Under the direction of John W. Adkins, director of libraries, the downtown branch will get more than just a fresh coat of paint. According to Adkins, there will be new carpeting and furniture, added conference rooms and community space, a refurbished reading room and more computers available for public use. Additionally, more electrical outlets to accommodate laptop users will be installed throughout the building as well as new communication and media technology.
The building will be compliant with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and separate work spaces for employees will be added. Ir² — Interior Resource, Inc. of San Diego did the design work on the project.
“We’re really lucky to have this opportunity to grow the library,” Adkins said. “It’s a wonderful resource that does touch everybody in the county.”
On Dec. 30, the downtown branch closed for the renovations and a temporary scaled-down location will be opened one block away in the Franz Building at 1168 Union St. on Jan. 18. The hours of operation will remain the same as the main branch and computers will be made available for public use. Patrons will have access to federal and state practice materials and all books at the temporary location will be available for loan.
Renovations are expected to take up to six months to complete.
Beyond renovating the downtown branch, Adkins said the San Diego County Public Law Library is taking this opportunity to reinvent and rebrand itself as the law library for the people of San Diego.
“At its core, we make law public, we bring the law to the people and we provide access to justice,” said Adkins, adding that the courts don’t do that. “To get access to that justice, you must have the legal arguments and the law behind you. We’re the ones who can help you get there.”
Adkins said one of his major goals is to ensure that the people of San Diego County understand the full range of services and educational opportunities offered at the law library. He encourages those who can’t afford an attorney to use the resources of the public law library to get meaningful help in whatever legal proceeding they may face. Adkins pointed out that library staff cannot provide legal advice to patrons.
“Legal research is complex, tedious and difficult,” Adkins said. “We are the communicators, liaisons and facilitators so that people can get the information they need.”
For solo practitioners who do not have the trappings of a big law firm, Adkins said the public law library could serve as his or her office, where they can conduct meetings with clients, do depositions, and have access to databases that they depend on. He sees an opportunity to fulfill a real need for many local attorneys who have been laid off or can’t afford the high overhead of an office.
Genaro Lara, a civil rights and criminal defense attorney, who has been using the resources of the law library for the last 20 years, said that it’s practical to do so and handy because his office is only one block away from the branch.
“I have access to research in my office, so I won’t really be at much of a loss while the library is closed,” Lara said. “But it’s easier to get law review treatises and articles here and the sources available are free.”
While any member of the public can conduct research at the library, residents of San Diego County can apply for membership and receive a library card to borrow materials. Membership is $10 per year and a small refundable deposit is required to cover the cost of lost or damaged materials. Annual membership dues have been waived until September due to the renovation of the main library.
In addition to the downtown branch, the county’s public law library system has locations in Chula Vista, El Cajon and Vista. During the renovation, patrons are encouraged to visit the other branches. Parking is provided free of charge.
For more information, visit www.sdcll.org or call (619) 531-3900.