A week ago I thought I’d throw in my 2 cents about the downhill trajectory of the Berkeley Library and this week an added letter plus an official library press release has awoken me from my complacency. Since I haven’t been downtown in a while, I can’t speak to that much, but I certainly have had thoughts about the South Branch being very sterile ever since it reopened. I too consider myself a lifelong lover of libraries and have been to many here and out of state so I am well versed in library layout, comfort and usage.
While the old library may have been a little cramped (cozy in my mind), there was life there. The checkout desk was at the center of adult activity and there was plenty of it. Sitting at the tables in front of it, with readers, studiers and sleepers, I knew all the librarians of which there were at least 2 if not 3 there. Others would come and go to the back. There were little niceties like more storage space for old issue periodicals, saving the Sunday paper ads and coupons for us low income folks to look at instead of tossing straight outside to the recycling bin.
Now the desk is basically in the hallway, it is staffed by 1 person and everyone else spends hours hidden away in the back. The only patrons other than small children and a couple of newspaper readers seem to be immobile hunched-over laptop users there for the free wi-fi, taking up most of the available sitting area. I have to admit although I go there only once a week now I’m not inclined to stay and give it a chance--it is just too sterile, cold and unwelcoming!
I’ve had neutral feelings since the main library was remodeled years ago but this week's official press release [from the Berkeley Public Library] is foreboding.
It tells us "We are excited to be bringing the Central Library more in line with the renovated branches, and to create public spaces that will meet all of our visitors needs now and into the future. I hope the community will join us in this effort as they did for the neighborhood branch libraries project..... Renovations of the interior public spaces will improve the layout of collections, lighting, placement of the public computers, and address the need for quiet and group study areas, as well as adequate and appropriate space to meet the needs of teens and youth. .."
More in line with the branches...in that case the main branch is really doomed