by Shanthi Gonzales

One of the benefits of serving on the Library Advisory Commission has been getting to know all the amazing people who volunteer for the city’s libraries. There is a whole constellation of ways that people support the city and school libraries.

If you love libraries and have a few hours a month that you could devote to supporting them, please consider these volunteer options. For me, it has been a very rewarding experience to be involved in advocating for strong library services.

Second Start Adult Literacy Tutors help adults learn (or relearn) to read. One of my dearest friends on the commission works with an adult student. I am so touched by her dedication, because literacy is the gateway to a good life.

The Friends of the Oakland Public Library (FOPL) raise money and make grants to the city’s libraries to improve services.  Much of the money they grant comes from the proceeds from the Bookmark Bookstore, where most of the staff are volunteers. You can volunteer at the bookstore, or you can help by serving on the FOPL board.

Most branches of the Oakland Public Library have a branch friends group.  Friends groups raise money and hold programs at the branches for the community. Call your local branch to find out when the friends group near you will be meeting next. One neighborhood plug: the MLK Branch Friends are holding a Rummage Sale on April 12 from 10 – 4; come by and help us raise money for music programs at the branch.

The Youth Leadership Council (YLC) of the Oakland Public Library is a great way that youth can build their leadership skills while strengthening their local libraries. The LAC is fortunate to have had several YLC alums among our ranks, and we are always impressed with the quality of training they get through participating in the YLC.

The Oakland Library Advisory Commission (LAC) advocates for vibrant library services with elected officials, oversees expenditure of Measure Q funding for the city’s libraries and serves as a link between the community and library users and the Library’s administration. We currently have a full commission, but contact us at if you are interested in learning more about service on the commission.

Also, the Oakland Public Library has two upcoming Volunteer Information Sessions. You can attend to learn about even more volunteer opportunities.

They will be held Wednesday April 2 from 6 – 7:30 p.m. at the Main Library (125 14th Street), in the Brad Walters Room downstairs and Saturday April 5 from 11 a.m. – noon at the Melrose Branch Library (4805 Foothill Boulevard), in the meeting room downstairs.

Finally, I would not want to leave out an important group that serves the school libraries in Oakland. The Friends of the Oakland School Libraries (FOPSL) provide a variety of services to ensure that all Oakland Unified School District students have access to quality school libraries. Many Oakland children do not have reading materials or internet access at home, making the ability to get reading materials at school more critical.

Volunteers with FOPSL volunteer at schools all over the district to make sure kids have access to library services, and they provide such an important service, especially in neighborhoods like mine, where many kids don’t have access to books.

I have a deep appreciation for the city’s library volunteers; they are part of the reason Oakland is such a great place!


Shanthi Gonzales is Vice Chair of the Oakland Library Advisory Commission and a Candidate for the Oakland School Board in 2014.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. 
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About The Author

The Library Advisory Commission reports and makes recommendations to the Oakland City Council on Oakland Public Library policies; provides citizen oversight of Measure Q tax funds; and advocates on behalf of OPL programs and services. The Commission consists of 15 seats, appointed by the Mayor and Council. The public is welcome to attend the Commission’s meeting which are held on the last Monday of the month at 5:15 p.m. in the Brad Walters Community Room at the Main Library, 125 14th St.

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