They waited in the rain with the kind of excitement usually found at Apple product launches.
Hundreds then surged forward as the doors of the new Los Gatos Library opened to the public for the first time Saturday, a moment that captured the enduring importance of repositories of treasured information to community life, even in the Age of the App.
The 30,000-square-foot, two-story building quickly flooded with bodies -- toddlers, teens, civic leaders. Its inviting interior -- slate floors, wide-open spaces and floor-to-ceiling windows -- surely would have found favor with the late Steve Jobs had he built a library.
Rather than offering the latest in fashionable gadgets, however, the library will provide something far more lasting: aisles of soft-page books revealing ancient tales and important histories. There are also corners for reading and reflection.
"We are the community's living room," said Los Gatos Library Director Linda Dydo, noting that the building even has a fireplace.
The Internet, she said, has only made libraries more important to people of all ages. Dydo, who recalls debates early in her career about whether libraries should line shelves with the suddenly popular paperbacks, said the venerable institutions have remained vital by staying current.
The new library, for instance, houses complete databases of newspapers, magazines, encyclopedias as well as technical information such as programming languages C++ and Java -- the kind of material few could afford to own on their own. The library is outfitted with 30 shiny iMac desktop computers that also run the Windows operating system for digital discoveries. It also offers e-books.
"Libraries are always early adopters of technology," said Dydo, eyeing one of her staff walking quickly, iPad in hand.
The institution's relevancy could be seen in the faces of residents huddled outside, awaiting the opening ceremony and first chance to roam the roomy facility.
And it was evident in the $18.4 million the city committed to building the structure, 20 years in the planning, and the additional $2.1 million raised among residents to pay for much of what went inside.
Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino, who spoke during the opening ceremony, noted that the community mustered the resources to build the library during tough economic times -- even as other communities closed libraries or reduced their hours.
The new library, while certain to be a tranquil oasis for stretching the mind, is not meant to be tomb-quiet. There are rooms aplenty for meetings and discussions.
"Nobody 'shushes' you. Nobody follows you around," Dydo said. "You can come in with your bottled water and Snickers bar."
The library, located next to Town Hall on Main Street, houses a large children's area, gathering space for teens, computer bar, technology lab and outdoor patio. It was also built with solar panels and "smart" building technology that enables staff to reduce energy costs by monitoring power usage throughout the building.
"Libraries are evolving," said Los Gatos Mayor Steve Rice, who noted that the town of 30,000 had long ago outgrown its 1960s era library, cramped and outdated in every way.
"They have become community gatherings," he added. "They are at least as relevant today as they were" in the predigital days.
Indeed, a group of teenagers waited impatiently for the speeches to end before bolting ahead of the horde as the doors opened. The teens immediately set about exploring every nook of the library, mapping out new territory in their lives.
"It's just amazing," said 16-year-old Ethan Arns, a sophomore at nearby Los Gatos High School. He, like his buddies, has a deep appreciation for books -- the paper kind -- and plan to spend hours and hours every week in the library.
Shailaja Venkatsubramanyan, though, initially wondered what role a library would play at a time so much is available online. Her skepticism vanished the moment she and her husband and two children walked into the library.
She envisions their kids -- ages 7 and 4 -- spending a lot of time in the new facility.
"When you think of places to hang out -- other than the mall, there is nowhere else," said Venkatsubramanyan, an associate professor of management information systems at San Jose State University.
While her son and daughter are as tech savvy as any Silicon Valley children their age, they do have a preference for nondigital books.
"They love to feel the texture" of books made from paper, Venkatsubramanyan said.
"My little one loves the smell of books. That's something you can't get with a digital book."
She added, "My kids will grow up here."
Contact John Boudreau at 408-278-3496.