cell phone was her library. That attitude cannot help with this process, a process which will affect residents of North Salinas for decades to come. That is one of the many reasons I am running to be your District Five Councilmember.
Another issue is the location of the library, at the intersection of North Main Street with Navajo Drive. This is one of the most dangerous intersections in Salinas, with an uncontrolled crosswalk across Main Street which is heavily used. There has been at least one recent pedestrian fatality at that crosswalk. There is fast traffic on Main Street, which contributed to the fatality. We need to both make crossing Main Street at Navajo Drive safer while slowing down the fast traffic on Main Street, for the safety of all. The best way to do this is with a roundabout, which will be difficult due to the size of the intersection, but still possible.
Good city employees have made the El Gabilan Library into the best 2,000 square feet in Salinas. But we need to expand the library to allow them to do their best for us!