The City Council voted unanimously to put Measure FF on the ballot after reviewing the city’s report on the unacceptable state of Berkeley’s four branch libraries, which are seismically unsafe, cramped and in need of repair. They did so because time is of the essence. It is critical that we renovate all our branches to ensure they are safe, modern buildings that will serve our community now and into the future. We can’t afford to wait one more day. When it comes to public safety, there is no time to waste.
Most of Berkeley’s neighborhood branch libraries have not been renovated in more than 30 years; some have not been renovated in more than 70 years. With more than 900,000 visits during the year, our branches need substantial upgrades to ensure a safe environment and efficient operating system.
The revenue from the bond will bring the buildings up to current code standards; meet seismic requirements; make all of the branches fully accessible to Berkeley’s diverse population; provide environmentally sustainable “green” operations; and create adequate space for the Tool Library and the adult literacy program, Berkeley Reads. Renovations will include the restoration and preservation of historic features at the branch libraries.
Each branch library is an essential part of the neighborhood it serves, and of the community-at-large. The city’s library system provides more than 500,000 books, videos, DVDs, cassettes, CDs, books on tape, phonograph records, and microfilm for our residents, children and adults alike. Libraries create a level playing field for all by providing free access to books, computers and information regardless of income, gender or race. They also create a neighborhood anchor for communities to build around and provide a haven for children, families and the elderly to read and learn.
It’s important that the community know that funds from the bond will not be used to support the Library’s day-to-day operations or purchase books and materials.
Anyone who felt the 4.0 earthquake two weeks ago should appreciate that upgrading the branches cannot come soon enough. Measure FF lets us take care of the assets we have and ensure their use for generations to come.
Terry Powell, Winston Burton and Amy Roth are members of Neighbors for Branch Libraries. Powell is president of the Board of Library Trustees; Burton is a boardmember for the Berkeley Public Library Foundation; Roth is president of Friends of the Berkeley Public Library.