By Christina Wise, Press Banner. Photo credit: Christina Wise

Strolling through the interior of Felton’s new library, one is struck by the openness, warmth and hominess of the building. Butterflies flit across the check-out desk and children’s area as walls patterned with birch trees raise the eyes to the beamed ceilings. An adult reading nook sits at the opposite end of the library, with a gas fireplace that beckons patrons to curl up on one of the chairs and stay a while. Long work tables fill the space between the shelves of books and floor-to-ceiling windows, welcoming those with laptops to plug in and enjoy the space. Anterior rooms are designed with specific purposes—the teen room, smaller meeting/interview room and larger community room are dedicated to providing spaces to serve those who need them.

Coming into this project, Friends of Felton Library worked with the community and lawmakers to move their vision into reality, but it took the hands of a talented architect to bring it all to life. Meet Teall Messer, the man who held the reins of the project and helped open the doors of this innovative addition to the community.

Between the intermittent shrieks of R2-D2 and the hum of the crowd, Messer introduced me to his newest baby.

Messer: Michele Mosher and Nancy Gerdt really had a lot to do with how this facility was conceived. The original idea of this branch is that it would be a place where kids could come after school and have a place to be while they’re waiting for their parents to finish work. Then the idea of the Discovery Park came along, and we realized how well it was going to work together; I’m sure it’s going to show up in other libraries in the future.

Press Banner: How did you come to be involved in this project?

Messer: The Veruttis owned one of the parcels (that the library is on), and they were going to build some liquor storage on the site, but they only needed part of it. They called me one day and said, “We’d like to build a library on this piece of land. What’s involved with that?” Well, it happened I was doing work for the library at the time (1999), so I called Anne Turner, who was the library director at the time, and told her about their idea. She said, “Okay, but there are some hurdles between now and then,” but she generally supported the concept.

We looked at all the steps that were involved, and had some studies done, especially concerning the creek. This area is where Felton flooded in 1982, and there’s a 100-year flood zone right here. At that point, the Public Works Department approved the flow of the creek so they could maintain it, and keep it clear. At some point, about 12 years ago, a weighty trust was donated to the library system, and some of that money was used to work with the county to develop a conceptual plan. There were concerns about parking, but the biggest concern was that we couldn’t build a library that was in the flood zone. It’s a rule, but it’s also rational thinking. We worked some of that out, but there wasn’t near the amount of money that was needed to build it.

We went through several iterations with the footprint of the building, but it was the Friends who provided momentum and ideas. They did a ton of research on the idea of a children’s library married with a Discovery Park. Eventually the San Lorenzo Valley Water District came forward and said, “We’ve heard what you’re planning to do, and we’d like to offer you an encroachment on some of our land to allow the Park to be part of the project.” Because we were working in a riparian zone, if we cut down a tree, we had to replace it with three trees, and we didn’t have any room to do that. The water district allowed us that space to plant those replacement trees to mitigate the losses incurred in building the library. We couldn’t have done this project without their help—if they hadn’t come forward, the library would be about 2/3 the size. The Army Corps of Engineers, the State Fish and Wildlife and the Regional Water Quality Control Board all have jurisdiction over this creek zone; we had to satisfy all of those agencies, plus the planning department, to get this project completed.

I’m really proud, and really happy. I had 18 consultants, and they were all involved with coming up with this design for this 9,000-square foot project. All the lights are controlled by automatic sensor, and the windows along the roofline are tied into the HVAC system for maximum heating and cooling with minimal power usage. This is a really sophisticated project—there is a state energy code about how well insulated a new building can be, and we are 15% more efficient than the state requires.

Press Banner: What the one thing you want readers to know about this project?

Messer: We wanted the people of Felton to feel like they had a comfortable and welcoming space. I think we did it.