Oakland welcomes a new branch library

I generally try to avoid writing about the Library on the blog, cause, as many of you already know, I work there. It’s weird enough working for the City and writing about the City as it is. So I figure it’s best to stay away from any topics even somewhat closely related to my job.

But this weekend, something is going on at the library that is so awesome that I just could not resist sharing it here with you guys — we’re opening a brand new branch in East Oakland!

Rendering of East Oakland Community Library

The existing Library branches out in that part of town — Melrose, Martin Luther King, Elmhurst, Eastmont, and Brookfield — they’re great. I love them all. Really. I mean, the staff there is great and they are well used and beloved by the community. However, as those of you who have visited them know, most of them are also very small, and the facilities are simply not adequate to serve the needs of all of East Oakland.

Which is why I am so excited for the opening of our brand new East Oakland Community Library at 81st and Rudsdale. This new library was funded largely by a Proposition 14 grant, plus redevelopment funds and a whole lot of private fundraising. (I believe some of you contributed to that effort last year after I wrote about the Friends of the Oakland Public Library’s challenge grants.)

This library is particularly exciting because it is a collaborative effort between the City and OUSD. It is co-located with two Oakland public schools, and will serve as the school library for those students. Here’s a little more information about the project from the Library’s website:

A state-of-the-art 21,000 square foot public library is coming to an East Oakland neighborhood and will be sharing a campus with two new small public elementary schools.

In 2004, the Oakland Public Library received $6.5 million in funding from the California Reading and Literacy Improvement and Public Library Construction and Renovation Bond Act of 2000 (Proposition 14) to build a brand new community library in East Oakland. The plan would locate the new library on the same campus as two of Oakland’s New Small Autonomous Schools — EnCompass Academy and Acorn Woodland School.

In recognition of the importance of the East Oakland Community Library project to the growth and sustainability of a fragile neighborhood, the Oakland Redevelopment Agency agreed to match the Proposition 14 funding with $3.5 million in local redevelopment funds.

Locating the community library on the school campuses will mark a new level of cooperation between the Oakland Public Library and the Oakland Unified School District. The shared-use facility means construction and operational cost-savings for both the library and the school district, while bringing coordinated resources to the entire community.

The Oakland Unified School District has committed the land and a total of $497,065 for site development and construction of the common use areas.

Foundations, individuals and businesses have donated $3 million for new furniture, fixtures, equipment and books for the new library.

The East Oakland Community Library will be Oakland’s largest branch library. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the branch while it was under construction, and I just have to say: OMG. It is so nice. It has, like, everything you would dream of a library having. Massive computer lab, awesome storytime area for kids, giant community meeting room, small study rooms, excellent public art — it is truly a beautiful space. You can get an idea of what to expect from the construction photos posted on OPL’s Facebook page.

And if you want to see what it looks like all finished? Well, you can be among the first to do so if you come over for the big grand opening celebration this Saturday, January 29th. There is just so much bad news in Oakland all the time, and the City can be so frustrating, and I am just so delighted about this opportunity to celebrate the City doing something really positive. If you go, sure, you’ll have to sit through some speeches. But there will also be entertainment and children’s activities and you’ll get a chance to see what a truly cool facility this is going to be and for once, feel good about something the City does.

Festivities start at 11 AM at 1021 81st Avenue.

And if you want a little preview of what to expect, take a look at the video below of the first book delivery to the library back in December.

Seriously. Watch that. It is the most adorable thing you will see all week. If you can sit through it and not be moved, you have a heart of stone.

4 thoughts on “Oakland welcomes a new branch library

  1. Gene

    Awesomeness! One of the current Habitat for Humanity building sites is just south of there at Tassafaronga, so I’ve been seeing the progress over time on the building. (This year’s build-a-thon even closer, across the street from the new library.)

  2. Daniel Schulman

    Damn you V Smoothe! I prided my myself on my heart of stone. I considered only Andy Rooney to be more curmudgeonly than myself. Yet, your video brought me down, Who would have thought that kids could be so excited about books that did not even feature a boy wizard.