Mayor Sanders Spins the New Central Library Without City Workers

by on July 29, 2010 · 22 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, History, San Diego

Library model rk

Model of new library and golden shovels. Live photos by Rich Kacmar.

Editor: The City broke ground yesterday on construction of the new Central Library in downtown San Diego.  On hand for us as witnesses were Anna Daniels- a former City librarian – and her hubby Rich Kacmar toting a camera. Anna filed the following observations:

To be honest, I never thought I’d live long enough to see a much needed new central library in this city. The City Council gave the green light last month to its construction but it wasn’t until we were all invited to this morning’s groundbreaking that I felt it was truly going to happen.

library new central

Artist's rendering of new library.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that the event would turn out to be a political love fest. Current city and state politicians and past politicians and school board members sat in rows on the stage. The Library Foundation members who raised thirty four million dollars in private donations were there. The state library director was there. The mayor recognized them all individually and a number of them had the opportunity to speak.

I am not taking issue with any of these people being on that stage. They should have been there. Without political will and political support a new central library would never happen. Nor would this particular civic building be built without significant private funding, although requiring private funding for a public facility is a disturbing requirement.

I am taking issue with the size of the stage, who was not included there.

Library celebrities

Former Mayor Dick Murphy and Former Library Director Anna Tatar

I was completely dumbfounded that the mayor did not have the courtesy to recognize on the stage all of the former city librarians, one of whom was in the crowd. They understood that the citizens needed and deserved a new central library.

Three of them- Marco Thorne, Bill Sannwald, and Anna Tatar had worked long and hard on this project since the late 70’s. The current library director, Deborah Barrow had a chair on the stage, and she and library staff were quickly acknowledged, but she wasn’t given the opportunity to speak. These individuals also represent the city workforce, city employees, so their omission or cursory treatment is a significant one.

There would be no new central library without the vision and hard work of past and present library staff, nor without the advocacy work that they did on their own time as private citizens. So many city workers care deeply about what they do. It would have cost the mayor absolutely nothing to have recognized past directors and the city workforce. A significant number of us in that two block long crowd was retirees, and each one of us was there because of our belief in libraries and the great need for a new central library.

Library celebration

A library celebration without city employees.

All too often, public employees are either maligned or remain invisible and made negligible. The mayor had an opportunity to provide a different narrative, but he didn’t. I guess he just couldn’t figure out how to get a bigger stage.

Here’s the Union-Tribune account by Roger Showley (Class of 1966 Point Loma HS).

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

sunshine July 29, 2010 at 9:58 am

you will always be my favorite librarian and I acknowledge all your hard work and efforts to see this come about. I’ve got a special place in my heart for all of you who’s efforts who made this dream a reality. Mayor or no mayor, we all know who made this come to fruition.


annagrace July 29, 2010 at 10:05 am

Thanks, Sunshine. I hope you get to know Bob Cronk, your OB branch librarian. He’s a really good guy and enjoys working with the OB community.


doug porter July 29, 2010 at 9:59 am

from what i hear, they had a collection box sitting there to take donations to make up the shortfall in construction funding.


just my 2 cents July 29, 2010 at 12:53 pm

A big fat joke…..why not upgrade 15 community libraries? It’s all about the naming rights.. what a crock….I never once in my 55 years went to the Downtown library…..Instead we walked or rode our bikes 8 blocks to the Lemon Grove Library….Mr. Hot shot Qualcome guy should give his 20 million to the fire departments !!!


annagrace July 29, 2010 at 1:02 pm

A 20Million dollar state library grant can’t be used for fire stations; 80 Million dollars in redevelopment funds can’t be used for libraries or anything else outside of the redevelopment area; people give gifts as they see fit. The City Council accepted the mayor’s budget reductions of the branch libraries. Not one “no” vote. Citizens do have control over that.


RB July 30, 2010 at 9:30 am

Before anyone spends $180 million on a monument, you might want to look at a library system that is run better than the city’s system, that already supports its current system with small, shinny new branches , that is open more hours and has higher circulation than the city’ system, and has no need for a central monument. If you want to find an open branch library, find a book, use a computer, go to a county library! If the OB library was a part of the county system it would be modern, useful, and the pride of our community.


Andy Cohen July 30, 2010 at 5:47 pm

You may not use the downtown library, but I have recently found it to be an invaluable resource. The community libraries are fine (there’s one much closer to where I live than Downtown), but they don’t have anywhere NEAR the resources available at the Main Library.

It’s an important community asset, and it’s great that they’re finally getting it done!


Bill August 5, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Anybody ever heard of a Kindle? In 10 or 15 years, electronic books will be the norm, rendering a $180 million downtown edifice obsolete. Pretty shortsighted of our government. Why do I need a huge building located far from me for a library? The best thing to happen to Point Loma was the reconstruction of the Hervey library with the meeting rooms and spaces and computers. This is where the money should be spent, on local libraries that people can walk to. But, I guess Mr. Sanders’ friends in construction want the money and we’ll get it to them, somehow. Same trick as Petco Park. I don’t begin to believe all that tripe about how the ballpark is making us so much money. It’s making a few people a lot of money, those who manuevered to grab the land around it. More friends of government, I guess. The scams never seem to stop. We need to get corporate money out of the political machinery and give every citizen an equal voice again.


annagrace August 5, 2010 at 5:45 pm

I agree Bill- communities should have libraries that they can walk to, with meeting rooms and computers- AND books and library staff. I hope that if the mayor proposes again to shutter neighborhood libraries, on the grounds that people can just drive to the next one, you will be a supporter of those neighborhood libraries- not just yours.

You may never have had need to use the central library for a research paper on say social customs in the Renaissance, or wanted to research ship passenger lists as part of a genealogical search, conduct a patent search or read a literary journal, but other people do have these needs and desires. And they may need special equipment for the visually and physically impaired to do so. These are unique resources, often local resources that do not add much to Kindle’s bottom line and they are all available at the central library in its current cramped and un-user friendly existence.

I am not holding my breath waiting for Kindle to provide this kind of online information, nor special accommodations to people with physical impairments to use it. It is unrealistic to think that all of us will be able to afford this kind of technology or even want to use it.

Your beautiful Hervey Point Loma library cannot possibly house all the books and resources needed to serve the public there. The central library sends around 5,000 books every month out to the branches, most of them much much smaller than the Point Loma library- Kensington/Normal Heights is less than 4,000 sq feet.

Instead of viewing the new central library as a corporatist coup, I see it as a citizen victory. And perhaps there is a contradiction here too- Kindle is the corporate delivery of information, for profit. It is not concerned with unrestricted, free access to information, or literacy as a democratic cornerstone. It is a proprietary database (and it collects all kinds of information about user tastes, just like it’s parent company Amazon.)

I have no reason to believe that Kindle will be around 15 years from now. The technology is predicated upon obsolescence, what’s newer, faster and above all -the must have! The whole issue of the potential lack of net neutrality will have tremendous ramifications on Internet users if charges for tiered use are applied. I suspect that 15 years from now, libraries too will have evolved, but there is no doubt in my mind that they will still have books. Plenty of books and people who want to read them. Libraries will continue to level the technological playing field; and hopefully they will remain a democratic cornerstone.

PS- The new central library was designed to have an exhibition space large enough to accommodate installations by the Smithsonian. There are few spaces in San Diego able to do so. Perhaps that will speak to your library loving heart!


Bill August 6, 2010 at 7:58 am

Certainly, Kindle as a product may not be around in the future but there will be more and more products like it. My point was that the electronic book is the direction of the future, not the bound paper book. The economics of it will assure this (and save some trees.) Only a few years ago, we thought that a cell phone was an expensive luxury and today 80%have one and depend on it (my guess, probably more). The device you hold in your hand will become your library. The big building will still serve some purpose but people will go there less and less as the information they seek is available instantaneously wherever they are.

If we look at the library as a meeting place that promotes communications and the exchange of ideas, I will concede that it could be a good thing. I just hope the design allows for remodeling for when shelf space may become less important than community space. Come to think of it, meetings are evolving electronically as well. I can’t imagine right now what we will come to see as a ‘meeting’ in the future. It’s uncanny how the science fiction I read in the past is commonplace now.

I hope community space becomes more important than it appears to be today. I’m disgusted with all the factionalism and closed-mindedness we have. We need to return to some degree of willingness to compromise. But, that’s another conversation somewhere down the line.

Be well and keep up your good work. I appreciate your thoughtful comments.


fstued July 30, 2010 at 9:16 am

Not acknowledging those most involved is just another stage of Project management. They will get the blame when change orders and delays arise and when the project is complete and a grand opening is held those same face will be absent and the same facesthere this week will be taking all the credit for what a great job the did while not involved.
Cynicism aside Kudos to all the hard working City employees who have been working on the libary project for a long long time. I do hope it is the grand building the politicans want it to be and I’ll even thank the old police chief for getting it rolling. Lets hope it gets complete with in the next few years.
Anna thanks for the article


Andy Cohen July 30, 2010 at 5:57 pm


It’s a shame that Mayor Sanders didn’t acknowledge the “little people” who contributed nothing but their blood, sweat, tears, and passion to building this new, modern facility. Unfortunately that’s how politics works: Those who contribute nothing more than the funds are deemed more important than those who do the actual work. It’s not right, but that’s how it is.

The people who fund these projects need to have their egos stroked so that the politicians can make sure that the money faucet remains on.

Still, you and your contemporaries deserve recognition for the years of work you put in to get us to this day. I suggest writing a letter to the mayor and explain why you feel this is such an injustice. And in addition to the post here, you should write a letter to the editor of the UT. At least that way the mayor will know and the public will know that those who are really responsible for the new library were slighted.


annagrace July 31, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I did write to the mayor. Stay tuned for the response.


john July 31, 2010 at 3:28 am

Some see to forget there is a tangible economic benefit to having a world class library in a revitalized downtown that is central to pitches used to draw conventions and other tourism related dollars here. Tourism is San Diego’s #1 industry, a notable library gets media visitors from other areas writing about us. I can easily envision a family from the east or another country coming to stay downtown, drawn to attend a convention, and visiting the library for necessary resources or maybe Dad and Jr go to watch the Padres choke at Petco while mom and daughter naturally would rather watch paint dry than the 3 excruciatingly boring hours of sitting through a major league baseball game and visit that beautiful library everyone at home said they visited when here.
In short it makes our city a destination even if many don’t even actually go in the building. The greatness of any city is the iconic nature of its public works intended to advance culture, and while you could argue that an Opera House like Sydney’s or maybe an architectural shrine used for displaying art like the (NYC) Guggenheim have little practical value to anyone but those who hob nob with the hoighty toighty, however even in the age of teh 1337 internets a public library has more practical use than nearly anything else we could invest in.
In the event any of the number of predicted catastrophes involving the destruction of our electronically dependent civilization actually occurs, these public officials who pressed on for this will be seen as Gods for their insight- unless they make the front doorlocks on cards then they will be hauled off by the torch wielding mobs.


annagrace July 31, 2010 at 2:00 pm

You are quite right about the economic benefits of libraries. Unfortunately, there is no formal study available locally or nationally on the subject. I would like to see a survey generated by a local university’s business department. It would be invaluable in shifting the perception of libraries as “feel good” revenue users to that of revenue generators. This kind of survey has been done about the economic benefits of art funding in the city.


Andy Cohen July 31, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Thanks John! You’ve just made a great argument in favor of building a new football stadium downtown!


RB July 31, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Me…when I travel, I like see iconic City Halls.
The beaches, Zoo, Balboa Park and Sea World are so overrated compare to nonfunctional overpriced edifices.


annagrace July 31, 2010 at 7:23 pm

I’m frankly surprised that you would present such a flimsy dichotomy. Have you ever visited Washington DC or Paris or even LA? Why would you ever assume that people can’t enjoy both the natural beauty and the built environment? I sat at the information desk of the current central library for almost 25 years. Over 15% of my time was spent connecting visitors/tourists to all of the other things you named and much much more.

Tourists often go to public facilities- ie the library- to figure out what to see, where to eat, where to stay. An architecturally significant central library will undoubtedly increase this kind of use. The de facto tourist bureau function of libraries should not be under-estimated- a valuable service and bucks in the bank locally. The central library should, in fact, receive tax increment money for this function, just like the Chamber of Commerce and tourist bureau.

In short- people come to the library, get information, read their local newspaper, check their email and are sent off with the assistance of city workers to the beaches, Sea World, the Zoo and places you haven’t thought of. Meaningful, interesting public architecture can only enhance this kind of use.


RB August 1, 2010 at 11:27 am

I don’t hate libraries. I use libraries all the time and I know several librarians. I did scientific research for thirty years and used the libraries constantly. My wife and son read more than a hundred books a year, all from the public libraries. But like most readers they don’t care about the building size or how many cocktail parties it hosts, they want library hours, current collections, and service from the staff for questions and research.

Next time you are in the library, look up the concept of opportunity cost.
What do you have to give up or defer because of a choice?
The public wants increased library hours, branch libraries, collections and material, and convenient access to information, not a $180 million bird cage next to the ball park. And if I was wrong and you were right, a public vote would end the debate.


john July 31, 2010 at 6:19 pm

If you mean by my reference to the analogy about Petco Park and the visiting family, haha, I guess in theory you are correct, if the argument is about location only.
However my post was toward the economic benefit, and you’d get no support from the public on funding the thing as you would a library, even though IMO the Spanos family, simply by virtue of commitment to excellence- and I do know the murky source of that phrase-are far more deserving of public funding AKA corporate welfare than the Padres former owners ever would be. The Moores/Stallings mess really pissed me off, particularly the way when the feds put a hold on the project while they were investigating, Moores complained about the delay as if he were the victim in the whole affair. What audacity. What he did is bigger than the stadium project anyway as it’s indicative with what’s wrong with our whole financial system regarding Wall St.
On that (Chargers) stadium I can’t logically see it going downtown unless there was a clause that there be no weekday games EVER and of course that’s not going to happen. Petco and its perennial mediocre tenant have never and will never draw 75,000+ paying fans on the coldest day in hell if you could even seat them. (if you can’t tell I like the Chargers and football but could live without baseball and the Pooches)
They developed downtown as a revitalized area to work and live, a Monday night game near sold out would have an intolerable impact on the residents IMO- though I admit to not even knowing where a proposed site would be. Preseason games often happen on other weekdays as well.
My position has always been the Chargers need and deserve a new stadium. It should be in Mission Valley, be entirely funded by the team and NFL and a little sweetheart juice from the city (like the Chargers were close to accepting had the city simply parted with a bit of land but the city was too miserly about it) I don’t even know where that issue has gone now but if it comes to a big bond issue and the public footing the bill they won’t support it and neither would I. However again I think Spanos is one of the few class acts in that industry and if it comes down to them leaving town (AKA LA Chargers, can you imagine?) we ****ed up big time.
Or you might say America’s most negligently mismanaged city, for decades now, got what it deserved. From J David Dominelli, Hedgecock, Golding (woman smart enough to be elected mayor too dumb to realize husband was a crook? Cmon) Pete Wilson and the Ramada deal over the MB landfill, we have as much corruption as old Chicago, and the negligence is just as bad- we know about the pension mess, and if you didn’t hear it anywhere before remember it now, the next huge mess from negligence is coming soon. The bulk of development since 1980 was in a flood plain and our hundred years is about due.
That’s another topic, and maybe I’m an alarmist, but the first two pictures here are haunting:


Andy Cohen August 3, 2010 at 4:13 pm

I know this is getting a bit off topic, but since you mentioned libraries as a tourism generator, while I don’t disagree, I happen to believe that if done right and in the right location, a stadium can be even more of a revenue generator for the city, tourism and otherwise. It generates a whole lot more attention for the city nationally and internationally.

I wrote about it here:


Bill August 5, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Ever heard of the computing ‘cloud’ or even a backup? The catastrophe you speak of would have to be truly global in nature to lose everything like that and I would think that, in that case, we would have more worries than the loss of books.

Your remaining arguments are also pretty weak. No one goes to New York because of the library. They go because they’ve been sent to some function or business, like a convention or such. They go to a Broadway show or a Yankees game while they are there but they don’t go for the library. I’ve never heard anyone come back from New York and say ‘Gee, the library was fantastic!’.

We need the expanded Convention Center to draw more events besides ComicCon. Let’s spend the money on that. We should make San Diego a convention Mecca. You can’t beat the weather and we can host conventions year-round. It’s an undiscovered country waiting for exploitation.

I’ve never heard anyone say ‘Hey, let’s go to Orlando and see the library!’, have you? Let’s be real.


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