EL CERRITO -- The city may not yet have the money to pay for a new library or identify a site, but plans for a new facility are going full steam ahead.
At a workshop held Thursday to learn what the community wants in a new facility, about 30 residents heard from Kathryn Page, a consultant hired to update a 7-year-old library needs assessment, before offering their own comments and suggestions.
Page told the group that there has been a "renaissance in library building" over the past 15 years, which is accelerating in part because of advances in technology.
The latest libraries are including more table space for user-owned laptops and other devices while providing fewer library-owned personal computers, Page said.
"People are looking for any seat where they can use computers," she said. "Any table can be a computer station."
Libraries also are becoming community "living rooms" with public spaces of different configurations with movable tables and chairs, she said. Study rooms, including spaces for after-school tutoring and small meeting rooms, are proliferating.
Page called the existing 64-year-old library on Stockton Avenue "a large shoe box" with poor acoustics, making it impossible for groups and individuals to use it simultaneously without creating distractions.
After hearing about the latest trends, participants provided ideas for tailoring the new building to meet their needs.
City Environmental Quality Committee member Howdy Gowdey suggested adding a tool-lending library and a seed library where residents could obtain vegetable seeds for planting in private and community gardens.
Community activist Tom Panas said he thinks the library ought to build collections on Asian-Americans and the LGBT community since El Cerrito has the largest percentage of Asians and gays and lesbians in Contra Costa County.
Panas also said he wants the building to include a coffee shop, calling it "a requirement."
Several participants mentioned the need to expand the library's collection, a goal Page endorsed.
"People want both e-book and printed books collections," she said. "We wouldn't want four-fifths of our shelf space empty, which is what we would have if we just transferred the current book collection."
Others suggested that a new library ought to be open more hours than the current facility.
The Contra Costa County library system pays for a baseline number of hours, which cities and communities can supplement at their own expense.
"It wouldn't make sense to me to build a new library and have it only open 35 hours a week," agreed Assistant City Manager Karen Pinkos, the city staff member in charge of the project.
A local bond measure might be one way to raise the $25 million it would cost to build the facility and outfit it with furniture, books and technology, Pinkos said.
El Cerrito was hoping to receive state funding to build a library when it did its 2006 community needs survey, but a construction bond the city was counting on was rejected by California voters.
"After that, we had the recession and the loss of our redevelopment agency," Pinkos said.
The city has not identified a potential site, other than the current Portola Middle School site on Moeser Lane, but that land is not expected to be available for several years, she said.
Pinkos discounted suggestions that the city check into the old Safeway and Guitar Center spaces on San Pablo Avenue, saying that both are in private hands and may be close to being leased.
"The site would have to be something that the city already owns or something that we could obtain from the school district," she said.