New Exhibit Covers the History of Berkeley’s Neighborhood Libraries

November 19, 2012

Contact: Donna Corbeil (ph. 510-981-6195)

The Berkeley Public Library (BPL) has designed and installed a new historical exhibit, The Branches of Our Community: Berkeley’s Neighborhood Libraries, which is now on view in the Reading Room of the Central Library, 2090 Kittredge Street, in downtown Berkeley. The exhibit contains historic images from the four branch libraries that, since the 1890s, have formed the network of vibrant community centers that for generations have been well used and much loved by Berkeley’s citizens. Berkeleyans have long viewed their libraries as an essential part of their community’s continuum of learning, and the tradition of smaller libraries serving Berkeley’s local neighborhoods has ensured ceaseless library service for everyone for well over a century. The Berkeley Public Library has been there all along--from the horse-and-buggy era to today’s world of eBooks and free wireless networks--helping to nourish the hearts and minds of local citizens. The Branch Library Improvement Program is the result of the voters’ approval of Measure FF, a $26 million bond funding the renovation and rebuilding of the four neighborhood libraries. As part of project planning, the City of Berkeley undertook a CEQA process. The resulting Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) played an important role in the decision-making associated with the South and West Branch Library projects, and a Zoning Ordinance Amendment under consideration at that time by Berkeley’s City Council. The final EIR was published in March 2011, and contains mitigation measures related to the documenting of library history. The Library is pleased to announce this work has been completed and is available for viewing by the public at the Central Library in downtown Berkeley. For the South and West Branches, distinct reports were commissioned, including drawings, floor plans, exterior and interior photographs, and a written history of the libraries and their place in BPL’s history. The exhibit outlines how the current North Berkeley Branch Library was originally built in 1936, but due to budget shortfalls a planned rear wing was never built. This was remedied by the renovation and expansion that culminated in the branch’s reopening in April of this year. Similarly, the Claremont Branch Library, built originally in 1923 and expanded in the 1970s, was until this year in need of seismic strengthening and upgrades to full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The renovated Claremont Library reopened last May. West and South Berkeley were home to the first two branch libraries in the city of Berkeley, with small facilities originally established in 1896. Later buildings housing the West and South Berkeley Branches are now being completely rebuilt as new and larger libraries slated to open in 2013. The new exhibit now on display at the Central Library commemorates the history of these four neighborhood libraries and the roles they have played within their respective communities. The Central Library is open Monday Noon – 8pm, Tuesday 10 am – 8pm, Wednesday through Saturday 10am – 6pm, and on Sunday 1pm – 5 pm. For questions and accessibility information, call (510) 981-6195, TDD (510) 548-1240