Since Hurricane Sandy sent floodwaters rushing through its doors, destroying stacks of books and furniture, the Long Beach Public Library’s West End branch has remained closed. And more than a year later, its future remains uncertain.
The topic of the West End branch, at 810 W. Beech St., first stirred controversy in the spring, when some library trustees proposed closing it due to declining use and the storm damage. The landlord made repairs, and library board members agreed to continue renting the space until the lease expires on Feb. 1, giving the board time to consider its options and determine whether going to the expense of restocking the library would benefit the community.
The West End Neighbors Civic Association recently proposed replacing the old library with a multi-use library and community center. The library board said it first wants to conduct a survey to gauge West End residents’ interest in a library and the services they would want to see, and asses all possible options before moving ahead with a plan.
“The board has an open ear to any suggestions,” said Trustee Warren Vegh. “The board itself has not ruled out putting a library [in the West End], but we’re really looking into the right way to do it. We’re not going to jump in head first when we don’t have all of that information yet.”
Civic association President John Bendo said that the library was very small and not well promoted, adding that many residents did not even know about it. Most important, he said, the library opened too late and closed too early in the day to be a benefit to the majority of residents who work during the day, a concern raised by residents at previous library board meetings.
“I’m the perfect example,” Bendo said. “Because of the hours, I never stepped foot in that building. It was closed by the time I got home from work. What was there wasn’t working.”