Noe Valley Voice February 2002

Friends Get a Jump on Library Renovation

By Olivia Boler

Nearly a year and a half after San Francisco voters passed Proposition A, a $105.9 million bond measure to renovate the city's branch libraries, the Noe Valley­Sally Brunn Library at 451 Jersey Street will finally see action put toward the use of that money.

On March 14, the Friends of Noe Valley will hold a meeting in the community room of the Noe Valley Library in order to raise awareness about the library's future renovations and to get the neighborhood involved. City Librarian Susan Hildreth and bond program manager Marilyn Thompson will attend the meeting.

Because the bond is a "general obligation bond," Thompson points out that it will only cover improvements to the branches' real property -- the bricks and mortar, so to speak. In the case of the Noe Valley Library, the bulk of the money will be put toward seismic strengthening. Funding for such things as furniture and computer equipment will have to come from another source.

To that end, the Friends of Noe Valley has assembled a Library Committee, which will spearhead a neighborhood capital campaign and fundraising effort in cooperation with the Friends and Foundation of the San Francisco Public Library. Committee Chair Jeannene Przyblyski hopes Noe Valley residents will give their feedback regarding what improvements and services they want to see in their local library. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Przyblyski says. "How often does the chance to advocate for major improvements to our library come up? [The Friends of Noe Valley] want to be very sure the whole community is focused on this issue."

The Noe Valley Library survived the 1989 earthquake, but that does not mean it would survive another quake of such magnitude, 7.0 or higher. In fact, seismic experts have given the building their worst hazard rating (4 on a scale of 1 to 4) and warned that it might collapse in a major earthquake. Because of this threat, the library will be one of the first in a wave of branch library renovations and is slated to receive $4.4 million in bond funds.

New Home for Glen Park Branch

In all, 19 existing branch libraries will receive funds from the bond, and five new libraries will be constructed throughout the city. One of those new libraries will be at the site of the old Diamond Supermarket in Glen Park, which burned down about four years ago, according to Thompson. The city is now negotiating the purchase of the library's new location, which would be on the second floor of a building that will include condominiums and a grocery store on the street level.

"It would be a very urban site, not a stand-alone building like many of the other branches," Thompson said.

Przyblyski adds that branch libraries such as Noe Valley and in particular the future Glen Park site encourage a "new urbanism. The Glen Park Library is near a BART station and Muni stops, and if people use these forms of public transportation or can walk to [branch] sites, fewer will get in their cars to drive to out-of-the-way sites like the Main Library," Przyblyski said.

The city leases the building in which the Glen Park Branch Library now exists at 653 Chenery Street. (Another future goal is for the city to own all its branch sites.) Thompson is not sure when construction on the new Glen Park Library will begin, since the land's owner will handle decisions on construction.

Effort to Preserve Carnegie Building

As for the Noe Valley Library, since it is one of a few historic Carnegie buildings in the city -- the funds to build it were provided by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie -- one goal of such community groups as Friends of Noe Valley is to preserve its architectural integrity. The building was designed by architect John Reid and constructed in 1916.

According to Noe Valley Head Librarian Roberta Greifer, the three main areas that Prop. A funds will tackle are retrofitting the building, bringing it up to ADA standards (the Americans with Disabilities Act), and wiring the library for the 21st century.

"We need an elevator and a ramp to make the library wheelchair-accessible," Greifer said. Also, because of archaic electrical wiring, "we only have one PC for the public's use, and it's the only one on which people can access the Internet."

Thompson is looking forward to working with the Friends of Noe Valley in surveying the community about its goals for the branch library. Issues include the need for materials such as DVDs and videos, not to mention good old-fashioned books. Other concerns are space, lighting, the children's library, and the use of community rooms. All these factors must be addressed before the start of construction, which will probably be at the end of 2003.

Another hurdle is the construction itself. The Jersey Street building will most likely be closed for two years, and during that time an alternative site for library activities will have to be found.

If you are interested in voicing your opinion, come to the Friends of Noe Valley meeting on Thursday, March 14, at 7:30 p.m. in the Noe Valley Library's community room. For more information, contact Jeannene Przyblyski at 282-4334 or