Berkeley Public Library branches continue to undergo renovations

Ashley Chen/Staff
Construction continues on the West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library, located at 1125 University Avenue near San Pablo Avenue.

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Construction is currently under way at the city’s libraries this week as the West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library was demolished Thursday and the concrete foundation was laid in for the library’s South Branch last Friday.

The West Branch, located on University Avenue near San Pablo Avenue, will be cleared of debris from the demolition while the South Branch, located on Russell Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, will begin structural framing next week, according to Director of Library Services Donna Corbeil.

The renovations for the four branches — the West, South, North and Claremont — come as part of a $26 million improvement program that began in 2009 after Berkeley voters approved Measure FF in 2008.

“There’s a lot of thought and detail going into the design for safety and accessibility for the handicapped as well as increasing technological needs of the library to fulfill its mission in the new century,” said Toni Klassen, a member of the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of the library through fundraising.

Corbeil said the hard-cost budget for the West Branch is $6,073,500 and $5,032,500 for the South Branch. Construction on both branches has proceeded as scheduled, according to Elizabeth Watson, president of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation.

Because Measure FF does not cover fixtures, furniture and equipment in the libraries, the foundation has begun fundraising efforts for the branches. According to Watson, the foundation has now raised $2.6 million of its $3.5 million goal.

Construction is projected to finish around next April for the South Branch and next summer for the West Branch, according to Corbeil.

Renovations on the North Branch and Claremont Branch libraries have already been completed, and the libraries were opened April 7 and May 5, respectively.

“We’re looking forward to celebrating with the community,” Corbeil said. “For me, it’s a rewarding process, and I really look forward to the buildings to start going up.”

Daphne Chen covers city government.