Op-ed: The Berkeley Public Library — Shelter from the storm

We’ve experienced quite the storm in Berkeley over this past week, both metaphorically and literally. Often, the media will focus on the negative aspects of a story such as the Berkeley protests, choosing to focus on that which turned violent, or the snarled traffic, and in the case of the recent weather storm, the flooded streets. I wanted to share with you some positive stories from these events, and the role your library has played in them.

Most city facilities and schools closed early in anticipation of the protest march planned for Monday, but the library remained open. People often forget that after 5 p.m. most city facilities are closed. There are typically only three that remain open: police, fire and the public library. We provide not just materials to the public, but a community gathering place and a safe place. On Monday night, there were many glad faces when they realized that we would remain open until 8 p.m.. We still maintained our hours, classes and services.

I wanted to share with you a positive story about the Berkeley Public Library from one of our reference librarians, Jef Findley.

“We had a bent over, elderly woman trying to get home after dark. She called for the public transit service for elderly/infirm, but due to the demonstrations in Berkley tonight, they couldn’t accommodate her.”

Our security guard told her not to fear, to have a seat in the library while he called a cab for her (actually, three cabs, as some couldn’t or wouldn’t serve downtown Berkeley during this time). Afterward, he flagged the cab down and assisted her as she boarded her ride home.

With the large storm hitting Berkeley at the end of the week, as is the case throughout our community, we at the library also had our share of challenges. Power went out at the West Branch, remaining knocked out for the day. However, staff at Claremont lit our fireplace, creating a welcome respite from the weather, much to the delight of patrons sheltering from the storm. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the staff at the Berkeley Public Library. They are a fantastic, talented group and have truly demonstrated dedication in serving the Berkeley community this week.

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Jeff Scott is the executive director for the Berkeley Public Library. He assumed the position in early November after having served as the county librarian for the Tulare County Library