Category Archives: Library

Library to hire former Albany city manager for top job

Berkeley Public Library. Photo: Nancy Rubin
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The Berkeley Board of Library Trustees plans to hire Beth Pollard, an administrator with deep roots in the East Bay, as the new interim library director. The decision will be confirmed at a meeting today.

Pollard served as Berkeley’s interim deputy city manager from Sept. 2014 to February of this year. Prior to that, she was the city manager of Albany for 12 years, as well as the interim library director for the San Anselmo library.

The board chose Pollard because it believes she brings great administrative and personal skills to the job and will be able to mend the rift caused by the current collections management policy and the departure of former Library Director Jeff Scott.

“What we need at this time is a great administrator who can bring people together,” said Julie Holcomb, who serves on the BOLT board. “Her personal skills, her management skills, will serve the library extremely well at this time.” … Continue reading »

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Bedbugs found in Berkeley library; North Branch closed

North Branch Library
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The North Branch of the Berkeley Public Library was shuttered Friday morning after officials discovered bedbugs in three different areas of the branch.

Bedbug-sniffing dogs identified the possible presence of bedbugs in the downstairs men’s restroom, underneath the desks of the public computer area, and in a chair in the reading room. No books or library materials appear to be infected, according to a press release from the library administration. … Continue reading »

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Urban Adamah to break ground on new farm

Urban Adamah is set to break ground today, Sept. 11, on its new West Berkeley farm. Image: Urban Adamah
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A sustainable agriculture organization with plans for an ambitious urban farm, and a training program for the next generation of farmers, is slated to break ground over the next few days on a project set to cover more than 2 acres of vacant land in West Berkeley.

Urban Adamah, which means “city and earth,” received new permits from Berkeley’s zoning board Thursday night to expand the scope of the project by adding permanent cabins for school groups and other visitors, worker housing and a café to the project site at 1151 Sixth St. The farm is set to be open to the public weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A café and general store selling farm produce will be open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

See the staff report and applicant statement for the project.

The organization, which is open to all but inspired by Jewish beliefs, has been operating at 1050 Parker St. since 2011. The group knew its lease there would end in 2015, and began looking in fall 2012 for property to purchase to continue and expand its work.

In July 2013, Urban Adamah discovered the Sixth Street property, at Harrison Street on the Berkeley-Albany border, and felt it had found its home. … Continue reading »

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Number of books weeded from library system under dispute

The Board of Library Trustees officially appointed Sarah Dentan, far left, as acting interim library director on Sept. 10. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The new acting interim director of the Berkeley Public Library pledged Wednesday night to reinstate some of the input and authority that librarians and staff lost under former Director Jeff Scott — but one of her staff members also suggested that the total number of items weeded out under Scott’s authority may have been closer to 19,000 rather than the 39,000 widely reported.

At a Berkeley Board of Library Trustees meeting, Sarah Dentan presented a report about the collections management process – a report that Scott was scheduled to present until he abruptly resigned on Aug. 31.

Dentan characterized the weeding process as more considered and thoughtful than has been portrayed by a group of former and current librarians. They have led a series of protests in the past few months to bring attention to what they saw as “draconian” book weeding. Along with City Councilman Kriss Worthington, they also raised questions about Scott’s truthfulness. For many weeks, Scott insisted that only 2,200 books had been weeded. However, after Worthington visited Scott in his office in mid-July and, with a few keystrokes, pulled up a list that showed that 39,000 books had been weeded, Scott acknowledged that the higher number was accurate. His change of tune made many, including members of BOLT, lose confidence in him. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley library director Jeff Scott was not a ‘good fit’

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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Berkeley Library Director Jeff Scott was not forced out of his job but decided to resign after a conversation with Abigail Franklin, the chair of the Board of Library Directors, in which they both agreed he was not a “good fit” for the position, according to Franklin.

Franklin went to see Scott, 38, on the morning of Thursday Aug. 27, the day after a contentious BOLT board meeting in which some Berkeley residents called for Scott’s resignation because of his clumsy handling of a book-weeding process at the central library, and what they perceived as his untruthfulness, among other issues. That was the first time Franklin had had a chance to talk to Scott after the BOLT board held a closed session to consider accelerating the evaluation of Scott’s job performance. Scott took over as library director in November 2014 and hadn’t been scheduled for an evaluation for another few months, but the controversy prompted BOLT to bring up the issue earlier than expected.

“I’ll use his words when we were having one of our final conversations,” said Franklin. “He just admitted this probably wasn’t a good fit. I agreed.” … Continue reading »

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Breaking: Jeff Scott resigns as Berkeley library director

Jeff Scott
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The Berkeley Public Library announced Monday that Jeff Scott has officially resigned from his position as director of library services. The move comes just 10 months after Scott took the position, in November 2014. The resignation is effective Sept. 8.  

Scott’s abrupt departure comes in the wake of a controversy over the weeding of books at Berkeley’s central library, which has put the library director on the defensive over the past few weeks. Criticism centered on his management style and his perceived honesty.

“It is with a heavy heart that I tender my resignation as the Director of Library Services of the Berkeley Public Library. I have enjoyed my work here at the library and I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish,” Scott said in a prepared statement.

The Library Board of Trustees will initiate a search to fill Scott’s position, according to the statement, released by Abigail Franklin, chair of the board, shortly after 2 p.m. Monday. In the interim, Sarah Dentan, acting deputy director, will serve as acting director.

Read more about the controversial weeding at Berkeley’s central library.

“I have appreciated the enthusiasm for library services that Jeff has brought to Berkeley and wish him well,” Franklin said. … Continue reading »

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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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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:
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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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