Library shuts doors, readies for next chapter

With an infusion of new funding approved by voters in November, The City’s branch library improvement program is moving forward, although minor delays have held up the expected opening of some of the restored branches, according to library officials.

Today, the 70-year-old Bernal Heights Branch Library is closing for a $5.7 million makeover that is scheduled for completion by early 2010.

Two other branch libraries also are in the midst of improvement projects — Richmond and Portola — and renovation work is in the finishing stages for the Noe Valley branch, which is scheduled to reopen March 8, according to library officials.

For the last six years, work has predominantly been funded through a $106 million improvement bond approved by voters in 2000, which promised that 19 branch renovations and four full construction projects would be completed by 2009.

Planning setbacks and debt have troubled the program, which at one point was suffering a shortfall in funds of more than $40 million.

In November, voters secured the future of the facilities-improvement program when they approved an initiative that expanded the Library Preservation Fund, allowing The City to issue debt secured by or repaid from the fund, which is supported by taxpayers.

Mindy Linetzky, program administrator for the Branch Library Improvement Program (BLIP), attributes the plan’s early setbacks to inexperience and high construction costs.

“Really, no one had any experience scheduling a project of this magnitude,” Linetsky said. “But I think if you look at the last year, our planning has been much improved.”

Other construction projects in the works include a brand new library building to replace the existing Ingleside Branch, which will begin on Feb. 15, according to Linetzky. And on March 1, the Eureka Valley branch will close its doors for renovation work that is scheduled to be completed by September 2009.

The Richmond Branch, which began construction in June 2007, is expected to reopen in the summer of 2009 and the Portola Branch, which has been closed since August 2007, is expected to return to service by spring of 2009, Linetzky said.

Renovations completed to date include the Marina, Sunset, West Portal and Excelsior branches. A new library was also built at Mission Bay.

wreisman@examiner.com  

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