The exterior of the newly renovated North Branch Library with new seating. Photo: Nancy Rubin

Workers were busy putting the finishing touches on the renovated North Branch Library last week in anticipation of its grand reopening on Saturday, April 7 at 1:00 pm.

The library has been closed for nearly a year and, when it reopens, patrons will see many recognizable features, but some new ones too.

“We’re really excited,” said Donna Corbeil, the library’s director.

The main circulation desk has been repositioned. New leather chairs form inviting spaces to read. There is an expanded computer room, and the library also has seven laptop computers for people to use.

The North Branch Library's new circulation desk. Photo: Nancy Rubin

The biggest changes are a result of the new 4,000-ft addition at the rear of the building. That has allowed for the creation of a spacious teen room, four ADA-compliant bathrooms, a new book sorting room, two staff rooms, an elevator, a large community meeting space that fits 96 people, skylights that close automatically if they detect rain, and the erection of two beautiful copper and silver art installations by Marion Coleman.

The renovation has made the library completely accessible to those who use wheelchairs. It has been retrofitted and brought up to code, too. There is a new heating and ventilating system, video conferencing capabilities, and WiFi. There is more bike parking and outdoor seating as well.

The new library will also have an automatic book sorter, which cost about $80,000, according to Corbeil. Patrons returning books will drop them into a slot. The sorter will check the books back in and send them on a conveyer belt. The machine reads the RFID code in each book and moves the books into specific bins, such as one for adult fiction or children’s picture books.

“It’s going to help up get the books back on the shelves more quickly,” said Corbeil. “It will alleviate staff so they can get back to helping people.”

When the library opens it will be stocked with $25,000 worth of new books. The funds come from bond moneys and a donation from the Berkeley Public Library Foundation.

The improvements cost $5.9 million and are part of a renovation of all four of Berkeley’s branch libraries. Voters passed Measure FF in November 2008 to raise $26 million for the libraries’ renovations. The Berkeley Public Library Foundation has launched a $3.5 million campaign to pay for new furniture, fixtures and equipment that the bonds will not pay for.

The children's section of the North Branch Library. Photo: Nancy Rubin
A detail of the 75-year old ceiling. New upward pointing lights will make the decorative ceiling more visible. Photo: Nancy Rubin
Window detail. Photo: Nancy Rubin
New teen room. Photo: Nancy Rubin
New seating in adult area. A rug is on its way. Photo: Nancy Rubin
Donna Corbeil, the library's executive director, demonstrates the new automatic book sorter. It reads the RFID code in each book and automatically sorts the books into different categories. It will speed up the rate books are put back on the shelves. Photo: Nancy Rubin
The new computer area. The library will also have nine laptops available for patrons to use. Photo: Nancy Rubin 
"Imagination Tree" by Marion Coleman. Photo: Nancy Rubin

The renovated Claremont Branch is scheduled to reopen on May 5, said Corbeil. The South Branch recently closed, and the West Branch is scheduled to close on May 5. The Tool Lending Library has opened in a temporary location at 2525 8th Street.

For details about the April 7 North Branch Library Grand Re-Opening, visit the Berkeley Public Library website.

To find out about more events in Berkeley and nearby, visit Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. We also encourage you to submit your own events.

Dates set for reopening of North and Claremont branches [02.14.12]
New addition to North Branch Library almost complete [02.02.12]
Berkeley’s Claremont Library reopening delayed two months [12.07.11]
Berkeley settles contentious library lawsuit [09.06.11]
A peek at the renovations at Berkeley’s branch libraries [08.16.11]
Berkeleyans rally to move forward on library renovations [04.27.11]

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...