The Central Library's main level is open for limited browsing during a three-phase construction project | Credit: Ryan P. Cruz

Staff at the Santa Barbara Public Library’s downtown location continue to adapt to a three-phase construction project that has forced several adjustments to browsing and pickup hours while the building’s main level undergoes major excavation for a new ADA-compliant elevator. Starting Tuesday, after several weeks of limited pickup windows, a portion of the main level will reopen with expanded browsing hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Thursdays.

Library staff’s temporary office space | Credit: Ryan P. Cruz

“Most libraries would have just closed, or moved everything off-site,” said Library Services Manager Molly Wetta, who has worked in Santa Barbara for the past six years. Wetta remembers helping her previous library through a restoration project in Lawrence, Kansas, where it was forced to completely shut its doors and move its collections to a recently vacated Borders location nearby. Santa Barbara has been able to retain most of its services and all of the staff, Wetta continued, and has adjusted by offering more programs at the Eastside location, which Wetta said has become the “hidden gem” after its own renovation in 2020.

In the Central location, temporary walls currently block off much of the main level, and electrical cables line the space. Staff members are tucked away in makeshift desk areas, and books are stashed in boxes. Despite the construction crews humming about, staff is still running business as usual with pickup and hold requests continuing to pour in. “We’re pulling holds as fast as they come in,” Wetta said. The limited browsing sections include fiction, young adult, nonfiction, and graphic novels, but Wetta said the library will be opening more sections as construction continues.

It’s still too early to offer a solid timeline for the work, Wetta said, but barring any extra supply chain issues, construction could be finished next summer. The lower-level staff area will likely be finished first, and the ADA-compliant elevator will be the last part of the three-phase project to be finished.

For updates on construction and hours, visit

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