West Branch Library. Photo Richard Friedman
Berkeley’s West Branch Library at 1125 University Ave. Photo Richard Friedman
Berkeley’s West Branch Library at 1125 University Ave. Photo Richard Friedman

The West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library, which opened in Decemeber 2013, produced more energy that it used in 2014, and it has been officially anointed as the first “net zero” library in the state and only the third municipal building of its kind in the nation.

“Libraries embody a community’s values,” Jeff Scott, the Director of Library Services, said in a press release announcing the energy savings. “It’s fitting that the Berkeley Public Library’s West Berkeley branch brings together City values of education and sustainability. This is an amazing accomplishment by Berkeley voters, library patrons, a dedicated group of Berkeley Public Library staff and our local design firms and contractors.”

The announcement comes shortly after the release of the library’s annual report, which was full of interesting user statistics, and the library’s major annual fundraising event, the Author’s Dinner, put on by the Berkeley Public Library Foundation (see a photo gallery of the evening below).

Highlights of the Berkeley Public Library’s annual report include:

  • Library staff issued 109,078 new library cards, which featured five new designs.
  • Materials from books and media circulated 1,973,998 times.
  • Staff answered 320,385 reference questions – a 66% increase over last year.
  • There were 176,479 computer sessions logged during the year.
  • The library launched a new website and saw 400,000 visits in the first five months alone.
  • The branch libraries extended their hours, raising the number of open hours to 52 per week.
  • Despite the closure of West Branch for part of FY 2014, there were more than 1.3 million visitors to the system.
  • In 2014, there were 1,433,562 uses of the library’s electronic resources—databases, e-books, digital magazines and streaming/downloadable music. That included 146,030 checkouts from the library’s e-book collection, 11,505 checkouts on the e-magazine service, and 14,000 songs from a streaming and downloadable music platform.
  • Volunteers in BerkeleyREADS, the adult and family literacy program recorded 6,120 tutoring hours, 1,000 more hours than last year. The 170 volunteer tutors helped 220 adult learners.
  • The library put on more than 2,000 programs.
  • The largest group of attendees was preschoolers. The 25,000 preschoolers at library programs represented 49% of the total program attendance – about five visits per Berkeley preschooler.
Berkeley Public Library Authors Dinner Feb 2015 Linda Schacht Gage and Victoria Wise
Berkeley Public Library Authors Dinner Feb. 7, 2015: Linda Schacht Gage, one of the emcees and a major organizer, and Victoria Wise, who opened Pig-By-The-Tail Charcuterie in Berkeley in 1973. She is the author of 14 cookbooks. Photo: Richard Friedman

The beauty of the main library was put on display on Feb. 7, when the Berkeley Public Library Foundation hosted its 13th annual Authors’ Dinner. Hundreds of guests sat with celebrated authors and supported the library programs through ticket sales and a silent auction. Kathy Huff, the new executive director of the foundation, was also introduced.

Huff, an East Bay resident, has more than 20 years experience working in non-profit leadership and fundraising. Huff earned a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University and then worked with religious institutions with a focus on economic and environmental justice, affordable housing, public education, LGBTQ equality, and global human rights.

Read more stories and op-eds on the Berkeley Public Library.

The dinner showcased the work of 30 authors, including Berkeley residents and those with UC Berkeley affiliations, such as Molly Katzen, Cal Peternall, Kermit Lynch, Daphne Miller, Chris Benton, Edward Frenkel, Donlyn Lyndon, Erin Scott, Terry Shames, Erik Tarloff, and Monica Wesolowska.

Other honored authors included Kathryn Ma, Victoria Wise, Louise Aronson, Katie Crouch, Sylvie Simmons, Dean Rader, Eve Pell, Bich Minh Nguyen, Edan Lepucki, Mick LaSalle, Joan Frank, Elizabeth Fischel, Angela Dominguez, Robert Dawson, Gregory Bellow, Natalie Baszile, Kim Bancroft, Jim Alinder, and Mary Street Alinder.

Bill Schechner and Natalie Baszile
Bill Schechner and Natalie Baszile, author of Queen Sugar. Oprah Winfrey just announced that she has optioned the book for her OWN network and will star in a mini-series that will be directed by Ava DuVernay , the director of Selma. Photo: Richard Friedman
Mayor Bates and Kermit Lynch
Mayor Tom Bates and Kermit Lynch, whose classic book, Adventures on the Wine Trail, is 25 years old. Photo: Richard Friedman
Berkeley Public Library Authors Dinner Feb 2015
Table decorations at the dinner were created by Berkeley’s Fourth Street store Castle in the Air. Photo: Richard Friedman
Table decorations at the dinner were created by Berkeley’s Fourth Street store Castle in the Air. Photo: Richard Friedman
Berkeley Public Library Authors Dinner Feb 2015
Guests enjoy appetizers at the Berkeley Public Library Authors Dinner on Feb. 7, 2015. Photo: Richard Friedman
Molly Katzen
Molly Katzen was the Honorary Chairperson  for the evening. Her 12th book is called The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation. Photo: Richard Friedman
Daphne Miller
Dr. Daphne Miller, associate professor at UCSF and the author of  Farmacolgy, looks at auction items with Toni Garrett. Photo: Richard Friedman

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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...