When a new branch library in San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood was first imagined, Linda Brooks-Burton was the librarian at the branch when it operated out of a bomb shelter of a building on 3rd Street at Revere Avenue. Today she manages several libraries in the San Francisco branch system, one of which is now much larger and sparklingly new.
Linda was all smiles last night as core library supporters got a sneak peek at the interior of the new Bayview library, a building designed by David Keltner and Kacey Jurgens, Principals at Portland's THA Architecture.
"It's pretty different than the old library, isn't it?" she said.
Linda knew I'd understand what she meant. The new building is different than the old one in every possible way.
For instance, the old building had no exterior windows aside from dulled plate glass doors set back behind an imposing metal gate. The place had been designed to keep the people inside safe from whatever might happen on the street.
The new design is rife with windows, and seems to connect the interior with the outside environment intentionally.
"Did you see the courtyard?" Linda asked me.
A central space, defined by glass panels and open to the sky, contains elements of nature and large scale art by Ron Saunders that communicates the multidimensional culture of Bayview. As a whole, this courtyard further connects the interior of the library to the world it occupies.
On the outside, the building is sleek and textured, with large panels featuring images of neighborhood history reaching back to the Ohlone native tribes' presences in the area.
Inside, generous use of wood and tile emit warmth throughout the space. The wood and green and yellow color palette advance the environmental theme while emitting a healing warmth that compliments a neighborhood on the upswing and its friendly people.
In a nod to the times, one of the first things a visitor will notice is a bank of computer carroles. That's good news for patrons of the old library who recall lines and time limits for the few computers available.
The last thing a visitor might notice is the ceiling fan. It is one of many eco-friendly amenities, and hangs from a wood ceiling where it creates a sense of movement throughout what is a luxury of space above the book shelves. This, too, is a departure from the old building with its dropped ceiling, claustrophobic community room, and low self-esteem.
The official opening of the new Bayview Branch Library is scheduled for noon, Saturday, February 23rd, preceded by a ceremony at 11am.
Linda will be there, and may still be smiling. The opening of the new branch library is a stellar moment even for this respected, community-serving professional. And it is a deeply moving moment for her, as someone who grew up and raised her own children in the neighborhood.
In the coming years, young library patrons may not know how lucky they are, which may be a palatable lapse of knowledge even in a library.
Linda, and the many community and public sector supporters of the project who celebrated their accomplishment last night, will always see the improvement. They will be smiling for a long time to come.
Congratulations to all the community members and their friends who contributed to what is a major achievement in the evolving life of Bayview.