Public Comment

Commentary: Don’t Move South Branch Library to Ed Roberts Campus

By Jane Welford
Friday July 20, 2007

South Branch library is on the Library Trustees’ fast track to being moved to the Ed Roberts Campus. Much money has already been spent on this project. Please come to the next Board of Library Trustees meeting. The meeting will be at South Branch Library, Russell and M.L.King Jr. Way on July 25 at 5 p.m. with public comment (you will have to sign a speaker card so please arrive a few minutes early). Your presence insures the democratic process. We are a group of South Berkeley residents who are opposed to the proposed move. We have called ourselves Save Our Library, (SOL). We believe that the proposal is being driven by political motives that have little to do with better serving South Berkeley residents. 

Architects Noll and Tam will make a presentation on three space options at the Ed Roberts campus.  

At the June 9 community forum, held at St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.), some community members felt strongly that the move to the Ed Roberts Campus was being “sold” to the community and their survey did not reflect the number of neighbors and community members who do not want our South Branch library moved or services reduced. We are concerned with maintaining this venue as it is central to our diverse community connection which has been developed over years.  

After the forum it was clear that we needed to raise our community’s awareness of these issues. We decided to take the concerns we voiced at the forum to our community members and get their opinions and concerns to get a consensus. The consensus was concern for the safety of our children, keeping the library in our neighborhood and making the changes at South Branch, e.g., remodel, rearrange, and reuse, rather than putting our money somewhere else, were the dominant issues. We are advocating for the preservation and improvement of our South Branch library.  

Many children use the South Branch Library. We are concerned that the move will put our children at risk in two ways. There will be two large very busy streets for the children to cross. Currently, the intersections of Adeline Street and Ashby Avenue do not have caution signs alerting motorists that our community has disabled persons, children, elders, or dogs, as pedestrians. Even if caution signs are installed, people drive and multi-task these days and there is no way to guarantee the safety of pedestrians. Several people have been killed or badly injured in this area as it is. There are many concerns with the concept of a “transit library” built on top of a light rail system.  

A Berkeley firm, Hatcheul Tabernik & Associates (HTA), was hired by the Library Trustees to survey the South Berkeley community’s library needs. They came up with statistics that pointed to a very favorable response to the move by the community; we decided to look into it further. 

We stood outside the South Branch library for many days and asked people if they knew about the move and how they felt about it. In the course of a petition drive to contest the proposed move, we collected hundreds of signatures, but encountered only a handful, (fewer than 10 percent) who even knew about the proposed move, and only one person who had been actually interviewed by HTA.  

What we want is for the South Branch library to stay on Russell Street as a Children’s library from infancy through high school, and the Tool Lending Library. 

For more information, contact Save Our Library at 849-1296 or 


Jane Welford is a Berkeley resident active in library issues.