Berkeley built its first library downtown in 1893, two years before the city charter was adopted. The current landmark library building was completed in 1934, with a major seismic retrofitting and renovation completed in 2002. Planning for that project was begun nearly 20 years ago — two decades that have witnessed a sea change in library use and services. The Berkeley Public Library’s strategic plan identified capital improvements at Central as a priority for responding to community needs and to the changing nature of library use.
A major review of the interior space at Central proposed several high-impact improvements, centered on the first and second floors of the library. These included a more welcoming entryway; improved workspace lighting, acoustics, seating, more efficient and flexible space; and innovations to meet the needs of teenage library users, who have made instant successes of the new teen rooms at the renovated branch libraries.
Community meetings were held to gather input on this vision, and library staff added ideas and iterations on the developing plans. In addition, a library design expert was engaged to lead focus groups with local teens, and an impressive task force of Berkeley teenagers worked directly with architects to design a new teen room, with space for both quiet studying and group interaction on school projects.
The result? The planned project promised a wonderful new experience for the thousands of us who enter the Central Library each week. Imagine what you will see in the new, improved library:
- An inviting new entryway to the much-loved historic building, with easy access to the circulation desk and the phenomenal library staff.
- Students enjoying a comfy chair, flexible space, and more access to technology as they tackle a big study project in the new first-floor teen room.
- A re-imagined Reference Room on the second floor, a peaceful place for reading one day and — thanks to moveable furniture and shelving — a focal point for community gatherings, programs, or classes the next.
- Much-improved sight lines exposing the wonderful Art Deco features and historic beauty of the building.
- And throughout, a well-lit library, with better acoustics, and easier access to the collections and resources in demand by 21st century library patrons.
How much will it cost?
The total project cost for these Central Library improvements is approximately $1.8 million. The Foundation is committed to raising funds from individuals, foundations, community groups, and businesses to meet more than $600,000 of that total.
How can you help?
As a donor to the Berkeley Public Library Foundation you will become part of a long tradition of those who have built a remarkable library system. Donations of every size make a difference.
Your generosity will bring innovative enhancements to the first and second floors of the Central Library — a dynamic new space for teens, improved lighting and technology, a flexible reference room for expanded community activities, a more welcoming entryway, clear way-finding signage, and display areas for public art.
Teen Design Team meets with architects Noll & Tam to plan new teen room at the Central Library