Saving local libraries

May 28, 2009

Most Oaklanders are well aware of the budget crisis that is forcing the city to make a number of drastic cuts to service across the community. (Sadly, this story isn’t unique to Oakland—communities across the state and the country are struggling to find funding for the arts, recreation, parks, and other services.)

But I found this particular approach to saving an Oakland branch library—one of the two near us—particularly compelling. The friends of Lakeview Library, which is currently slated to be shuttered five days a week, are trying to save the library through a storytelling campaign. (Get the full info on the proposed library closures here.) Anyway, so Lakeview’s advocates asked community members young and old to write about or draw (electronically or otherwise—they’re accepting hard copies of stories and drawings at the library itself) the library’s impact on their lives.

I’m a sucker for storytelling, and especially for storytelling as a form of community organizing and empowerment, so this caught my eye right away.

Here’s how the organizers frame their project:

“Lakeview Library is desperately scrambling to stay alive. The city wants to cut its services in half, open only three days a week, even though Lakeview’s patronage exceeds that of four libraries which are used far less. Our neighborhood uses Lakeview: more than a third of the April petition’s signatures were collected at Lakeview.

We’re collecting and consolidating our community’s voices, and have launched Lakeview Library’s Blog. This blog will collect library stories and e-mails to city officials and use them to demonstrate that our neighborhood wants and needs our

Tell Us Your Your Library Story!

Why is the library is important to you? Use your own story and add a personal flavor to our community’s entreaties. Did you meet the love of your life there? Get coached for your citizenship exams? Learn to knit or play chess? Discover a new genre of book or music? Send you and your kids home every week with a new batch of bedtime stories? Tell your story!

Tell your story…

  • ELECTRONICALLY: Tell us your library stories as a comment to the blog.
  • ON PAPER: For those who prefer crayon, ink, photographs, there’s a printable PDF. Just drop the completed form in Lakeview’s drop slot.

There’s no dedicated email address for Lakeview Library’s Friends group…yet.  Until we get one, please take a moment to paste your emails, letters or faxes to our mayor and council into the comments section. (You can print your letter or email and drop it at Lakeview if you prefer.) Thanks!”

Will it work? Who knows. The budget situation is so dire this year that it’s hard to see where any savings might come from to fill the gaps for situations like this. But at a minimum, this will document the importance of the branch libraries even in our 21st century world so that their services can be restored as soon as funding becomes available again…hopefully at some point in the not too distant future. One can hope, at least!

Other ways to support Oakland’s libraries

  • Join Friends of the Oakland Public Library or shop at their bookstore in Old Oakland (you can even buy books from them on Amazon!)
  • Visit Save the Libraries, a web space for all of the branch libraries, which is also running a lower key story campaign.
  • Attend one of the upcoming budget meetings on Thursday, May 28 or Monday, June 1 (see the link above for full details).
  • Write to your elected officials—City Council reps and beyond—to let them know which libraries you use, when, and why. Do it soon, though—the revised budget will be before Council next month.


  1. Let’s Go Oakland! is a group of A’s fans, business people, labor leaders, and government officials who are committed to keeping the A’s in Oakland.

    But it’s about much more than just building a ballpark. As part of a larger plan to build new hotels, restaurants, and cafes, a new destination stadium will attract visitors from all over the region. Like AT&T Park in Mission Bay did for San Francisco, our ballpark will be a catalyst to bring new investment and jobs to Oakland, kick-starting the next phase of our community’s successful economic development.

    If you support Oakland — if you support the A’s — we hope you’ll stand with us. Sign our petition, and urge Major League Baseball and team ownership to keep the A’s in Oakland!


  2. [Okay, not exactly topical, but I’m all for keeping MLB in town, too…. ;)]

  3. **Thank You!** City Homestead, for your cross-post!

    We love good stories,too and welcome *any* library stories–not just about Lakeview.

    Not a single Oakland library closed during the Great Depression. We’re hoping Oaklanders’ stories will keep Lakeview, and all Oakland’s libraries, open and available to everyone during this recession.

    Thanks again, City Homestead and all your readers, for your cross-post and your stories!

    The Lakeview Library Blogspot

  4. I saw a couple of weeks ago that one couldn’t reserve books to the Montclair branch because it was “closed until further notice for pick-ups.” Not sure if that means just that function or the library altogether. I’ve been enjoying the Rockridge branch for several weeks now; not to mention the $$$ I’ve saved frequenting a library instead of Barnes & Noble.

  5. I am appalled at what’s happening to libraries across the country. There was a news segment on this morning about a Massachusetts town that is keeping one of its branch libraries open by volunteers soliciting donations. What does this say about our country? And in a time when more people are using the library to economize it is even more painful. Not to inject politics into this – though it is a political issue – this seems to me to be an inevitable result of the No New Taxes mindset. Very sad and very frustrating.


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