Claremont and North library branches set to reopen this spring

Taryn Erhardt/Senior Staff
The Claremont branch of the Berkeley Public Library is still under construction.

After months of remodeling, the North and Claremont branches of the Berkeley Public Library are set to reopen this spring.

Library officials announced Saturday that the North branch will open April 7, followed by the Claremont branch on May 5. The renovations come as part of a $26 million improvement program that began in 2009 after Berkeley voters approved Measure FF the year before — a bond that finances library improvements through increasing property taxes over 30 years.

The Berkeley Public Library consists of four branches — the North, Claremont, South and West, with the latter half set to begin renovations in the coming months, according to Kirsten Cowan, executive director of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation.

According to Director of Library Services Donna Corbeil, the South branch will close March 17, with construction set to begin three to four weeks later, and the West branch will begin renovations around May. Unlike the renovation process of the North and Claremont branches, these two are set to be demolished and rebuilt, a move that has been met with opposition from some community members.

In 2010, the Concerned Library Users filed a lawsuit questioning the legality of using funds from Measure FF, since the measure does not specifically mention the demolition of buildings.

However, the lawsuit was settled in September last year, with the city — in exchange for the CLU not challenging the city’s library projects any further — agreeing to pay $100,000 to the National Trust for Historical Preservation to use for a grants program to improve historical buildings in West and South Berkeley.

“To make them completely accessible, renovation (without demolition) was not possible for both of the buildings,” Cowan said.

Before renovations, structural damage was prevalent, and there was not enough space for staff and visitors, according to the library’s website. After the remodels, all branches of the library will be seismically safe, compliant with current code standards and ADA accessible.

The $26 million will be used for remodeling all four branches of the libraries, not including furniture, fixtures and equipment. According to the library’s website, the North branch has a $4.3 million construction budget and the Claremont branch has one of $3.3 million. The budgets for the South and West branches have not been released.

During the temporary closure of the North and Claremont branches, the books have been kept in a storage facility. However, these branches have provided book van services so residents can continue to pick up holds and return books.

“We’re all very excited as Berkeley residents and library users,” Cowan said. “We’re going to have state of the art libraries that … will be warm, welcoming usable places as community hubs for information.”