By Adrian Rodriguez, Marin Independent Journal
A 3D printer, a virtual-reality station and rows of books, movies and other media are all part of the eye-catching display at the new pop-up library at Northgate mall in San Rafael.
The temporary library, in a former shoe store around the corner from the mall’s food court, began serving library patrons on Friday. People can check out and return books, media, use the 3D printer and other gadgets. A grand opening celebration is planned for 3 p.m. Wednesday.
“We’re prototyping what library service in north San Rafael would look like in the mall space, being that we are considering expanding our library services,” said Henry Bankhead, interim director of the San Rafael Public Library. “During the holiday season, people tend to come to the mall more often, and we have a brand that attracts people. … We hope it’s successful.”
Mall owner Merlone Geier Partners provided the space at no charge through the end of December. The library will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and noon to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. If the trial period is deemed successful, San Rafael officials said the city will pursue a longer stay.
The temporary library was made possible with the help of the Marin County Free Library, which provided some library materials and staffing.
So far, “It’s been wildly popular,” said Sara Jones, director of county libraries. “We’re thrilled to be providing what resources we have to serve Marin County residents.”
Residents seemed to be equally excited.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Carol Parker, a Novato resident who said she heard about the pop-up library on the radio and had to see it for herself. She said she hopes it will encourage parents and children to choose a book rather than a toy when shopping.
It certainly caught the eye of 4-year-old Zekai Serber of San Rafael. He was shopping with his grandmother, Arlyn Serber, who was visiting from Petaluma when he spotted some of the interactive gadgets through the window.
“It’s great that they’ve got the kids books with low chairs so that the kids could sit on and enjoy,” Arlyn Serber said. “Kids love books.”
That’s the type of enthusiasm that mall owners were hoping for, said Stephen Logan, vice president of Merlone Geier Partners.
“It’s a unique opportunity to do something different to bring people to Northgate mall,” Logan said. “That’s one of the things we thrive on as a company, coming up with new and unique opportunities to drive traffic, especially during the holiday season.”
San Rafael City Manager Jim Schutz said city leaders are grateful to the mall owners and the county library for being partners in the experiment.
“We are always looking for how to provide city services in ways that work best for the community,” he said. “We love the idea of meeting people where they are and offering library services in a place our community already enjoys.”