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Downtown library dedicated, ahead of official public opening

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego's long-awaited Central Library was dedicated Saturday in front of thousands of area residents, as the $185 million facility's official name was unveiled and a last major donation was announced.

"Thirty years in the making, this really is a dream come true," said Deborah Barrow, the director of the city's libraries.

At a one-hour dedication ceremony, she called the nine-story structure in the East Village "a beacon of knowledge."

Interim Mayor Todd Gloria invited San Diegans who couldn't make the dedication ceremony to come down and visit the facility, which he said will serve generations of residents.

"When you walk through the doors of this library, I hope you can call it your home," Gloria said. "This is your library."

The official name of the facility will be the San Diego Central Library Joan and Irwin Jacobs Common, in recognition of the millions of dollars donated to the construction project by the co-founder of Qualcomm and his wife.

Irwin Jacobs said the name reflects the library as a civic gathering place, much like Boston Common, near where he grew up.

He said during his travels in recent years, he always stops at a city's central library and they're always full of people. The Internet can't replace a library as a place to associate, he said.

"That will be the real payoff," Jacobs said of the new San Diego facility, "seeing it well-used."

Also during the ceremony, Interim Mayor Todd Gloria announced a $1.2 million donation from philanthropist Darlene Shiley. The funds fulfill a $10 million matching grant issued by Jacobs nearly three months ago.

Mel Katz, who led a fundraising effort for the city's library foundation, said 3,000 San Diegans donated to the project. With Shiley's gift, the library is "100 percent paid for," he said.

A street fair called "A Dream 30 Years in the Making" celebration was held on surrounding streets and included performances by the Navy Band, the Gay Men's Chorus and the Children's Choir.

Attendees were given tours of the first floor and the auditorium areas which feature art installations by Donald Lipski and Einar and Jamex de la Torre; the Elizabeth and Dene Oliver I CAN! Center for Customers with Disabilities; and the Dr. Seuss-themed Denny Sanford Children's Library.

People formed a line for the tours that wound three city blocks.

Construction on the building at 330 Park Blvd. began in August 2010. Charter school e3 Civic High, which can accept about 500 students, occupies the sixth and seventh floors.

The nearly 500,000-square-foot library, which is more than twice the size of its predecessor, includes a 350-seat auditorium, a three-story domed reading room, a 9,100-square-foot children's room, a teen center, a technology center and a multi-purpose room, according to city officials. It also features an outdoor garden courtyard and cafe and 250 parking spaces on two levels. 

"It's uniquely San Diegan and I like to think it says who we are as a community," said the project's chief architect, Rob Quigley. Design work began 17 years ago, starting with input from hundreds of San Diegans at a workshop, he said.

The library will open to the public at 9:30 a.m. Monday, although its scheduled operating hours for future Mondays begin at noon.

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