Oakland Libraries are great places to grab some summer reading or free Wi-Fi. But did you know about some of the other services available at your local branch?
In past years, a limited number of physical museum passes were available for check out. This was a great way to go to local museums — but only for the lucky few who managed to catch the passes as they were returned and (immediately) checked out again. This program has been replaced by a digital version, called Discover and Go. All you need is your library card, PIN, and an Internet connection, and you can sign on and reserve or print passes to an even greater selection of museums. Free passes and discounted admissions are available every day for a wide range of museums from San Jose to Santa Rosa, including the Aquarium of the Bay, the Cartoon Museum, the Pacific Pinball Museum, and the Tech Museum of Innovation.
Most branches have meeting rooms available for rental. The rooms can’t be used for private events like parties or fundraisers — only events that are open to the public. In order to schedule a meeting, you must fill out an application and submit a description of your event to Library employees at least two weeks ahead of time. Although admission fees can’t be charged, and the purpose of the meeting can’t be to sell products, authors and performers can offer their books or CDs for sale at the meeting, with approval. Most nonprofits and many local community organizations can rent a meeting room for free; for others, fees range from $15 to $30 per hour.
Co-sponsored by the Alameda County Bar Association, Lawyers in the Library holds monthly free clinics at each branch. Some meetings are focused on specific topics, like bankruptcy. The Cesar Chavez branch also has bilingual (Spanish/English) assistance. For a full list of days, times, and topics click here. The clinics are first come, first served. When sessions are popular, there may be a lottery held to determine which folks can meet with the lawyer.
Here are some programs and features specific to each branch.
In the floors above the main stacks, the Main Library features both the Oakland History Room and a special area just for teenagers. There are frequent art and photography shows at the Teen Zone. This month’s exhibit focuses on Oakland’s Scraper Bike culture.
The 81st Street Branch is Oakland’s newest library and was designed and built to meet 21st-century needs. It has more computers and public rooms than other branches — including large community meeting rooms and study rooms for teams of 2 to 4 people to work together. This library also serves as the school library for two neighborhood schools. Since it moved to the campus of Piedmont Elementary last year, the Piedmont branch is also serving double duty as a public and school library.
Many don’t realize that the African-American Museum and Library is part of the Oakland Public Library system. Oakland Local has written about this amazing resource before. Click here to read all about it. AAMLO and the Fruitvale branches both feature Seed Libraries, where local gardeners can deposit and check out seeds for free.
“The Cesar Chavez Seed Library is a free urban seed project committed to increasing the capacity of our community to feed itself wholesome food by means of education that fosters community resilience, self-reliance and a culture of sharing. Anyone is welcome to come in and check out seeds. No library card is needed, just sign out for them. We then ask that you let some go to seed after planting them and return some of these next generation seeds for others to borrow. The best part is that there are no fines if you are unable to return the seeds!” — OPL Cesar Chavez Branch Page
The Asian and Eastmont branches are both located in shopping malls. The Asian branch has several computers that with multilingual interface for those who need keyboards and software that speak more than just English.
While all locations have accessibility features, Brookfield and Elmhurst branches have a Kurzweil 3000, a scanning, reading, and writing solution for people with learning disabilities, reading difficulties, or low vision.
The Tool Lending Library is a special feature of the Temescal Branch. Oakland Library cardholders can check out everything from power tools to plumbing equipment. Tools are free, but there are limits on how many tools can be checked out at one time and late fees can be steep. More information is available here.
The West Oakland Job Resource Center has just opened on the second floor of the West Oakland Library. Job seekers can get placement assistance for construction jobs and apprenticeship programs with local unions.
In addition to books and periodicals, all branches offer preschool story times in different languages, arts and craft activities, chess clubs, adult literacy classes, free tax assistance from January to April each year, and poetry events. During summer months, while schools are closed, children and youth can even get lunch at local libraries.
Each branch also has a number of computers for public use. While some stations are dedicated to a digital card catalogue, others allow full web access.
* Okay, it wasn’t exactly 10–so what would you add?