At the East Bay Children’s Book Project, we give away books to organizations working with children in need, because – as our motto says – “every child needs a book.” But really, everyone needs books, and isn’t it great when you can get them for free?

Here are a few places in Oakland where any member of the public can get books for absolutely no cost.

Libros Libres. Its very name says volumes: free books! Libros Libres, The Traveling Free Bookstore, began as a popup traveling free book exchange, storytelling and bookmaking hub. According to its website, “Free book exchange events seek to transform a public space into a creative and collaborative nexus in which community members are empowered to promote book arts and book culture.” It’s since expanded into brick and mortar in two locations. There’s a “take a book, leave a book” bookshelf at Oaklandish’s Fruitvale store at 3419 Fruitvale. On July 13, Libros Libres opened a free bookstore and reading room at Tilde, 349 15th Street. Check out the Libros Libres calendar of events on their website.

Little Free Libraries. These adorable little glassed-in boxes look like a cross between dollhouses, mailboxes, birdhouses and bookshelves. Passersby are invited to take a book or leave a book. There are half a dozen or so in Oakland, and the Little Free Library website has a map so you can see if there’s one in your neighborhood. Unfortunately, the map is a little hard to navigate: you have to keep zooming in and adjusting. The link at the bottom of the page that says “for easier navigation” will take you to a Google map with an alphabetical index; Oakland is on page 3 of the index.

In case you missed it, there was an astonishing story recently about a little boy in Kansas who was forced to remove his Little Free Library because it supposedly violated zoning ordinances. Oakland hasn’t done anything like this and we trust it will continue to support free books throughout the city!

Did you know you can get free books at the Oakland Public Library? Yes, of course you knew you could borrow books, but did you know you can get free books that you can keep? Some library branches have giveaway shelves or carts. Some branches also host book swaps. Bring books you no longer want and trade with your neighbors. Ask at your local branch library.

I’m sad to report, though, that as of this summer, one beloved Oakland source for free books is no more. World Book Night USA provided specially-printed paperback editions of terrific books for teens and adults, and volunteers called Book Givers gave them away, focusing on other people who don’t read much. After three years, during which over a million and a half free books were distributed, WBNUSA has announced that they are shutting down for lack of funds. Many of the staff at the East Bay Children’s Book Project were Book Givers, and we are sad to see this excellent project disappear.

Know other places or ways to get free books in Oakland? Leave a comment and let us know!

Ending on a happy note, stay tuned for more information about the East Bay Children’s Book Project’s grand re-opening on August 19 in our brand-new location at 955 12th Street in West Oakland. We are deeply grateful to all the individuals and organizations who have pitched in to help us move and get our new home ready! We’ll have more space for browsing and, as always, a great selection of books for infants, children and teens. If you work or volunteer with an organization that benefits children in need, we will have books for you, and of course, they will all be free.

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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One Response

  1. b

    The Little Free Library map is not complete… I know of two Little Free Libraries that aren’t on it (one in Oakland and one in Berkeley).


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