Two of Berkeley’s five libraries are running on gasoline these days. A purple vehicle dubbed the “BranchVan” is serving Claremont and North Berkeley branch library patrons while the buildings are being remodeled.
The library administration added another feature to soften the loss of neighborhood branches, relocating tot story time to venues close to the closed venues.
Measure FF, a $26 million bond approved by voters in 2008, is funding the remodeling and associated costs.
Last week Jila Abtol Hosseini brought her two children, Milo and Daisy, to the BranchVan parked on Garber Street adjacent to . She was picking up a book she’d reserved online and, though she was a little disappointed to find there weren’t books for kids to browse inside the van, she said she was happy the Claremont library was being remodeled.
“We prefer to have the library because we get to go and browse and the kids can choose from the selection that they have,” she said. “But they’re improving our library, so I’m hopeful.”
The van’s built-in shelves were empty, but there were a half-dozen children’s books on a small three-shelf bookcase, and Milo and Daisy both found books to take home. “I like this book because I have it at home and I haven’t read it for a long time and I don’t know where it is at home,” Milo explained, holding a copy of The Story of Ferdinand.
Library Director Donna Corbeil said eventually the van will be stocked with more books for browsing. “The project is just getting started,” she said.
The three open locations are busier than before the closures, according to Alan Bern, the library’s public information officer. “Empirically, one can see more holds at the three open locations as well,” he said in an email.
Former City Councilmember Carla Woodworth said she had hoped the Claremont and North branch staff would be used instead to expand hours to the popular Central Library.
Although all the books from the two closed libraries have been boxed and stored, library patrons are still able to get most the books they want by placing holds on them, Corbeil said, explaining that the library retrieves them through Link Plus, through which various library systems share resources. “All of the movies and DVDs are in circulation,” Corbeil added.
It’s anticipated that the Claremont library will be closed for nine to 12 months and the North Branch will be closed 12 to 15 months. In addition to both libraries getting seismic upgrades and full accessibility for the disabled, the North Branch is getting a 4,000-square-foot addition that will include a new teen room, new multipurpose room and more computers. The Claremont Branch will benefit from an addition of about 350 square feet, a new teen room, a quiet reading nook and more.
Once these libraries reopen, it’s anticipated that the west and south branches will close for renovation. However, a lawsuit could delay work on those branches: the city wants to demolish and rebuild the small, cramped west and south libraries, but the group known as Concerned Library Users has filed a lawsuit saying that Measure FF did not anticipate demolition before rebuilding. The group points out that the word “demolition” does not appear in the voter-approved measure. The City Council is holding a public hearing May 17 on the environmental impact report on the south and west branch remodels.
Berkeley Patch asked Library Director Corbeil if, after the remodels, the van would be used to service southwest Berkeley, which has no neighborhood library. Several years ago, the library board had discussed purchasing a van or sharing a van with Oakland for this purpose, but found it was too expensive. Corbeil said the future use of the van will be up to the library board.
Christina Campbell and Kim DeWolf, both retired librarians, are Claremont Library patrons and were taking advantage of the BranchVan last week. “Being able to put things on hold here and picking them up are really nice,” DeWolf said. Campbell agreed, noting, however: “We really miss our branch.”
Baby and Toddler Time: 10 a.m.
Picture Book Time: 11 a.m.
1299 Shattuck Ave.
Baby and toddler time: 11:15 a.m.
2727 College Ave.
Garber St. at College Ave.
Monday and Friday: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Tuesday and Saturday: 2:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday: 4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Thursday: 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Shattuck Ave. at Berryman St.
Monday and Friday: 2:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday and Saturday: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Wednesday: 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Thu: 4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
And note: May 14, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., meeting room, : the Friends of the Library holds its annual book sale to support the library. Every item 50 cents.