Central Library

Seismic Retrofit and Renovation

Concurrent with plans to minimize service impacts for library patrons, staff has been working to develop a plan and cost estimates for the seismic retrofit of the building. In support of these efforts, Assemblymember Chris Holden worked to secure $4 million in funding , through a grant from the State Library System in June of 2021.  In July of 2022, it was announced the state earmarked an additional $5 million  to the seismic retrofit and renovation project, bringing the total to $9 million to be used towards the Central Library design and engineering work.

In November of 2021, Public Works staff  issued a Request for Proposals  in order to select a qualified design team, well-versed in both seismic retrofit and historic preservation, to further refine the analysis, prepare the environmental report, develop options for retrofit and refine budgetary estimates. It is anticipated that this work will take approximately two years. On November 17, 2021 a pre-proposal conference was held with approximately 100 interested persons in attendance.

With the Central Library having served as an educational and cultural hub in Pasadena for almost 100 years, the City established a Community Programming Committee  to evaluate how the Central Library space can be reimagined to enhance the library’s capacity and services, taking into consideration current and future programming needs of the community. Comprised of community leaders with backgrounds in non-profit organizations, library operations, historic preservation, and media, they began meeting in September of 2022. Over four months and six meetings, these 11 passionate library advocates discussed the library’s positive role in the community, potential programs and services, and space planning. Many ideas were generated to share with the design team in the Central Library Community Programming Committee Report. Next steps for the Central Library Retrofit and Renovations Project will include the development and implementation of a public outreach plan as recommended by the Committee. Reaching beyond the Committee, the plan will include engagement of community stakeholders at project milestones to help inform the design process.

In October 2022, Mayor Victor Gordo appointed a Technical Oversight Committee  to review key findings and recommend design solutions at key milestones, as well as provide feedback to the project team and updates to City Council. Committee members included professionals and educators with backgrounds in architecture, structural engineering, seismology, and historic preservation, representing Pasadena Heritage, Caltech, American Institute of Architects (AIA), and others.

On February 6, 2023, at the regularly scheduled meeting, the Pasadena City Council approved a contract to move forward and begin the process of seismically retrofitting and renovating the Pasadena Central Library. (View the presentation made to City Council on January 23, 2023, resulting in the award.)  Gruen Associates and their qualified team of sub-consultants were awarded the contract  for professional design services for the retrofit project. This includes preparation of environmental documentation, final construction drawings and cost estimates for construction.

The contract is for an amount not-to-exceed $6,104,109, which includes a base contract amount of $5,779,109 and a contingency of $325,000.

With the contract awarded, environmental and design phase efforts will be initiated in March 2023 and are anticipated to be completed in approximately two years. This phase will also allow the City to determine the estimated total cost of the work to be done. A public outreach effort will also be initiated to provide updates and collect public feedback. The process also includes an advisory review of the retrofit design alternatives by the Technical Oversight Committee, Historic Preservation Commission, and the Public Safety Committee.

Upon review of the retrofit design alternatives by the Technical Oversight Committee, Historic Preservation Commission, and the Public Safety Committee , Public Works staff will return to  City Council in Fall 2023 with a recommendation to approve a specific retrofit design.

During this period, the City will continue to pursue funding opportunities for the construction phase of the project with the goal of securing all funds by the completion of the design phase. Pending appropriation of funds, construction is anticipated to begin in Summer 2025 and last approximately 30 to 36 months.

The Central Library will be 100 years old on February 12, 2027.

For more information on the Central Library, please visit www.PasadenaPublicLibrary.net.

Central Library Collections and Services

The following services and resources remain available:

  • Branch libraries are open for in-person service.
  • Librarians are available to provide assistance at branch libraries in person or by phone, or  through our web-based service, Ask Us!  (at  http://www.cityofpasadena.net/library/questions-help/).
  • eMedia are  available 24/7 including e-books and audiobooks; streaming TV, movie and music services; classes and digital subscriptions to newspapers and magazines.
  • Programs and Events: Visit our online calendar of events to find programs and events you can attend, either at the library or from home.
  • While some materials held at Central Library are currently unavailable, a number of items have been relocated to branch locations.
  • The Jefferson Branch Library Children and Teen Services offers programs, materials and services for children, teens and their families. See address, hours, and contact information at https://www.cityofpasadena.net/library/branches/jefferson-branch-childrens-and-teen-services/
  • Law Room databases provided through a partnership with LA Law Library, are currently available to use at Hastings Branch Library
  • Books, audiobooks, DVDs, and other circulating materials have been distributed to branch locations and are available.
  • Off-Site: Remaining materials at Central Library are currently being transferred to off-site storage, which will make them available for checkout. Materials already transferred are visible in the catalog with a location of "Off-Site Storage" and holds can be placed for pickup at a branch library. Reference materials will, upon request, be available to use inside a branch Library building
  • Innovation Lab equipment is being identified to relocate to branch library locations, including La Pintoresca, Jefferson, and Hastings, as well as other branches-please check our website and branch pages for updated information on available Innovation Lab equipment, programs and services.
  • STEAM kits, board games, video games and other circulating collections are relocated to and currently available at branch libraries.
  • Pasadena Local History Research: Staff can in many cases assist with Pasadena history research and questions, please submit requests for research or enquire about local history materials at https://cityofpasadena.libanswers.com/ or call a branch library to make a request.
  • Technology: All branch locations offer public Internet computers for use (one session of up to one hour per user per day) with a Pasadena Public Library card, as well as circulating chromebooks and hotspots. Find out more at https://www.cityofpasadena.net/library/technology/
  • Visit our FAQ  for more information.

You can stay updated on the library by visiting our website and following our social media accounts @pasadenalibrary.

Central Library

The Central Library is an important City institution that delivers on equity to City residents. The Central Library has been home to a wide variety of programs and services for almost 100 years. Annually, 30,000-40,000 community members attend storytimes, author visits, cultural events, Art Night, recitals, plays, and many other programs.

Constructed in 1927, the Pasadena Central Library, designed by Myron Hunt and H.C. Chambers, was the first building completed in Pasadena’s Civic Center Plan. The Pasadena City Hall and Civic Auditorium comprise the early Civic Center. Listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks, the original building is comprised of two stories above grade and a basement story below grade and is approximately 120,000 square feet. The building was expanded in the mid-1960s to include a children’s story room and two reference wings, and a historically sensitive interior restoration was undertaken in the late 1980s. Although several improvements and repairs have been made to the library over the decades, many of the building’s existing systems and components are original to the 1927 construction.

In the year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic closure, the Pasadena Central Library hosted 232 group events and 876 community and organization meetings. The City demonstrated continuously its commitment to ensure Pasadena children and youth have the resources they need to succeed in school as evidenced by the fact that close to nine-in-ten residents surveyed agree that Pasadena's libraries play a critical role in educating our community's children and youth. The same number see the Central Library as a community asset, a major part of the city's history, and an important architectural building.

Central Library Background

Influenced by a nationwide "City Beautiful" movement, Pasadenans first considered building a civic center as early as 1902. In 1922, the Chicago firm of Bennett, Parsons, and Frost was hired to devise a plan for Pasadena. In June of 1923, voters approved a bond for $3.5 million to fund the construction of the Civic Center consisting of the Central Library, City Hall, and Civic Auditorium. Ten California architectural firms were invited to submit drawings for all three buildings and were advised to use the architectural styles of the Renaissance or later periods as found in Mediterranean countries.

In 1924, the design for the Library submitted by the firm of Myron Hunt and H.C. Chambers placed first. The beautiful entry, patio, grand facade, and good opportunities for expansion were key factors in the decision. Construction of the Pasadena Central Library began on May 19, 1925. This is why the year 1925 is carved in Roman numerals over the front entrance of the building after "Public Library of the City of Pasadena." It was dedicated on Lincoln's birthday, February 12, 1927.

Central Library underwent a massive, historically sensitive restoration and renovation between 1984 and 1990. The Pasadena Public Library Foundation paid for all interior restoration. The Foundation was formed in 1983 as a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation and to date has raised over $3 million in individual, foundation, and corporate gifts specifically earmarked for architectural renovation and preservation of Central Library. In October of 1990 the Pasadena Central Library was given the National Preservation Award by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Since its opening, the Central Library has served as a hub of civic activity and remains as vital a community resource as ever. Central Library served as a destination for those who needed access to computers, Wi-Fi, or high-speed internet, as well as a variety of productivity software for job searching, research, or personal use. Central Library has housed the iLab for the last two years - an innovative space that provides the community with access to maker equipment like 3-D printers, Carvey machines, sewing machines, and more.

Central Library was also the home of the Office of the Young Child - a City-wide systems change initiative to bring all resources and activities for children up to five years of age and their families together. And importantly, the Central Library served as the repository of Pasadena's local history archives, providing valuable historical documents, newspapers, photos, and research.

Central Library Timeline 1923-2023

Central Library Closure

With Central Library approaching its centennial birthday in 2027, an assessment of the building’s condition and its various systems was completed in 2020. The project provided a general assessment and repairs to various building systems to include mechanical, plumbing, electrical, roof; and design of a new fire alarm and fire sprinkler system. The inspection discovered that the building consists of an unreinforced masonry structure, with walls that are not fastened to the building’s foundation, nor to the reinforced concrete floor beams and the timber roof they support. As such, a preliminary structural analysis of the building was completed in April 2021 revealing that the building does not meet the recommended structural performance objectives in a seismic event.

On May 3rd , 2021, City officials were forced to close the Central Library until a seismic retrofit and restoration could be completed to meet life safety requirements. The structural assessment revealed it was vulnerable to seismic activity and subject to collapse during an earthquake.

While the City has nine branch libraries, the Central Library is home to almost 300,000 items in its collection. As such, it is not possible to relocate all these materials to the branches. Soon after closure, Library staff  pursued options for the continued operation of Library programs and the relocation of the collection, including use of a modular building in the Central Library parking lot that currently serves as a materials handling location to ensure new materials are making their way into the system and circulating.

The City-owned Rose Palace on Raymond Avenue was identified to store a large amount of the collection, where it would be accessible to Library staff to retrieve and deliver to the branches as needed. In the interim, the City of Pasadena also leased the vacant Jefferson School to offer children and teen services. The temporary Jefferson Branch library also houses the Office of the Young Child and Teen Mental Health information centers.