Noe Valley Voice February 2008

Library Reopens in March After Two-Year Facelift

By Corrie M. Anders

Two years, three weeks, and five days after it closed for renovation, the Noe Valley­Sally Brunn Branch Library will reopen next month with great pomp and circumstance.

On March 8, Mayor Gavin Newsom will cut the ceremonial ribbon and give the public its first look inside the historic Carnegie library at 451 Jersey Street. District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty and City Librarian Luis Herrera will join in the 1 p.m. grand reopening--the latest hooray in the city's $106 million campaign to renovate 17 branch libraries.

"It's very nice," said Alice McCloud, who was appointed branch manager several months after the library shut down in February 2006 for $5.7 million in improvements. "It looks so much brighter and lighter."

The long-awaited reopening also will set off a weeklong celebration of literary events at neighborhood bookstores, restaurants, and the Saturday Farmers' Market on 24th Street.

"Everybody is really excited that the library is reopening," said Kim Drew, chair of the Noe Valley Library Campaign, which helped raised more than $200,000 in private donations for the branch. Its return fills one of the "gaping holes" in the community's civic fabric, she said.

Worries that the nearly 100-year-old building might be dangerous in a major earthquake--and the need to bring the facility into the modern era--prompted the facelift, which was accomplished by Carey & Company Architecture of San Francisco. The building's reincarnation would no doubt please philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, whose generosity helped finance the original two-story Beaux Arts edifice in 1916.

Much of the earthquake retrofit work is hidden from view. But new lighting, accessible bathrooms, a new elevator to the second floor, a "more welcoming" children's room, hundreds of new books, a computer-laden multimedia room with the latest movies, and restored woodwork and fixtures will be readily apparent.

"I think it looks beautiful," said Nancy Goldenberg, lead architect on the project.

Goldenberg said library visitors would find two especially striking features among the changes at the branch: the like-new restoration of the elaborate ornamental ceiling, and the prominence of the building's Spanish-style façade of brick and terra cotta.

"The ceiling is pretty special in the main reading room," she said. "The challenge was getting all the structure [necessary] for the seismic upgrade in, without damaging the ceiling. We protected it, and areas that were impacted were carefully restored." In addition, glaring fluorescent lighting has been replaced with softer illumination from pendants that mimic fixtures from earlier times.

"The other thing is, everybody will be struck by how much better the facade looks now that the building is clean and the large pine trees that were overgrown are no longer there," Goldenberg said. "You can actually see the building now, and it looks bright and gorgeous."

McCloud, the branch manager, said the library planned to boost its collection of books and audiovisuals to 35,000, from an estimated 30,000 on the shelves when the library closed. A sizable increase in DVDs, CDs, and audio books also is an acknowledgment of the swift technological advances that have taken place in recent times.

"Noe didn't have a lot of new materials in the past. The collection wasn't that exciting," McCloud said. "Now I will have more of a variety, and I'll keep my finger on the pulse of what the community wants."

Book Week in Noe

To help celebrate the library's reopening, local groups including the Friends of Noe Valley have decided to stage a Noe Valley Book Week from March 8 to 15.

"It's nice to have the whole community thinking about one thing for a week," said Friends member Mindy Kershner, who is spearheading neighborhood involvement. "It's going to be wonderful."

The week will include three days of Noe Valley authors readings at neighborhood bookstores. The first will take place March 11 at the San Francisco Mystery Bookstore. Cover to Cover follows with a March 12 program, and the final event, featuring nature writers from California Coast and Ocean magazine, will be held March 13 at Phoenix Books and Records.

Not to be left out, many local restaurants will dish up special literary fare during the week. For example, the Noe Valley Deli will offer an Alexandria Quartet salad, and Savor Restaurant will serve Cannery Row Tacos, a tribute to John Steinbeck's classic.

"All the restaurants are thinking up something to tie into books," Kershner said. Look for the "Literary Plate" signs in their windows.

The neighborhood also will launch a drive to share its literary largesse with less fortunate San Francisco residents. Residents will be asked to donate new or gently used books, which will later be distributed to family shelters in the city. Books can be dropped off at collection boxes at the Saturday Farmers' Market on March 8 and 15.

For more information on Book Week events, call Kershner at 415-377-3890.

Castro Branch Is Next

Don't be surprised to see Castro District neighbors checking out books at the Noe Valley­Sally Brunn Branch over the next 18 months. That's because the Eureka Valley­Harvey Milk Memorial Branch Library will be closing March 1 for its own renovation.

City officials expect to spend $5.4 million to retrofit the branch, located at 1 José Sarria Court near 16th and Market streets. The amenities will be similar to Noe Valley's, including new computers and other technological upgrades, an area for teenagers, new bathrooms, and better lighting.

The 106-year-old branch is the second oldest in the city. The original building was severely damaged in the 1957 Daly City earthquake and replaced in 1961 at a cost of $192,335.