BERKELEY (CBS SF) — It’s official: the Berkeley Public Library is among the best of the best.

The Library Journal, a New York-based trade publication for librarians founded in 1876, says Berkeley’s public library was one of just two libraries in California worthy of a five-star rating in 2020.

The journal reviewed more than 5,600 public libraries in the United States from data reported in the Institute of Museums and Library Services’ Public Library Survey.

“It is a big deal,” said Tess Mayer, Berkeley’s director of library services. “We were only one of two in California to get this. This is a significant number.”

The Library Journal looked at data from fiscal year 2018. Its criteria included physical circulation, circulation of electronic materials, successful retrievals of electronic information, library visits, program attendance, public internet computer use and Wi-Fi sessions.

Berkeley Public Library’s west branch (Berkeley Public Library)

Mayer, who came to Berkeley last fall from Washington state, said the award was particularly gratifying, coming at the end of what “has certainly been a challenging year for us.”

“I would say we’re still building on that data (from 2018),” she said. “I think we’re the second-highest in terms of collection. That’s a testament to the importance of libraries in Berkeley.”

Rosemary Hardy is the president of the board of the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library, which has been around for more than 75 years and counts more than 500 members. She praises the library’s use of various multimedia sources, instructional courses, availability and the lengths to which it goes to help people.

“I have had a Berkeley Public Library card for more than four decades, and it has been in constant use for all that time,” Hardy said. “My life is tremendously enriched by the library’s presence in our community. The library is a community resource we need at all times, and most especially in these times.

“The library is a bright spot, always allowing patrons to place a generous number of holds, to pick up materials at each outdoor location and to rely on its presence as a constant source of credible information.”

Mayer said libraries will have an important place in post-pandemic communities, not only for public information gathering, but for public discourse. The library is also expanding programs, she said, adding culinary instruments and utensils to the offbeat offerings of its tool lending branch, which has been going strong for decades.

“We’re really excited; we’re trying to expand access, we’re creating different partnerships for people,” Mayer said. “Anytime you’re engaging with different parts of the community, you’re bringing in people you might not have engaged with before. It’s important for any public library.”

To see more about the Berkeley Public Library, visit berkeleypubliclibrary.org.

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