Hundreds of people came to the 12th annual Berkeley Authors dinner on Sat. Feb. 8. Photo: Richard Friedman
Hundreds of people came to the 12th annual Berkeley Authors’ dinner on Sat. Feb. 8. Photo: Richard Friedman
Hundreds of people came to the 12th annual Berkeley Authors’ dinner on Sat. Feb. 8. Photo: Richard Friedman

Berkeley, a literary city if there ever was one, celebrated local authors, readers and the renovation of its branch libraries Saturday night at the 12th annual Authors’ Dinner.

The Central Branch of the Berkeley Public Library was transformed for the evening into an elegant dining room, complete with fancy stemware, plates, and glasses, and table centerpieces that incorporated books and the printed page.

The staff of the Berkeley Public Library, which just came out of a four-year renovation campaign of the four branch libraries, was awarded the Fred and Pat Cody award, which honors individuals and institutions that embody the spirit of the long-time Berkeley couple who founded Cody’s books. In the last ten years the award has gone to individuals , organizations and bookstores that have enhanced Berkeley’s literary environment.

Donna Corbeil, director of the library, greet Mayor Tom Bates. Photo: Richard Friedman

The award acknowledged all the hard work the library staff did to smooth the way for the transformation of the four branches. They packed up books, staffed the roving Library Branch Van, endured displacement, and then did the fun stuff like selecting new books, booting up new computers, placing new furniture, and planning programs in spaces filled with light, air, and a plethora of technological wonders.

“While the now-open, beautiful branches are a triumph, it took the entire library staff — from maintenance staff to shelvers to cataloguers to reference librarians to the very hardworking director — to accomplish the task … to truly be careful custodians of Berkeley’s literary heritage,” the citation reads.

Donna Corbeil, the director of the library who oversaw the renovations, accepted the award on behalf of herself and the library staff.

Linda Schacht Gage introduces US Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and his wife, Janaki Bakhle. Photo: Richard Friedman

The honorary chairs of the evening were UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks and his wife and fellow scholar of India, Janaki Bakhle. Linda Schacht Gage, a former journalist who has spearheaded much of the fundraising to renovate the libraries, was the event chair and Bill Schechner, a veteran reporter turned independent producer, was the emcee for the evening.

Getting ready for the dinner. Photo: Richard Friedman
Tables await patrons. Photo: Richard Friedman
B.K.Moran, Erik Tarloff and Charlie Haas. Photo: Richard Friedman
Mixed-media artist Patricia Gillespie made the table centerpieces. Photo: Richard Friedman

Schechner and Gage went around to all the tables and introduced the 31 authors honored for the evening. There were many moments of levity. Adam Mansbach, who lives in Berkeley, read a few verses of his #1 New York Times bestselling children’s book Go the F**K to Sleep, except he said all the swear words out loud. AuthoSam Barry stepped in at the last minute for the ailing David Talbott and played a brief medley on his harmonica. (Barry was honored last year at the dinner.) And many people sang along to comedian Allen Sherman’s famous song Hello Mudder. Hello Father. Sherman is the subject of  the new book by one of the honorees, Mark Cohen.

Summer Brenner. Photo: Richard Friedman

The event is pricy, with tickets starting at $500, but it is the major annual fundraiser for the Berkeley Public Library Foundation, which raised $3 million to help the Branch Renovation Campaign. Major sponsors of the evening included the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library, the Stephen M. Silberstein Foundation, Meyer Sound, Bayer HealthCare, the Epstein-Roth Foundation, The Grubb Company, Linda Schacht Gage and John Gage, The Saul Zaentz Company, and North Berkeley Investment Partners.

Adam Mansbach reading from his children’s book, Go the F**k to Sleep. Photo: Richard Friedman
Adam Mansbach reading from his children’s book, Go the F**k to Sleep. Photo: Richard Friedman
Sam Barry playing a harmonica tune while Linda Schacht Gage holds up a microphone. Photo: Richard Friedman
Author Mac Barnett autographs a book. Photo: Richard Friedman

The authors honored included Alma Flor Ada, Louise Aronson, Mac Barnett, William Bayer, Summer Brenner, Katy Butler, Isabel Campoy, Clayborne Carson, Ethan Chorin, Mark Cohen, Katie Hafner, Lyn Hejinian, Jennifer Holm, Cecelia Hurwich, Gary Kamiya, Jesse Kellerman, Laleh Khadivi, Tom Killion, Ying Lee and Judith Scherr, Adam Mansbach, Harold McGee, Joshua Mohr, Peter Orner, Seth Rosenfeld, Elizabeth Scarboro, Ellen Sussman, David Talbot, Lysley Tenorio, Mike Twohy, Zac Unger, and Paula Wolfert.

For more photos, visit Richard Friedman’s photo gallery.

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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...