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East Las Vegas residents open book on new library branch

Sure, the new East Las Vegas Library is a traditional place to borrow books, find reference materials and study in quiet surroundings.

But it’s also 21st-century resource center, with free internet access and high-tech touches, a multipurpose room and outdoor plaza suitable for events including classes, cooking demonstrations, quinceaneras and car shows, and materials for loan including laptops, iPads and children’s toys.

It’s a place to “discover your passion,” explains Ronald Heezen, executive director of the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District

The East Las Vegas Library, 2851 E. Bonanza Road, opens Thursday with a 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting. Its service area is home to 14 elementary schools, two middle schools and three high schools, and about 70 percent of its residents are young parents.

Most households are Latina or Latino, supplemented by a mix of residents of Pacific Island and Central and South American heritage.

It replaces the Las Vegas Library near downtown, which closed April 20. The new library cost about $26 million, including about $4 million from a tax credit program, Heezen says.

The library will serve a largely underserved neighborhood — “the doughnut hole of library services,” Heezen says. “There was nothing here in East Las Vegas.”

Planning for the library included discussions with area residents, elected representatives and even the Mexican consulate, Heezen says. “We had talks with all these groups in the area and they said what they want.

“We heard that, ‘We want a place where we can have quinceaneras and other celebrations.’ So we designed a patio and meeting area around doing quinceaneras and a lot of different kinds of community gatherings. Also, in back in the community multipurpose room is a demonstration kitchen that can adapt to culinary training. So it’s a center for training for whatever dreams people have.”

Amenities galore

The week before its opening, Post-it notes bearing Library of Congress numbers stuck to shelves, awaiting replacement by more permanent signage. Plush sofas and chairs in multigenerational “living room” areas were put in place, and the first of what by opening day would be a more than 45,000-item collection of materials was shelved.

The 41,051-square-foot interior is airy and bright, with sunlight streaming in through glass walls. Heezen says this center will be the model for all district libraries to come.

One feature of the new model is a snack bar, Cafe con Leche, accessible via an indoor counter and a walk-up outside window, operated by the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. John Vino, the library district’s assistant general services director, says Cafe con Leche marks “the first time we changed our policy to allow food and drink in the library.”

Another new twist: a drive-up window where guests can pick up reserved books, pay fines or take care of other library business from their cars.

Outside, a children’s play area and a plaza are designed to host farmers markets, car shows, movie nights and other community events. Inside, there’s a 3,461-square-foot multipurpose room and an art gallery.

An Adult Learning Center will offer basic education, high school equivalency, online high school and English language resources, while a One-Stop Career Center will provide job search assistance, skills assessment, resume writing and job training and educational workshops. A “business incubation room” will offer meeting space, teleconferencing and other essentials.

Youth-oriented services include a technology lab where teens can use computers packed with graphic design, audio and video editing, music production and podcast-creation software, and dedicated “Teen Sphere” activity areas.

The library will have 32 computers for adults in its computer center and 48 more in its Adult Learning Center. A homework help center for kids will have 20 laptops, while the library’s youth services department will offer an additional 20.

Storytelling sessions and children’s activities will be held in an area called the “Imaginarium,” and a family activity space is called the “EL28 Lab,” named for East Las Vegas and the street the library borders.

Community service

Norberto Madrigal, vice-chairman of the Latin Chamber of Commerce, says the East Las Vegas Library will be a “game-changer for the community.”

The library’s resources — for example, Wi-Fi and computer access and its job training programs— are “needed in that area,” he says, as are programs that can help community members connect with one another.

The new library’s goal is to stoke patrons’ imagination, Heezen says. “People come to libraries and it ignites their dreams. They start dreaming about something and then can come here and discover how to actually do it. It’s a passport to their future.”

Contact John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

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