Noe Valley Voice October 2007

Noe's Carnegie Library Seeking Landmark Status

By Corrie M. Anders

The Noe Valley-Sally Brunn Branch Library will have a new manager--and perhaps new landmark status as a historical treasure--when the branch reopens next year after a $5.7 million seismic facelift.

Alice McCloud, a six-year veteran of the San Francisco Public Library system, will be in charge when the branch resumes checking out books in the spring, only a couple of months later than originally anticipated.

McCloud's appointment was one of several recent events involving the branch at 451 Jersey Street:

* The library now is projected to reopen sometime in March 2008, according to several library officials. The facility had been set to restart operations "in late 2007."

* With a huge assist from the sale of 250 commemorative bricks, a neighborhood fundraising effort to help pay for the library's interior fixtures surpassed its $150,000 goal. The outpouring of local support prompted fundraisers to set a new target of $200,000.

* The first step towards designating the nearly century-old Beaux Arts building as a historic landmark gets under way Oct. 17, when the city holds a public hearing on the matter.

* Architect Alice Carey will give a free presentation Oct. 17 on the historical significance of the library building. She'll also describe several other city libraries that philanthropist Andrew Carnegie helped finance.

McCloud worked as a middle-school math teacher in Miami, Fla., for 12 years before joining the city's library system in 2001. She currently serves as branch manager--the title the city now gives head librarians--at the Ingleside Branch.

"My interest is in helping children, so I'm looking forward to working at the Noe Valley Branch, which has an entire room dedicated to children, as well as a full-time children's librarian," said McCloud.

Her priorities, she said, also will include increasing the number of teenagers using the library--she's already at work building Noe Valley's teen book collection--and reactivating community, educational, and entertainment programs for adults.

McCloud lives in Pacifica and eventually plans to relocate to Noe Valley. In her latest managerial assignment, she will take over from Carol Small, who filled the roles of both branch manager and children's librarian for two years prior to the Noe Valley Library's closing in February 2006.

"I'll return to being a fulltime children's librarian" when the branch reopens, said Small.

Construction crews are closing in on the last six months of Noe Valley's earthquake retrofit, which will include technological upgrades, improvements for handicapped patrons, a new full-service elevator, new bathrooms, and better bookshelf space. The facade of the building will be largely preserved.

Though the renovation suffered from more than five years of delays, downtown library officials last month appeared to have a pretty clear idea of when the branch would reopen.

"We'll reopen in March," said Mindy Linetzky, who toured the building in September in her oversight capacity as the San Francisco Public Library's bond program manager.

"It's gorgeous inside," said Linetzky. "There's still scaffolding and construction going on. But the ceiling and light fixtures in the main reading room are just gorgeous. The flooring looks great. And the outside of the building is all cleaned up and sparkling."

The Noe Valley Library Campaign held book-signing parties, spaghetti feeds, and similar activities to raise funds to purchase computers, furniture, shelving, and other supplies that the city's budget didn't cover. The sale of $250 bricks, which will be engraved with donors' names and placed on the front patio of the restored library, alone raised $62,500.

"We just finished the sale last month and sold 250 bricks," said campaign chair Kim Drew. "That was very exciting."

Drew said the successful drive--in which more than 400 individuals and families contributed--highlighted "the neighborhood's enthusiasm and love of the library" and encouraged the campaign to continue raising money. "We increased the goal to $200,000," she said.

In addition to the building's renovation, efforts are also under way to designate the classic two-story structure a historic landmark. The Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board will discuss the issue at its regular session on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 12:30 p.m., in Room 400 at City Hall (call 558-6378 to confirm).

The branch is already registered with the board as an architecturally significant building. Landmark status, however, would provide an extra layer of protection.

"Any change [in the building] that requires a city permit will require a certificate of appropriateness from the landmarks board," said Sophie Middlebrook, a preservation specialist with the city's Planning Department.

Also on Oct. 17, architect Carey, who directs the firm that drew up plans for the Noe Valley­Sally Brunn renovation, will give a lecture hosted by the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library at 391 Grove Street at 6 p.m.

"She will talk about the wonderful legacy of San Francisco's Carnegie libraries, including the Noe Valley Branch," said Friends member Marian Chatfield-Taylor, who is assisting the Noe Valley fundraising effort.

To get involved with either project--fundraising or landmark designation--contact Chatfield-Taylor at 626-7512, ext. 103.