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    Protecting Oakland’s Libraries

    Posted on 5/26/2011

    At tonight’s City Council meeting (starting at 5:30 at City Hall), they will be discussing the future of Oakland libraries. Carmen Martinez, the Director of OPL, will be presenting the library’s budget outlook under the mayor’s proposed A, B, & C budget scenarios. This is open to the public, so if you are interested in showing support for Oakland’s libraries, you can come! A representative from the Friends of the Oakland Public Library will speak at the meeting and show our support for keeping all branches open.

    If you are interested in speaking at the meeting, you should fill out an online form here. You can learn more about the movement to save Oakland’s libraries here. If you can’t make it tonight, there are many other events you can participate in. To see a calendar of events, just go here. The Facebook page for Save Oakland Library also has up to the minute information, so you can check that out here.

    The local media has started to notice the library crisis in Oakland. The Oakland Tribune’s article can be found here, and the East Bay Express’s article, which includes an interview with Carmen Martinez, can be found here. Lots of local blogs are covering the possible libraries closures and the events to try and stop it. Here Oakland North wrote about a protest where apparent zombie marchers shouted “Zombies need brains, keep libraries open!” The Friends of the Montclair Library are covering it in their blogOakland Local has several articles about the budget crisis and it’s effects on our libraries, and you can find one of those articles here.

    And in case you missed it on our last post, here’s the official statement of the Friends of the Oakland Public Library regarding the city budget and possible library closures:

    Memo to members and patrons of FOPL and the Bookmark Bookstore:

    This isn’t our usual announcement of an upcoming sale or special collection at the Bookmark Bookstore, but it’s important information for all library supporters. Oakland is having a budget crisis that could seriously affect library operations, and we need you to speak up!

    The Oakland Mayor’s fiscal year 2011-13 Proposed Budget Scenario A, the “All Cuts Budget”, would have a devastating effect on the library and its services.  It effectively reduces next year’s library funding from the 2010-11 level of $23.6 million to $3.6 million, requiring the closure of 13 of the 16 branch libraries, as well as the African American Museum and Library, the Tool Lending Library and Second Start Adult Literacy.  Electronic services like downloadable books and databases would be discontinued, and there would be little funding for programs like summer reading and story hours.

    This scenario would have enormous impact on the libraries and all of its patrons.  Seniors and students who rely on neighborhood libraries as safe places to visit, read and learn would lose a valuable source of support. Thirteen neighborhoods would lose an important learning and social gathering spot.  And literacy efforts would be struck a devastating blow.  Libraries are so much more than houses for books, as recent increases in city-wide library patronage illustrate.

    In 2003, the Friends of the Oakland Public Library worked diligently with hundreds of others to enact Measure Q, the special parcel tax in support of the Oakland Public Library.  Seventy-seven percent of Oakland voters voted for this measure, which raises just under $14 million a year to provide library services to all of Oakland.  To raise these funds, the city is required to fund the Library in the amount of $9 million out of the general fund.

    Budget Scenario A funding of only $3.6 million means the city would not be able to collect Measure Q funds.  This means funding would fall, not just from this year’s General Fund amount of $9 million to $3.6 million, but from this year’s total funding level of $23.6 million all the way to $3.6 million.  This represents an 85% reduction in funding.  An eighty-five percent reduction.

    The Friends of the Oakland Public Library are outraged that this scenario should be under consideration.  Please do not shut 13 of our 17 libraries.

    We are asking our members and others who visit our website to educate themselves about the budget scenarios under consideration by visiting  We ask them to contact their City Council representatives, to let them know how they feel about enacting a budget that closes most of the city’s libraries. Contact information, talking points, meeting dates and more can be found at  And we support allowing Oakland voters to choose whether or not to have a parcel tax to raise the general fund revenues to prevent this, should it be required.

    Thank you for your time.

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