Michael Yonezawa pictured with conceptual drawings of the new library for the City of Riverside
October 30, 2017

For the past 10 years, the City of Riverside has debated whether to build a new main library or to renovate the library’s existing building.

One of our UCR Library team members was involved in this landmark decision in October 2017. Early Experience Teaching Librarian Michael Yonezawa has also served for the past year as the President of the Library Board of Trustees for the City of Riverside.

“It’s a huge project whose purpose is to build a new library for the twenty-first century,” Yonezawa said. Riverside’s City Council recently confirmed plans to fund the design and construction of a new main library from the ground up, he explained. The costs are estimated at $40 million. “Hopefully it all continues to move forward and then by 2020, the city will have a new, state-of-the-art, centerpiece library.”

The new site will be mere blocks away from the library’s current location next to the Mission Inn, which was built in 1964. “It’s still in design phase,” Yonezawa said. “They have the conceptual drawings and renditions of what the building will look like and how it will situate on the property.”

He added, “There are a lot of things that interconnect with the new main library, with putting Riverside on the map.” The City of Riverside is also in discussions with actor and comedian Cheech Marin about housing his art collection in the library’s current location, which Yonezawa explained will depend partly on raising private funds. “The building is in a great location for being an art museum.”

“Between the Cheech, the new library, and the university, there’s all kinds of collaboration that could take place,” Yonezawa mused.

Yonezawa first got involved with the Board of Trustees because, as a Riverside resident, he wanted to tie his professional interests to his community interests. “Part of being a professional librarian at UCR is not only to do the work that we’re responsible and hired for here, but also we have the discretion to be able to pick and choose how else we’d like to do different things in our career. I thought of it as a way to be a part of the community in a productive way,” he said. “It fit very well with my professional background and expertise. And it’s one way that we – the library, as professionals who work in the library – can make a difference to our larger community. It is a responsibility but it has been rewarding at many different levels.”

Reflecting back on why he chose to become a professional librarian, Yonezawa commented, “It’s the same classic story: you grow up going to libraries. It seemed like every weekend, we would go as a family to the local public library and borrow materials and take them home.”

Yonezawa has worked for the University of California since January 1988. He began his career as an undergraduate at UC Irvine, while working as a student assistant at their library. Then in 1999, he joined the UCR Library team. “The only break in service was one weekend from Friday afternoon to Monday morning from when I came from there to here,” Yonezawa laughed. “When you add it all up, part time work, part time career staff, and full time career staff, it all adds up to close to 28 years already.”