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Berkeley's newly rebuilt West Branch library features some subtle flourishes shown on Sunday Dec. 1, 2013. The library will reopen Dec. 14 at a cost of $7.5 million. (Doug Oakley/Bay Area News Group)

BERKELEY -- A new West Branch library will open on University Avenue Dec. 14, more than six months behind schedule and at a cost of $7.5 million.

The project is the last of four library construction projects in which the city spent $26 million on replacing the West and South branch libraries and renovating the North and Claremont branches over four years, said Berkeley Public Library Director Donna Corbeil.

The new library near the corner of San Pablo Avenue is 9,500 square feet, which makes it about 3,000 square feet larger than the old building in the same location. The old West Branch library was torn down in May 2012.

"This is not a large building but it does have some complexity to it," Corbeil said. "When you get inside it feels really tall, but it's good, it's not like this big empty space."

Corbeil said the project fell behind schedule by more than six months because work crews ran into some contaminated soil they had not counted on, and it had to be removed and cleaned up.

The building has solar panels to generate electricity and uses windows that automatically open and close to help regulate the temperature inside. Officials say the solar panels on the roof should produce as much electricity as the building uses, thereby giving it a "net zero" energy designation.

In addition to books, the library has a study room, a teen room, more computers and a community multipurpose room.

Furniture at all four renovated libraries came from $3 million in donations raised by the Berkeley Public Library Foundation. Executive Director Kirsten Cowan said donations ranged from 52 cents to $250,000.

Contact Doug Oakley at 925-234-1699. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/douglasoakley.