Branch of Berkeley library to reopen in May following renovations

Dean Ignacio/Staff

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After months of renovation, Berkeley will finally reopen its South Branch library on Saturday, May 11th.

The Berkeley Public Library closed two branches, South and West, for demolition in 2012. The South Branch has been shut down since March 19, 2012, for 14 months of construction and has now been completely rebuilt.

“It’s a much more attractive building — it’s more welcoming inside,” said Sarah Dentan, neighborhood and children’s services manager at the Berkeley Public Library. “I think it’s going to be a place where people want to spend time.”

The total cost of construction was $4.96 million, according to Dentan. Those funds came from Measure FF, a $26 million bond that was voted in by citizens in November 2008. An additional $3 million in funding for furniture, fixtures and equipment at all four library branches was provided by the Berkeley Public Library Foundation.

Construction efforts ran into brief controversy when, in 2010, a group called the Concerned Library Users filed a lawsuit stating that the measure did not cover a complete building demolition. The lawsuit, however, was settled in 2011 when the city agreed to pay $100,000 to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for a grant program.

The library is currently using a BranchVan service that allows patrons to pick up holds and return books during the renovation of the South and West Branch libraries. The BranchVan will halt its South Branch service when the new library opens.

With the library’s reopening, a number of new and old features will return as well. For instance, the Tool Lending Library, a service that was also temporarily relocated during the renovations, will move back to its original location at the South Branch library.

Angel Entes, a tool-lending specialist at the library, said that the new facilities will be much better and have more space.

“(The Tool Lending Library) gains people constantly on a daily basis,” Entes said. “I’m just excited for us to close (our temporary location) and get everything set up over (at the new South Branch library).”

The new library will also feature mosaic art pieces by Oakland artist Gina Dominguez.

“I am so pleased to be part of the project,” Dominguez said. “They’ve done a phenomenal job on the building itself, and to see it come together is satisfying.”

Other features of the new library include more light; more public computers; a separate, enclosed teen area and a meeting room with completely up-to-date facilities, according to Dentan. The new building will also be more energy-efficient.

The reopening will begin at 12:30 p.m. and will feature speeches and entertainment before the doors officially open at 1 p.m.

“We’re really excited, and we hope that everyone wants to come by and check out the new library,” Dentan said.

Contact Tara Hurley at [email protected].