Mesa is preparing to open a new library this spring, a year later than originally planned because of Arizona's real estate crash.
The city has been eager to open a branch in the underserved southeast area but Mesa struggled to find a home for a tiny library in a shopping center. One landlord backed out after signing a lease because the company didn't have funds to prepare the space, while several other landlords had more serious woes, library director Heather Wolf said.
"Some of them were being foreclosed on so they could not negotiate with us," she said. "A lot of things that have been impacting the residential real estate market are affecting the commercial real estate market."
The city finally struck a deal for space at the southeast corner of Baseline and Power Roads, in the Power Square Mall. It was formerly Factory Stores of America.
It should open in May as the Mesa Express Library, or MEL. Wolf noted the short name is also a nod to Melvil Dewey, inventor of the Dewey Decimal System.
The 3,400-square foot library will offer 10 computers, about 12,000 of the most popular titles, but no magazines or reference materials. It will share other branch library hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and 10 a.m. to 5 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Mesa expects to build a full-fledged branch when Scottsdale-based DMB redevelops the former GM Proving Grounds, though that is years away.
The city spent $125,000 on new materials and will spend about $60,000 a year to operate it. Two full-time staff members will be shifted from other libraries.
Even in the era of e-books and the Internet, Wolf said library use continues to grow 3 percent to 5 percent a year. About 75 percent of visitors come for books, while many of those using computers have lost jobs and can't afford home Web access.
"A lot of people no longer have the Internet at home or they don't have a computer, so they need to come here to participate in the online world."