In the early 1990s, Berkeley’s Central Library—a national landmark—and its four branches were among the busiest in California, but suffering from decades of neglect. The City’s Board of Library Trustees determined that the system was worn out, overcrowded, seismically unsafe, and unacceptably inaccessible to the disabled.
Community leaders responded with a plan to restore all five libraries to vibrant community centers able to meet the needs of our diverse community. They began with a campaign to expand and refurbish the Central Library, fueled in 1996 by a $30 million bond measure approved by Berkeley voters.
As architects finalized drawings for Central, the Berkeley Public Library Foundation incorporated as a non-profit dedicated to raising the private funds necessary to turn the beautifully upgraded building into the library our community envisioned. The next four years brought a $4 million “We Love the Library” campaign that provided the furniture, technology, and other interior fittings that by law the bond measure could not fund.
Celebration and Expansion
In 2003, The Library Foundation hosted the first Authors Dinner, created in part to showcase completion of the expansion and renovation of the Central Library.
The Authors Dinner is Berkeley’s marquee annual fundraising event and sells out weeks in advance every year. The evening features up to 30 prominent local authors seated with dinner guests, all in the historic reading room of the downtown Berkeley Public Library.
Our Neighborhood Libraries
In fall 2008, Berkeley voters passed Measure FF, which committed $26 million to renovate, expand, and make seismic and access improvements in the four neighborhood branch libraries: Claremont, North, South, and West. The Berkeley Public Library Foundation created The Neighborhood Libraries Campaign—to equip and furnish the interiors, and to pay for the computers, tables and chairs, furniture, and equipment that are so essential to creating the libraries that our community deserves. The tremendous response from Berkeleyans—during an economic recession that saw the need for our libraries increase dramatically—raised over $3 million and fully outfitted our renovated and rebuilt branch libraries.
The Future is at the Library
Committed to helping our great public libraries be extraordinary, BPLF continues to work to bring donors, patrons, volunteers, and library staff together. Fostering innovation and excellence in the programs, services, and facilities of our libraries, our donors have recently funded the creation of a mobile book-bicycle, the Branch Out! Campaign that doubled attendance at library programs, and—over the next several years—we will work with the Library and the community on necessary renewals to the Central Library, which now after twenty years of intense use, is showing its wear.
Your support gives our libraries the power to try new ideas and to bring everyone in our community into the library and into the future together.
For a detailed early history of the Berkeley Public Library read Diane Cory’s 1962 research THE HISTORY AND ORIGINS OF THE BERKELEY PUBLIC LIBRARY.