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Described by visitors as “awesome,” “wonderful,” and “a big improvement,” the new American Canyon library opened Tuesday morning.

City Manager Dana Shigley was among the estimated 70-plus people who walked through the doors in the first hour after they opened at 10 a.m. and the first to get a library card in the new branch.

“This is exciting. This is fun,” Shigley said, “It’s nice to see constant improvement.”

The new branch is a big improvement according to early visitors.

Joan Solomon, an eight-year resident, went in and came out with four books and a DVD.

“I couldn’t wait for the library to open this morning,” Solomon said. “I’ll be coming (here) all the time. It’s big, airy and bright,” Solomon said. A large skylight illuminates the main floor and reading table.

Diane Hunt stopped in with her son, Will, a fifth-grader who said he likes to borrow video games. Hunt said she and her family are regular library users.

“We’ve been in the (library’s) summer reading program every year ever since my 19-year-old was 3 years old,” Hunt said.

Ric Hinderleider, who has lived in American Canyon about a year and is “semi-retired,” said he is a weekly visitor to the library and enjoys reading mystery and nonfiction, as well as an occasional newspaper, and uses the library’s computers.

“It’s a beaut,” said Hinderleider as he exited with a book after spending about 30 minutes inside.

The county library system paid for a $1.6 million renovation of the former bank and city hall building and the city leased it to the library for 50 years at a rate of $1 per year. The move will save the city an estimated $80,000 per year, the cost of leasing a commercial space a few hundred feet away where the city library has resided since opening in 2001.

At 5,200 square feet the new library is more than 65 percent larger than the old one. Added amenities include a 700-square-foot community room and an enclosed patio, both available for after-hour use by nonprofits and local groups.

There’s also a children’s reading area, wi-fi and 18 computers, according to Danis Kreimeier, county library director.

Dwayne Adams, a resident for 22 years, said he saves a lot of money by getting all his entertainment videos from the library.

“The library is one of the biggest secrets nobody ever thinks about,” Adams said. “And the good thing, too, is that you can order stuff online and you can come down and pick it up,” Adams said. Adams said he’s pleased with the selection.

Sue DeMotta, is a Vallejo resident who said the AmCan library is much more convenient for her than the Vallejo library.

“It’s so much better for me,” said DeMotta, who said she was able to check out a James Patterson book Tuesday for which she’d been on a waiting list in Vallejo.

Kreimeier said she was exhausted by the project’s continual deadlines over the past few months, but very pleased with the results.

“I love the response,” said Kreimeier, “how excited everybody is.”

Kreimeier said her next project was an upgrade for the Calistoga branch, which was built in 1924 for the city’s women’s club. When that’s finished around the end of the year, all county branches will have had improvements, Kreimeier said.

With more than 138,000 items checked out last year, the American Canyon branch represented just under 14 percent of the system’s 1 million-plus circulation, according to Kreimeier, behind only the main branch, with continued growth predicted.

The new library will host a grand opening celebration for the community Sept. 18 at 4 p.m.

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