Berkeley Public Library launches common space, 12-laptop lending service

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Isabella Ko/Staff

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Berkeley Public Library, or BPL, announced Tuesday the launch of a new public commons space called “The Commons” on the first floor of the Central Library.

The Commons includes a 12-laptop lending self-service machine, various comfortable seating and table options and more power outlets for charging, according to Elliot Warren, the acting director of library services.

This is the “first step” of many to update and improve the Central Library, Warren said.

“A lot of people use the library as a place to come together but also just to sit and read,” Warren said. “It’s sort of a refuge from the rest of the busy world and we wanted to balance those two things out and have a space where we could test how people use the library before we move on and forward with the rest of the changes.”

According to Warren, BPL staff chose to update this particular area of the first floor because it was relatively underused, and there was not “a lot of nostalgia for it.”

He said The Commons was designed by the Central Library Space Planning Team which is composed of eight to nine BPL staff members, including library specialists, librarians, supervisors and professionals.

Warren added that the team’s vision for The Commons was “broadened” by a visit to Moffitt Library on campus where they saw UC Berkeley students collaborating and relaxing in the library.

Rosie Merlin, the collection development coordinator of BPL, said the group initially looked into creating a new team space — until they realized how underused the first-floor area was.

“(It was an area) that we could really make more usable, make more comfortable, make more interesting and be responsive to what we were hearing,” Merlin said. “People really wanted more seating available to them.”

Merlin added how “exciting” it has been for her these past few days to see people studying, working and holding meetings in The Commons space.

The Central Library Space Planning Team met for about 18 months to come up with the design, according to Merlin. Noll & Tam, an architecture and design firm based in Berkeley, made the design a reality, according to a BPL press release.

The press release added that Noll & Tam will also update the Central Library’s first and second floors.

John Poliquin, a Berkeley resident who has been coming to The Commons area consecutively for a few days now, said the lounging area and seating was very comfortable.

“(I’m) delighted to support building improvements like The Commons,” Kathy Huff, executive director of the Berkeley Library Foundation, said. “Our donors are committed to funding capital projects that help keep our library creative, flexible, and ready to serve the diverse and changing needs of our community.”

Contact Mani Sandhu at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ManiSandhu24.