Library celebrates 100 years in city

Working at the oldest existing library in The City can mean stumbling upon a picture of a first-grade class wedged in your desk.

Branch Manager Cathy Delneo said she has found relics such as that in the Park Branch library, which will be celebrating its 100th anniversary Thursday.

The branch, located on Page Street near Cole Street, opened its doors in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood on Oct. 29, 1909, funded from a $30,000 gift from Mayor James Phelan.

The original branch was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, but Phelan picked up the tab to construct the two-story, terra cotta and brick building with 23-foot-tall ceilings and an open floor plan of about 100 feet by 41 feet.

The existence of the branch was debated several times in its history. In the 1950s, the Planning Department deemed the Park Branch “obsolete and out-of-the-way,” and recommended moving the building from 1833 Page St. to the corner of Haight and Masonic.

In 1982, the Park Branch was slated for closure when there was a plan to consolidate resources by closing branch libraries. Public outcry saved 10 branches, including the Park Branch.

The library, which issued 2,000 cards within its first year, now boasts nearly 32,000 library cards and a historical archive of the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.

“When you think of a local branch library, this one comes to mind,” Delneo said.

“We definitely have our regulars”, she said. “We know who’s coming in on Monday or on Tuesday … and they’ll put 15 books on hold every week. We have voracious readers.”

Those readers will likely have the Park Branch to visit for the foreseeable future, as the location undergoes a renovation.

By the end of 2010, the branch will have undergone a $1.6 million revamp, including replacing the fluorescent lights with softer, pendant ones, restoring ancient furniture, adding two new bathrooms and other projects.

The remodeling should still maintain the integrity of its history, Delneo said.

Birthday bash

The Park Branch library will have celebrations for its 100th anniversary Thursday.

  • 10:30 a.m. Baby Rhyme Time
  • 11 a.m. Branch birthday party for kids
  • 11:30 a.m. Musician Charity Kahn will perform — children and parents are encouraged to attend in costume
  • 3 p.m. Face painting with Erin Gallagher
  • From 6-8 p.m., the branch will remain open for an evening celebration for the entire neighborhood with food and festivities including:
  • Slide show of historic photos by Katherine Powell Cohen, author of Arcadia Press’ new book in the Images of America series, “San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury”
  • Musical performances by the Urban School of San Francisco Jazz Combo, Joli Valenti and Gail Muldrow and more
  • Announcement of the winners of the Haight-Ashbury Neighbor­hood Council’s “Why I Love the Park Branch” student essay contest

Source: San Francisco Public Library

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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