Move Afoot to Remodel Anza Library

By Karen M. Kinney

Library employees, local architects and community members gathered May 9 at San Francisco Public Library's Anza branch to kick off the first step to renovate and modernize the 74-year-old building, scheduled to be completed in 2009.

In November 2000, voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition A, a $106 million bond measure to upgrade San Francisco's branch library system. Through the Branch Library Improvement Program (BLIP), the Anza Branch Library project's $3.1 million construction budget will fund renovation of the existing building, not including furniture and equipment.

According to Luis Herrera, city librarian for the San Francisco Public Library, the priorities of the Anza renovation are to improve seismic safety, provide better access into and around the building for the disabled and all community members, and update the library's resources to accommodate the community's technological needs.

"Our mission is to maintain the commitment of the bond program. San Franciscans value their neighborhood library and that is reflected in their commitment to the bond program," Herrera said.

Improvements include adding an elevator, more library data, and Internet and word-processing computer workstations. While seismic safety and technology are a top priority, Herrera said it is vital to keep the architectural beauty and integrity of the building intact.

The branch will close for construction late 2007 and will remain closed for an estimated 12 to 18 months. The process mirrors the one taken to renovate the Excelsior Branch Library, which re-opened late last year.

Architects Rogerio Bittencourt and John Thomas, who attended the kick-off meeting, will create a design for the public and library staff. The design will be unveiled at another community meeting, and the architects will work on improvements based on the feedback from the community and library staff.

"We will show the design to the staff until they like it," said Mindy Linetzky, bond program administrator. "It may be more than once, but it's easier to react when you have a design in front of you."

Once a solid design is developed, the architects will present it to a library commission, a panel of individuals who are experts in their fields, including architecture and history. The panel will plan each phase of the renovation and outline its multiple options and schemes. The panel's recommendations will then be brought back to the community.

There will not be another public meeting until just before construction begins.

Linetzky assured the community that many services will be provided while the library is closed. Neighboring branches will have extended hours and the BLIP will provide a Bookmobile that will operate two or three days a week.

The Bookmobile will offer materials for adults, teens and children; a media collection; and provide services, including obtaining a library card, reserving materials and making inter-library loan requests. The library will find a school or recreational center to hold children's story times. Books will also be available in both English and Chinese.

"Even though the library building is closed, we are still providing library services to the community. Librarians will still be working and providing what they can," Linetzky said.

The kick-off meeting May 9 also included a community feedback session.

Sherrie Rosenberg, who goes to the Anza Library, was excited about the possibility of an outdoor reading area in the back of the library that would provide a safe environment for children. She is pleased with the outreach of BLIP to accommodate as many people as possible.

"People in the community should come to these meetings because the library cares and wants our opinions," Rosenberg said. "They have good plans. Closure is never fun, but it's necessary."

Proposition A covers the bricks and mortar of the renovation, but city bonds cannot cover furniture, equipment and services provided by the library. Representatives of The Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, an independent non-profit organization, will fill in the gap by raising $16 million for branch renovations citywide.

"Our mission is to advocate for a great library system while providing value to the library's budget," said Marian Chatfield-Taylor, capital campaign manager for Friends. "If money is needed for programs during renovation, Friends will provide the funds."

Friends estimates each city branch needs $500,000 to provide furniture and various services, such as children's programs and library training. Friends meets monthly to brainstorm, develop goals and strategize about putting its plans into action.

The next meeting is June 15, at 6:30 p.m., at the Anza Branch Library, which is located on 37th Avenue between Geary Boulevard and Anza Street. For more information, visit the Web site at www.sfpl.org.