After 12 years, work on the new Idyllwild Library — 4,000 square feet of open, light-filled space in which to read, research and relax — will begin in late September according to Natalia Brown, Economic Development Agency project manager. Construction is expected to take six months, pushing completion into spring 2012.

The vision of a new or expanded library space has been one held by the Friends of the Idyllwild Library since May 1999, when expanding the existing library was first mentioned at a board meeting. The group later asked Suburban Propane about donating a 2000-square-foot strip of land to permit library expansion.

Although Suburban agreed, the county ultimately did not. In 2010, the parties rejected the expansion plans because of concerns about the risk of fire and explosion from the adjacent Suburban storage facility. Plans to relocate the Suburban storage tank field to the Morning Sky property in Mountain Center had fallen through in 2009.

In 2010, 3rd District Supervisor Jeff Stone spoke with the Idyllwild Community Center land donor about possible public and private cooperation. If the library could have been located at the community center site, county funds could have contributed to construction of the Community Center. The land donor nixed the proposal.

Plan “C” became a new state-of-the-art library. In 2006, the county estimated expansion of the existing library would cost about $200,000. The new facility will be built with $1 to $3 million of federal Community Block Redevelopment funds.

On Feb. 2, Stone, county Librarian Tonya Kennon and library architects Dan Benner and Pam Maynard of HMC Architects in Ontario met with the Friends and current Idyllwild Librarian Teresa Brouwer. The session took place in the county’s newly acquired Cornet Building, the proposed library site in Strawberry Creek Plaza, to discuss project timetables and regular consultation with the Friends.

At that time, Stone said he hoped for library completion before the first snow. That will not happen, primarily because the consultative process with the Friends and Brouwer was more thorough and took longer than had originally been planned. Benner stated in February that his firm would work closely with the Friends so that the finished structure would reflect community suggestions, Idyllwild’s alpine character, and contain the latest technology.

The Friends took field trips to other new county libraries and, through frequent meetings with HMC, continued to refine library design elements. According to Friends and Brown, that consultative process has been productive and the library’s final design reflects Idyllwild input.

Project manager Brown estimates completed construction documents will be submitted to county building and fire by the end of July. The next steps are review by county facilities management and requesting construction bids in August.

“We anticipate the award of the construction contract in September, with construction to start within a few weeks after award of the contract,” said Brown. Still in the design, according to Brown, is a community room seating upwards of 50 and a fireplace (more visual than with actual fire or heat). The overall design features a pitched roof with windows providing a view of local mountains. Still under discussion is an outdoor reading area.