Billie Jean King is coming home.
The tennis star, women’s- and LGBT-rights advocate and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient will make a trip to her hometown of Long Beach this weekend to mark another honor of hers: The grand opening of the new Billie Jean King Main Library this Saturday, Sept. 21.
When she learned that the headquarters of the Long Beach Public Library system would bear her name, King said in an interview last month the pride she felt was similar to the sensation she experienced when then-President Barack Obama placed the Medal of Freedom around her neck in 2009.
“I still can’t believe it,” King said of the new library’s name. “It’s overwhelming.”
The two accolades will collide this Saturday when King’s Medal of Freedom will be on display.
Along with the welcoming of a hometown heroine, Saturday’s grand opening will show off the new 92,500-square-foot building, which will include a Family Learning Center, the Center for Adaptive Technology, a Veterans Resource Center, an art studio and more.
“The Billie Jean King Main Library is state-of-the-art,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement, “and we are thrilled to name this remarkable new space for Billie Jean King, a Long Beach legend and an activist committed to equity and fairness.”
The library, constructed primarily of wood and glass, will include space for 300,000 books.
Long Beach’s Director of Library Services Glenda Williams said the wood in the structure was more of a functional than a stylistic choice.
The new library was built on top of a parking garage, which Williams said complicated the construction process.
“It wasn’t meant to have a building on top of it, so they had to do a lot of work to really strengthen the foundation and those supports to put a building on top of it,” she said. “So we went with wood, which is much lighter than concrete. And that’s why we have all this beautiful wood.”
Williams said the process of moving over the collection from the old library building to the new one has been arduous, but she said all of the effort will be worth it once the public lays eyes on the new facility Saturday.
“The building of course has changed, so we want to make sure everything in the different collections stays together,” she said. “Mapping all of that over to the new building — that was a lot of fun, but that also physically was a challenge. But we’re going be ready to open.”
The Billie Jean King Main Library grand opening is from 9:30 to noon Saturday, Sept. 21. The library is on Broadway, between Pacific and Cedar avenues. For more information go to longbeach.gov.