Around 100 people turned out to a rally outside city hall Tuesday evening to express their support of continuing planned renovations to two Berkeley libraries, despite a lawsuit which argues that the city does not have the right to tear down and rebuild the west and south branches.
The rally, which took place at 6:00pm before the regular City Council meeting, was organized by a group calling itself New Libraries Now.
“The West and South branch libraries are incredibly important,” said Rachel Anderson who was holding a placard at the rally. “They are the last remaining community centers in the city.” Referring to the Concerned Library Users lawsuit, she said: “I am deeply worried that such a small number of people can have a large amount of power.”
Several speakers spoke to the assembled crowd. Board of Library Trustees member Winston Burton said the community deserved to get what it paid for. “We want our libraries to be green, beautiful and accessible,” he said.
“We want good-quality libraries for all of Berkeley, not just some of Berkeley,” said councilmember Linda Maio, referring to the fact that work has already begun on remodeling the Claremont and north Berkeley libraries.
Councilmember Max Anderson asked which side of history people wanted to be on. “Do we want to stand outside the library door or facilitate development of resources for the city?” he said.
And councilmember Laurie Capitelli spoke of the “hundreds if not thousands” of hours of meetings that had preceded the decision to renovate the libraries. “The voters have said spend the money. No one, no one said stop at any of these meetings. It was only later that a small group of obstructionists appeared.”
Other speakers included David Snyder, executive director of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation, and Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, president of the Berkeley Unified School District board.