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Santa Maria High School principal, Craig Huseth, above, lifts his hands into the air as he presents the new library/multimedia learning center during its official opening Thursday in Santa Maria. Below, students check out the new computers as others look at the facility. //Ian Gonzaga/Staff

When the library/cafeteria was built in 1954 at Santa Maria High School, it was on the only high school campus in a town, Ernest Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize for literature and computers were only found in science-fiction movies.

The school officially gave the old building a new lease on life this week when it officially christened its new Multimedia Learning Center. The building was the latest project funded by bond Measure C, which passed in 2004.

The project turned the old building from an odd mixture of cafe and library into a state-of-the-art student center.

The 12,800-square-foot building features storage space for textbooks, a meeting room, copy center, the Associated Student Body business office, the school’s Career Center, a study area and the main library, which has capacity for 13,000 books.

Sammy’s Corner, the campus store where students can purchase Saints-logoed merchandise, also is part of the new building. Sammy the Saint is the school’s mascot.

The Learning Center also features more technology than could have been dreamed of in 1954.

Thirty new Dell computer stations are available in the main library; 10 more are located in the Career Center.

The building also features four large drop-down projector screens and infrastructure for four projectors and four LCD monitors that will allow the school to show large-scale presentations. The project ran short of funding when it came time to purchase the projectors and television monitors.

Some technology that is not seen but felt is a heating and air-conditioning system that has nine zones for maximum energy efficiency.

The building’s lighting system also is designed to reduce energy consumption.

The Learning Center features a WiFi system that allows wireless computer connection.

In addition to the sparkling new interior, the exterior received an extensive makeover that restores and updates the 1950s modern style architecture.

Principal Craig Huseth showed off the new building to members of the community Thursday, paving the way for students to get into the building.

“It’s great. It’s got a very collegiate feel,” Huseth said.

The project began one year ago when the old building was cleared out and gutted. Carroll Construction of Santa Barbara led the project that included 16 subcontractors. The project cost slightly more than $2.5 million.

In addition to repurposing the building, adding a new roof and upgrading every operating utility inside it, all asbestos and lead paint — commonly used building materials back in the 50s — was removed.

“The as-built plans we were going off of were from 1954,” said Ken Groppetti, plant manager at the high school.

The building was used as a combination library and cafeteria since the 1960s, Groppetti said. The kitchen was removed two years ago when the school built Sammy’s Cafe and a multipurpose room, which is used as the cafeteria.

While all of the technology and added space are the most obvious improvements, Huseth and Groppetti both favor the low-tech text book storage room. The modestly sized room stores books in large cases which roll on a slick track system and can house about 14,000 books.

The books were previously stored in a hallway behind three of the school’s science rooms, Groppetti explained.

Making the most of every square foot allows more space for books and students.

“A great big ‘thanks’ to the community for supporting the schools,” Huseth said. “This couldn’t have been done without their support of the school bond.”