Category Archives: Library

Performance of Berkeley’s library director under fire at meeting of library trustees

Jeff Scott, far left at table, talks to members of BOLT before an Aug. 26 meeting. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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More than 40 people expressed concern about the actions of the Berkeley Library director at a specially called meeting Wednesday night of the Board of Library Trustees.

Those who spoke publicly – who were supported by 40 observers  – not only complained about the aggressive book weeding policy put forward by Jeff Scott, the director, but about other issues, including what they perceive as a hostile working environment and a lack of honesty and trust. They said they thought Scott had lied to the community about the number of books weeded out. (Scott initially said he thought 2,200 books had been discarded this year. He later acknowledged that the real number was 39,000). Some also said they were punished for speaking out against the collections management policy.

As Scott sat at the front of the room, his head bowed as he took notes, in what must have been an excruciatingly difficult meeting for him, a number of the speakers called for him to be either fired or suspended without pay. Others asked for an independent investigation into the weeding process: how it occurred, what might have gone wrong, and what could be learned from it. … Continue reading »

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Library

Berkeley library director admits vast discrepancies in numbers of weeded books

Berkeley’s Central Library on Kittredge Street: its collection is being weeded and not everyone is happy and how it’s being done. Photo: Kaia Diringer
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Over 39,000 items have been weeded from Berkeley Public Library this year, far more than the couple of thousand previously cited by Library Director Jeff Scott. The 39,000 items include 13,850 deleted last copies of books. According to Scott, however, the 39,000 items is comparable to the average weeded over the last two years.

“I had the wrong information,” Scott said. “There was an internal process different to what I realized.”

The vast discrepancies emerged following protests by an ad hoc group of retired librarians and other library users over a new system for deaccessioning, introduced by Scott. Two Public Records Act requests — by a Berkeley High student and a Bay Area News Group reporter — failed to produce either the number of weeded items or details on which titles had been removed. Councilman Kriss Worthington met with Scott on July 24 and, according to Worthington, he was able to find the real number of weeded items after Scott “pushed the right buttons” on his computer.

Worthington and the retired librarians are holding a rally at noon today, Aug. 12, on the main library’s steps protesting what he has dubbed “Librarygate.” … Continue reading »

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Obscure and popular books part of Berkeley library weeding process

Berkeley’s Central Library on Kittredge Street: its collection is being weeded and not everyone is happy and how it’s being done. Photo: Kaia Diringer
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When librarians from the Berkeley Public Library were examining books that had not been checked out for three years to determine which ones to keep and which to discard, they reviewed “The Housefly: Its Natural History, Medical Importance, and Control,” written by Luther S. West in 1951. It was retained.

So was “A Guide to Shrubs for Coastal California,” by Harry Morton Butterfield, published in 1980, and the memoir “The Peacocks of Baboquivari,” by Erma J. Fisk, which came out in 1987.

But the librarians agreed that Yingxing Song’s “Chinese Technology in the Seventeenth Century,” described by its publisher as a “1637 classic on the history of traditional Chinese technology,” didn’t need to remain in circulation. Neither did “Creating Color: a Dyer’s Handbook,” by Judy Anne Walter or “Strip City: A Stripper’s Farewell Journey across America,” by Lily Burana. … Continue reading »

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Library fans voice concerns over weeding of books

The Berkeley Public Library at 2090 Kittredge St. Photo: Anne Holmes
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An orchestrated clearing out of books at the Berkeley Central Library, ordered by the library’s director, Jeff Scott, has sounded alarm-bells for some current and former librarians, as well as community members. Their concerns, which they have shared with the city’s mayor as well as the Board of Library Trustees, center on who is doing the weeding of books — what is technically referred to as “deaccession” — the number of discarded volumes, as well as their fate.

Scott said the weeding — a standard library practice — is overdue, as it had been done irregularly prior to his arrival in late 2014, and that, once it’s completed, the library will actually see a net gain in books as new ones are brought in. He said the total will rise from 452,000 to 470,000. Full capacity for the main branch is half a million books, he said.

Read more about Berkeley’s libraries on Berkeleyside.

The method used to weed books is a process called CREW (Continuous Review Evaluation Weeding), Scott said, which begins by extracting and evaluating books from shelves that have not been checked out from the library for three years or more (10+ years in the case of art and music books). … Continue reading »

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Fathers the focus of Nancy Rubin’s photography show

Photo: Nancy Rubin
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UPDATE, 07.16.15: Nancy Rubin’s photography exhibition at the North Branch of the Berkeley Public Library has been extended until July 31.

ORIGINAL STORY: When Nancy Rubin taught the pioneering Social Living class at Berkeley High School from the late ’70s to the ’90s, she became something of a public figure and was often asked to comment on the challenges faced by teenagers. People would say: if there was one thing that could be changed to help the kids who are getting in trouble, what would it be? Rubin was quick to point out that there was no “magic wand.” However she did have a suggestion: “Put a loving father in every home.”

That’s not to say that children can’t be raised exceptionally well by a single mom or two women, Rubin said recently at her home, where she was preparing for her first solo photography exhibition that centers on fathers. All sorts of kids do really well in all sorts of family situations, Rubin stressed. But as someone who grew up with a “wonderful, warm” father, Rubin could only wish the same for the students she was mentoring, some of whom had no relationships with their own fathers. … Continue reading »

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After outcry, library board votes to change South Branch name to include civil-rights leader

Protesters at BOLT meeting. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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The Berkeley Board of Library Trustees (BOLT) Thursday night voted to recommend to the City Council that the South Branch of the library be renamed to include the name of Tarea Hall Pittman (1903-1991), a long-time South Berkeley resident and civil-rights leader.

The 4-1 vote overturned a previous April 22 vote by the board that prevented the library from including Pittman’s name. The decision marked a shift in its renaming policy that applies to all four Berkeley libraries, so petitions for more name changes may be in the city’s future.

Read more on the run-up to Thursday’s meeting.

Public outcry, in the form of a grassroots campaign by South Berkeley neighbors to see the library renamed, led by local resident Charles Austin, appears to have had an impact on the board, which called the special May 7 meeting to reconsider both the general naming policy of its libraries, and whether to include Pittman’s name in the South Branch’s name. Campaigners collected more than 2,000 signatures on a petition in favor of the idea.  … Continue reading »

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Library to reconsider proposal to rename South Branch

The South Branch of the Berkeley Public Library opened in May 2013. Photo: Richard Friedman
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The Board of Library Trustees (BOLT) will hold a special session Thursday May 7 at 6:30 p.m. to make a final decision on a community proposal to rename the South Branch library after a local activist.

At its April 22 meeting, BOLT considered the petition to rename the branch at 1901 Russell Street after the late Tarea Hall Pittman, a black civil-rights leader and radio host who lived nearby. The five members heard impassioned speeches from community members and ultimately voted 3-2 against a motion to suspend the library naming policy, which would have allowed them to vote on the proposal.

Two of the trustees who voted against the motion, Julie Holcomb and Jim Novosel, were up for reappointment at the April 28 council meeting.

At that meeting, Councilman Laurie Capitelli pushed the item to the June meeting to allow for further discussions about the name change.

“I realize that there are a lot of people here tonight to support Ms. Pittman and I think probably a lot of frustration in the audience coming from last Wednesday’s meeting,” he said. “I think people of goodwill are reaching out to one another. I think we’re going to find a path forward.” … Continue reading »

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Museum doubles as a library in Berkeley artist’s show

Berkeley artist Josh Greene's book-based show opens today. Photos: Contemporary Jewish Museum
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In our tech-centric world, it seems like books could end up as artifacts in museums any day now. A Berkeley artist is speeding up the process — but far from a digital evangelist, Josh Greene is doing it out of reverence for the old medium.

Greene’s two-part exhibition Bound to be Held: A Book Show opened March 26 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. There’s The Library of Particular Significance, a lending library made of 700-800 books Greene amassed during various book drives. The companion show, Read by Famous, is a collection of books donated by people in the public eye, who provide notes explaining why the books are meaningful to them. The former is a set up to be a social event, whereas the latter is a traditional museum experience: look, don’t touch. … Continue reading »

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Events mark 50th anniversary of Free Speech Movement

An iconic image from the Free Speech Movement, which erupted on the Berkeley campus 50 years ago. Photo: UC Berkeley Libraries
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Oct. 1 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, a protest that only lasted for three months but set the stage for the turbulent 1960s.

On that day, thousands of UC Berkeley students surrounded a police car parked near Sproul Plaza. A young man named Jack Weinberg was inside. He had been arrested for distributing political material on university grounds despite rules that forbade it.

Many of the students who spontaneously surrounded the police car had been involved – or had been watching – the Civil Rights movement emerge. They were outraged by the injustices of the Jim Crow south. They had protested when the House Un-American Activities Committee held hearings in San Francisco. They had been furious when Clark Kerr, the president of the UC system, had declared that it was illegal to hand out political pamphlets on university grounds. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Public Library’s Branch Out draws thousands

Soji and the AfroBeat band Berkeley Library Branch out
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This April, the Berkeley Public Library marked the completion of its Branch Library Improvement Program with a month-long celebration. The event, called Branch Out, consisted of over 170 programs and helped draw thousands of visitors to the Library.

True to its name, Branch Out featured a wide range of free workshops and activities for all Berkeley residents. The Central Library and its four branches put on author talks, book clubs, arts and crafts sessions, daily geocaching sessions and a multitude of other programs designed to stimulate the mind, body and soul.

Scattered throughout the month were larger gatherings that attracted hundreds of people each. These included after-hours concerts, a family-friendly First Friday festival showcasing local artwork and a barn dance. All were catered by local eateries. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Library Director Donna Corbeil to retire

Screen shot 2014-05-28 at 11.05.23 AM
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Donna Corbeil, who oversaw the renovation and reconstruction of Berkeley’s four branch libraries, will be stepping down from her post as executive director of the library system in September.

Corbeil has headed the Berkeley Public Library for seven years. In that time, she oversaw the completion of a master plan for the branch libraries, which led to the placement of Measure FF, a $28 million bond,  on the November 2008 ballot. Corbeil then managed the renovation of the North and Claremont branches and construction of two new buildings for the West and South branches, giving Berkeley one of the most modern, energy-efficient, handicapped-accessible and light-filled branch systems in the state. The project was brought in on budget. … Continue reading »

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Free events celebrate Berkeley’s revamped libraries

Kids browse the bookshelves at the December 2014 opening of the South Branch. Photo: Richard Friedman
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Call it a “library warming.”

As a way to celebrate the completion of its branch renovation campaign – and highlight the dozens of community programs it presents each month – the Berkeley Public Library is hosting a month-long party.

The Branch Out! celebration will bring concerts, art exhibits, pop-up libraries at food truck gatherings, a sleepover party for stuffed animals, mindfulness meditation, and that beloved event – author readings – and much more to a branch near you in April. … Continue reading »

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Lawsuit yields money for historic preservation in Berkeley

Concerned Library Users did not want Berkeley to tear down the old South Branch because they and others considered it historically significant.
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Berkeley residents may soon see the fruits of a legal settlement between the city and a group that sued over plans to tear down and rebuild two branch libraries.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced Wednesday that it will award $87,000 in grant money to historic places in South and West Berkeley. The money can be used for maintenance, physical improvements, and preservation of historic properties.

The Trust is encouraging “properties with a clear public benefit that are open to the public on at least a part-time basis,” to apply online by May 15 for grants ranging from $10,000 to $25,000. … Continue reading »

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