An update from Magnus on the Henry Miller Memorial Library’s ongoing renovation efforts…

Though ground has yet to be broken — but when it is, we’ll probably have a party around it — the Library’s renovations are moving forward as swiftly as the machinations of country government, legal consultations, and other practical and necessary matters allow.

But before we take a closer look at the three main components of our renovation work — building a new water system, creating ADA-compliant bathrooms, and developing a new parking plan — we wanted to first update you on our capacity challenges.

As you may have heard, Monterey County mandated that we can only have 120 people for normal Library gathers, be it movie night, concerts, etc. This is because we lack the parking capacity—which we’ll get to in a second—to accommodate 300 people. (If you noticed that all the movie nights were capped at 120 capacity and sold out rather quickly, this will not come as a surprise.)

We’re happy to report that our efforts to hold events within the capacity limitations this summer went smoothly. That said, these limitations did have an adverse effect on our bottom line.


Impact of new capacity restrictions

It’s simple math. Previously, we’d host approximately 180 guest per movie night. If each guest donated $10, we’d take in $1,800. This summer, however, with 120 guests, our take dropped to $1,200. Spread across the summer — 12 movies nights plus two finales — we ended up approximately $8,500 in the hole over last year. And that’s just for movie nights.

(Side note: if you find numbers riveting, you’ll be intrigued to know that we did the math, and it takes 1,100 volunteer hours — that’s 29 weeks, or 7 months — to make the Big Sur International Short Film Series happen!)

Fortunately, we — along with every other business in Big Sur — have seen a continual uptick in walk-in visitors over last year, which certainly helps to lessen the impact. Ironically enough, however, it’s precisely because more and more visitors keep pouring into Big Sur that we need to modernize our operations. (How’s that for a great segue?)

So let’s start with installing a proper public water system.


Saying goodbye to our 1965-vintage water system

As we all know, the Henry Miller Memorial Library once was the home of his friend Emil White. The building was built in the mid 60s, and it opened to the general public in 1981. Needless to say, Big Sur of 1981 is a far cry from the Big Sur of 2015. As the Library has grown, it has come to be rightfully viewed less as a private residential dwelling and more as a “public” place. And, under law, any public place should have an authorized “public” water system.

But don’t we have water at the Library now? Yup, we do. It comes from a local well and we’ve been drinking it since 1965. However, the current system doesn’t meet the requirements of an authorized “public” water system, and so we have to build one from scratch.

With permits, engineering, construction and, in our case, easements and plot line adjustments with a neighbor, we estimate construction will cost at least $60,000.

So where does the process currently stand? Our architects and the engineers have designed a proposed system that will reside on the hillside facing south of the Library property. Meanwhile, lawyers are looking into the agreements and easements, all in tandem with the planning department and the health department. We are very close to having the agreements between us and the neighbor signed, and within 30 days after the agreement is reach, we should be able to give the plans to the contractor who will be starting the actual work of installing the system.


Bathroom renovation: Demolition and construction

Now let’s look at renovating our bathrooms to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This legislation, which was enacted in 1990, sets out design and engineering standards to make public restrooms and other facilities accessible to disabled people. These standards apply to things like wheelchair access; proper heights and locations for sinks, counters, stalls, and urinals; acceptable floor space area size, and more.

This element of the renovation will require the demolition of existing library structures like our storage shed on the northeast side of the property and the construction of a new bathroom from scratch. Construction will encroach on our neighbor’s property and so we require a lot line adjustment to change our property lines. Once the adjustment is made, officials at the county Planning and Building and Health departments will sign off on the plan. In addition, our lawyers will finalize the lot line adjustment with our neighbor. The cost of this part of the plan is already up to over 35K and will surely be over 120K by the time we’re done!

Barring rumors of a fierce El Nino winter, we hope to begin demolition and construction towards the end of the year.

Which, at long last, brings us to our parking plan. Visitors to the Library know that that sharp curve on the south end of the property can be a little tricky, and so we’re working to maximize visitor safety and to facilitate for handicap access. This requires resurfacing part of the  parking lot with asphalt, erecting signage that specifically shows reserved handicap parking, and using the spaces that we have inside the gate along the southern border.


The Archive Room at long last!

Plans have  been submitted to the County Planning Dept. for a secure and strong archive room designed by Studio Carver. It will provide  us with a safe space for all our archives including the two main collections: The Schnellock Collection and the William Ashley Collection. This is a dream come true but construction may be on the back burner for a while and will require at least one more round of fundraising. Hopefully the goal of being able to both care for and show our collections should be make a strong argument to lose up the purse strings for those who can!


So in closing we still have a bit to do and we’ll keep you posted. The Very Best Way to stay in touch and to help is to consider joining us on the Digest. Click here!