Here comes the neighborhood

It’s not often a new public library branch opens in San Francisco — it’s been 40 years, in fact. But by all accounts, San Francisco residents will find the new library in Mission Bay worth the wait.

Mindful of its location in a budding center of technology, library officials have created a facility that updates the library formula for a new generation, offering free wireless Internet capability and an eclectic selection of DVDs and more than 1,400 CDs — complete with listening station — along with 3,000 new books in the 7,500-square-foot facility at Fourth and Berry streets. A reading room in the back will offer a tranquil space to linger and gaze out over Mission Creek.

The new library, which opens Saturday, cost $4 million to build and was funded by a $105 million library bond measure in 2000. But it will offer more than just an alternative to bookstores. It also will serve as a focus for the nascent Mission Bay neighborhood, which contains about 1,000 housing units but is slated for thousands more over the next few years, in conjunction with the development of the biotech industry in the area.

That doesn’t even take into account the emerging neighborhoods surrounding Mission Bay, especially Rincon Hill, the Transbay Terminal area and parts of South of Market, where thousands more high-rise units are scheduled to be built over the next decade in a building boom that will transform the South of Market skyline.

Though the way people use libraries may be changing, one thing that hasn’t changed is the need for neighborhood fixtures that serve as places for newcomers to meet old friends and make new ones.

As blueprints become reality and Mission Bay develops, the library will serve a key role in making it a real neighborhood.

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