Castro branch library reopens Saturday
by Matthew S. Bajko
A renovated and seismically retrofitted Castro branch library will reopen to the public this weekend after being closed for nearly 19 months. The $5.5 million project also ushers in a new branch manager for the library and new features meant to give library users more space to relax and read.
The Bureau of Architecture in the city's Department of Public Works designed the renovation. The work included a small addition to the building, technological updating, and new furnishings. There is also an outdoor courtyard surrounded by flowers and plants, and the Benjamin Bufano torso sculpture remains in place at the branch's entryway.
"People will love it. The building itself and the renovation are beautiful. It improved on a middle mid-century modern building," said Dominic Scappaticci, interim branch manager for the Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial Branch Library.
The renovations include improved wheelchair access, ADA-compliant restrooms, more space for strollers, a designated teen area, a quiet reading area for adults, more computers, and added capacity for laptops. The branch's fireplace has also been restored and now can help warm the modernist structure originally built in 1961.
"We are excited to have the Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial Branch Library re-open its doors and once again provide a spot for materials, information, and recreation for this lively and diverse neighborhood," stated city Librarian Luis Herrera. "The updating of this branch has created a very welcoming, open, and comfortable space that is sure to be well used by this community. The renovated library is a wonderful tribute to the legacy of its namesake Harvey Milk."
Eureka Valley is the 12th library project to be completed under the Branch Library Improvement Program, which is funded by a $105.9 million bond measure passed by voters in November 2000. The program is supporting the renovation of 16 branch libraries and the construction of eight new library buildings around the city.
The openly gay Scappaticci, 33, previously branch manager of the Ocean View library, was named the Castro branch's interim manager in August and has spent the last month getting it ready for its grand re-opening this Saturday, October 24.
"I wanted to work with a larger LGBT collection. I thought that would be a great environment to work in," said Scappaticci, who earned his master's in library and information science from Wayne State University in Detroit.
The Castro branch houses a special holding of materials on the culture, history, and life experiences of the LGBT community. Library users can also access two LGBT databases: one called LGBT Life archives important and historically significant LGBT journals, magazines, and regional newspapers; the second is called GenderWatch and is a collection of gender, women's studies, and LGBT research from 1970 to the present.
"It is a neat
resource," said Scappaticci, adding that both databases can be accessed
through the main library Web site at
The Castro library, which is located at 1 Jose Sarria Court on 16th Street near Market Street, also has expanded its children's section; is launching a 50 Plus program aimed at older library users; and will offer workshops and classes to patrons. In November there will be a discussion about queer punks and installation of the Gay Shades Project culled from photos users donated to the library prior to its closing.
"It is an attempt for us to gather photographs of people who live in this city so we can preserve them," said Scappaticci. "My biggest thing is I want people to come in there and be proud of the city they live in. This is everyone's library. It is not just for the neighborhood but the entire city of San Francisco."
Over the past two years, the nonprofit Friends of the San Francisco Public Library has been working in partnership with the Eureka Valley Library Campaign Committee to raise $500,000 toward the branch renovations to pay for furnishings, fixtures, and equipment expenses not covered by the bond. The Castro community-based group has raised $75,000 toward its goal of raising $250,000 to furnish the library.
Supporters purchased 132 bricks to help cover the costs, including one bearing the name of Bay Area Reporter founding publisher Bob Ross, who died in 2003. There is also a brick as well as a chair inside the library bearing the newspaper's name for its support of the fundraising campaign.
"We will continue to have naming and donor opportunities even after the branch opens," said Mary Abler, the nonprofit group's neighborhood library campaign organizer, adding that the LGBT collection has yet to be named.
For $500 donors can have a name attached to a library chair; a $5,000 contribution will secure naming rights to a bookshelf. The cost to secure naming rights to the adult reading area, computer area, and children's section ranges from $15,000 to $50,000.
"We will continue to be in the neighborhood and looking for people to help fund that branch," said Abler. "The furniture and the equipment is all paid for by the Friends and we then fundraise in the neighborhood to cover those costs."
Head librarian Herrera will join District 8 Supervisor and mayoral candidate Bevan Dufty for a ribbon-cutting ceremony set to begin at 1 p.m. Saturday. Entertainment will include musical acts and a balloon artist. A lion dance troupe and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will both bless the building prior to its opening.
A Halloween parade kick-off is planned to march around the block at noon prior to the official ceremonies.