Arson at Historic Library Intolerable

Lately I’ve gotten into the habit of reading on the Alameda Police Department’s Daily Activity Log just to see what is happening in Alameda that is more than what is being reported in the papers.

I was extremely upset to read that some unknown person had started a fire inside the Historic Carnegie Library at 2264 Santa Clara Ave. One report stated that someone broke into the building on Friday Dec. 11, but was confronted by an employee. Then on Sunday, Dec. 13, someone broke in and set fire to papers that are stored there.

According to the report that Officer Craig Vreeland filed at 2 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 11, someone trespassed onto the Carnegie Library property. “Unknown (suspect) enters a vacant city building through an unlocked window and damages an alarm sensor. (Suspect) flees when confronted by city employee. 

Then, two days later, at 1:15 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 13, Officer Viet Pham filed a report that also involved the Carnegie Library. This report contained the very disturbing word “arson.” 

“An unknown (suspect) forced entry into a city-owned building and set fire to a stack of papers,” Pham wrote in his report.

I have some questions. What damage has been done to this building? Why isn’t a security guard on duty to protect it 24/7 to prevent the irreplaceable loss of one of the few remaining Carnegie Library structures left until it can be put to proper use besides just being a storage facility? 

Does the city no longer care about this building and would consider it no loss if it was burned to the ground? Maybe just one less thing for the city to maintain.

Arson has been known to be used to eliminate “problems” before. For example several years ago the Navy’s abandoned Fleet Industrial Supply Center building at Alameda Landing was slated for demolition, but instead was reportedly set fire to — not once, not twice but three times in the same evening to complete the arson. What was left was cleared away so Target and other buildings at Alameda Landing could be constructed.

The loss of the historic Carnegie Library building would be a blow to the Civic Center heart of Alameda and a loss of an old “friend.” Granted as a library the building has long outlived its original purpose in the 21st Century, but just as people lovingly restore vintage and antique cars and Victorian-era homes, shouldn’t the City of Alameda or the library foundation do something to further protect and restore properly this building that for so many years provided education, information, entertainment and the joy of reading to young and old, so that it can be re-purposed beyond just being a storage facility and be once again open to the public.

Perhaps it can be used to hold the Friends of the Library book sales, perhaps it can be utilized and maintained by the Parks and Recreation Department to hold events, including weddings and other types of receptions, art and photography exhibits, perhaps as a place to hold holiday boutiques.If one thinks hard enough the possibilities of its use are endless, something that obviously City Hall didn’t think of. And then it would be income to the city far beyond just being a storage facility.

It should be done, and done soon by an energetic and creative group of far-seeing people before it becomes a historic loss to everyone.

Claire Coustier lives in Alameda.