Fullerton City Council to Consider Future of Hunt Branch Library

Photo courtesy Fullerton Public Library

The Hunt Branch Library officially became a Fullerton local landmark back in November but now faces questions as to what the future of the William Pereira architectural gem will be. Before shuttering library services in 2013, budget cuts whittled the Hunt’s operating hours down to just two-and-a-half days a week while an early precursor to the Santa Ana Riverbed homeless encampment grew alongside nearby train tracks. It’s since been leased by Grace Ministries, a Korean evangelical church.

Judy Booth, public library director, prepared a report on behalf of the Fullerton AdHoc Library Committee to be presented before council this evening. It considers a tier of possible uses of the facility going forward. “The restoration and revitalization of this architectural treasure provides Fullerton with a unique opportunity to rebuild and strengthen a sense of community and belonging in our diverse and remarkable city,” the report begins with. “We envision the possibility of a renaissance of literacy, in its broadest sense, for Fullerton, our Education Community.”

In considering top priorities, the Hunt could be revived, in part, as a children’s library complete with related story time, poetry and drama programs. Other literacy possibilities include hosting ESL classes in partnership with the North Orange County Community College District and teaching local history with Center for Oral and Public History interns from Cal State Fullerton providing lessons. Council members will mull museum possibilities including a possible partnership with Norton Simon Art Foundation–which would bring the Hunt full circle; the library came as a gift from the foundation in 1962 when it was known as Hunt Foods Charitable Foundation.

The Hunt may also become home to a community center offering social services. The report notes that the Fullerton Alanon Club is interested in leasing the space as is the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Relief, an Anaheim-based nonprofit that’s bulging out of its current location.

What the committee doesn’t support for the Hunt’s future is turning the building into any kind of homeless service center or negotiating a deal with a private business.

In mapping out the next chapter for the local landmark, the committee suggests city staff open up a request for proposals (RFP) process with a June 30 deadline. Potential revenue sources for whatever comes the Hunt’s way include a parcel tax and corporate foundation grants.

Fullerton city council formed the committee last May to explore uses of the city-owned property, including a library. Five council members appointed a person each to the committee, who, in turn, selected four more people through an application process. Booth also serves on the ten-member board by virtue of her position as public library director.

What action the council takes remains to be seen. In September, city staff estimated the annual cost of running a children’s library in a subset of the space to be $357,000. In a meeting last August, councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald actually asked the following question: “Should we be in the library business?”

Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!

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