State of the art libraries for everyone in Berkeley

Summer 2014: Read the Foundation’s report on the Neighborhood Libraries Campaign

February 11, 2013: Berkeley Public Library Foundation Announces Success of Neighborhood Libraries Campaign

Watch “Neighbor to Neighbor” A short film about the Neighborhood Libraries Campaign and our commmunity.

Thanks to a community that loves its libraries and exceptional project management by library staff, Berkeley’s Neighborhood Libraries Campaign has achieved its goal, raising more than $3 million to furnish the city’s new and renovated branch libraries.

The effort, led by the Berkeley Public Library Foundation, is fully funding all furniture, fixtures, and equipment that fill two renovated branch libraries — Claremont and North Berkeley, which opened in spring 2012 — and the newly constructed South Berkeley and West Berkeley branches, opening later this year.

“Berkeley has always been a visionary town — it understands what 21st century libraries mean,” said Linda Schacht Gage, volunteer chair of the campaign. “Today’s libraries give all of us access to information, both online and in print, and they are centers for learning programs for toddlers, teens, adults, and everyone in between. Our new and renovated neighborhood libraries will be hubs of our community for generations to come.”

In 2008, Berkeley voters passed Measure FF, a $26 million bond for rebuilding, structurally renovating, and improving accessibility at the four branch libraries: Claremont, North, South (including the popular Tool Lending Library), and West, home of Berkeley Reads, the life-changing adult literacy program. The Neighborhood Libraries Campaign was launched to make possible the interior improvements not covered by the original bond measure, a crucial element in bringing the new libraries to life.

In the course of the three-year campaign, carried out in challenging economic times, the foundation and its volunteers saw neighbors come together to support a beloved and vital community institution. Virtually all of the funds raised were from Berkeley residents, businesses, and local East Bay foundations. From the largest individual donation of $250,000 to the smallest of 52 cents, neighbors have given generously to fill their branch libraries with life.

A determined cadre of volunteers was integral to the success of the campaign. “The level of commitment and skill demonstrated by our volunteers and community partners is inspiring,” said Elisabeth Watson, president of the board of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation. “They worked tirelessly to ensure that our well-used, well-loved branch libraries are ready to meet the needs of all Berkeley residents — in every neighborhood, now and into the future. Access to information and learning is at the heart of the library’s mission, and it’s at the heart of our democracy.”

The foundation announced and celebrated the success of the campaign on February 9 at its 11th annual Authors Dinner, in the historic reading room of the downtown Central Library. Celebrated local authors Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman were honorary co-chairs of the event, joining 30 acclaimed authors and several hundred guests for an evening of cultural celebration that raises vital funds for the ongoing work of the foundation in support of Berkeley’s library system.

Building on the campaign’s success, the Berkeley Public Library Foundation will continue its work to raise funds and advocate for the library, helping it thrive and meet changing needs in years to come.

“Our donors and volunteers want strong libraries because they know their importance to a vibrant community,” said Diane Davenport, president of the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library and a member of the foundation board. “In this Information Age we know one thing is true: Ask the Internet and get a thousand answers, ask a librarian and get the right one.”


In 2008, Berkeley voters generously passed Measure FF, a $26 million bond for rebuilding, structurally renovating and improving accessibility at the four branch libraries: Claremont, North, South — including the popular Tool Lending Library — and West, home of Berkeley Reads, the life-changing adult literacy program.

In the spring of this year, North Branch and Claremont Branch reopened after the completion of historically sensitive restoration. Both Branches feature new and restored furniture, upgraded computers, reimagined lighting, and more—a direct result of community support for the Neighborhood Libraries Campaign.

The Campaign makes possible the crucial interior improvements not covered by the original bond measure.

  • Modern computer stations provide Internet access for all Berkeley residents, from students working on papers to adults seeking jobs.
  • Interactive “playblocks”—bright, oversized cubes designed by literacy specialists—help young children learn and grow.
  • Whiteboards and other additions to new, teens-only spaces create a fun, productive environment for afterschool hours and summer breaks.
  • Projectors and microphones in free community meeting rooms ensure an effective, accessible setting for neighborhood gatherings.
  • Vintage tables and chairs of solid wood and wrought iron, lovingly restored by local craftspeople, beautify our reading rooms.

Construction is underway at the South Branch, home to the popular Tool Lending Library. The highly anticipated new building has been designed as a hub of learning and empowerment for a neighborhood that relies heavily on its library programs.

The West Branch—home to Berkeley Reads, the life-changing, award-winning family literacy program—will soon be reborn as a spacious, cutting-edge and solar-powered neighborhood resource, enlivening this central, under-served part of our city.

We’re nearly three-quarters of the way to the Campaign’s $3.5 million goal, and it’s clear that working together works wonders. The Foundation is now raising the final $1 million to ensure that our well-used, well-loved branch libraries meet the needs of all Berkeley residents—no matter their neighborhood, background, income or education—now and into the future.
Every gift to the Campaign moves us closer to making Berkeley better.

Can we count on your contribution today?

FAQs about The Neighborhood Libraries Campaign.

Capital Campaign Committee

Linda Schacht Gage, Chair
Christopher Adams
Donna Corbeil
Fredrica Drotos
Abigail Franklin
Sophie Hahn
Trish Hawthorne
Mary O’Neill
Trina Ostrander
Terry Powell
Amy Roth
Stephen Silberstein
Elisabeth Watson

“The best things that the Berkeley Public Libraries provide are the after-school and summer programs for teenagers. After school is when we’re all vulnerable to reckless procrastination and trivial drama that comes along with middle or high school. Having something to do with our free time, that we’re actually interested in, is the grandest gift anyone can give us.”
—Jasmine Dominguez, Student Worker,
North Branch