The Oakland Public Library is the public library in Oakland, California. Opened in 1878, the Oakland Public Library currently serves the city of Oakland, along with neighboring smaller cities Emeryville and Piedmont. The Oakland Public Library has the largest collection of any public library in the East Bay, featuring approximately 1.5 million items. It consists of a main library located in downtown Oakland, and 16 branch libraries throughout the city (see below).
The Oakland Library Association was formed in 1868 as a subscription library. The poet Ina Coolbrith was hired as librarian in 1873. In 1878, the library was reformed as the Oakland Free Library, the second public library created in California under the Rogers Free Library Act. (Eureka was first.) With her personal style, Coolbrith nurtured the reading habits of many young Oakland students including Jack London and Isadora Duncan. Coolbrith's nephew Henry Frank Peterson replaced Coolbrith in 1892, greatly expanding the library's circulation as well as improving accessibility by completing a card catalog system. Charles S. Greene, poet and former editor of the Overland Monthly, became librarian in 1899 and served until 1926. Mabel W. Thomas, who served as assistant librarian and chief reference librarian under Greene, and retired in 1948, began a collection of books, periodicals, and other material that were the foundation of the California Room in the 1940s and now contained in the well-used Oakland History Room.
The Main Library has occupied its present location at 125 14th Street near Lake Merritt since 1951. It is one of the largest public library facilities in the Bay Area. It features popular reading materials, business resources, government publications, videos/DVDs/CDs, maps, and a computer lab for the public. It is also houses the Oakland History Room, including primary materials and unique books that explore the history of the East Bay; a large and active Children’s Room; and the TeenZone. Adaptive technology is available for persons with disabilities at this and other sites. Call (510) 238-4974 for more details.
As of 2018 the Oakland Public Library has 16 branches. Dates listed in the following list of current branches indicate the year the branch was established and, if the branch has since moved, the year the current location opened.
81st Avenue (2011), 1021 81st Avenue
This branch is jointly operated with the Oakland Unified School District and serves two elementary schools as well as the neighborhood. Construction funding included grants through the California Reading and Literacy Improvement and Public Library Construction and Renovation Bond Act of 2000 (aka Proposition 14).
Asian (1976, current location 1995), 388 9th Street
Brookfield (1957, current location 1992), 9255 Edes Avenue
César E. Chávez (1966, current location 2004), 3301 East 12th Street, Suite 271
This branch, now named after worker rights activist César E. Chávez, was formerly named the Latin American Library Branch, and was established in 1966. It was one of the first public libraries in the United States to offer services and materials in Spanish, and was the first library branch exclusively dedicated to the Spanish-speaking community in the United States.
Dimond (1915, current location 1980), 3565 Fruitvale Avenue
Elmhurst (1911, current location 1949), 1427 88th Avenue
Golden Gate (1899, current location 1949), 5606 San Pablo Avenue
Lakeview (1930, current location 1949), 550 El Embarcadero
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1970), 6833 International Boulevard
This branch, now named after civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr, was originally established in 1916; it was named the Lockwood Branch in 1929. In 1970, it was replaced by a new facility, which is the present library. It features a black history collection, containing books written by or about people of African descent.
Melrose (1911, current location 1916), 4805 Foothill Boulevard
Montclair (1930), 1687 Mountain Boulevard
Piedmont Avenue (1912, current location 2012), 80 Echo Avenue
This branch had been on 41st Street at Piedmont Avenue since 1932, but had to move when the building owner raised the rent. The library is now on the grounds of Piedmont Avenue Elementary School.
Rockridge (1919, current location 1996), 5366 College Avenue
Temescal (1899, current location 1918), 5205 Telegraph Avenue
The Temescal branch houses the Temescal Tool Lending Library, one of the few of its kind in the Bay Area, which allows library patrons to check out tools for various kinds of repairs and home-improvement projects, as well as books, videos, and other instructional materials.
The African American Museum & Library at Oakland (AAMLO) is a non-circulating library that archives historic collections and reference materials documenting the African American experience in California. Among the more than 160 collections in the library are archives relating to Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, Africa, and genealogy. Materials include photographs, manuscripts, letters, diaries, newspapers, recorded oral histories, videos, and microfilms. AAMLO’s two galleries host changing exhibitions of art, history, and culture.