West Oakland Branch, 1801 Adeline St.
Cathy Francioch, Branch Manager and Children’s Librarian:
For the past sixteen years, I have had the challenge and joy of being the Children’s Librarian at the West Oakland Library. More recently, I have been serving as Branch Manager as well. The news that the West Oakland Library possibly could be one of thirteen libraries in the city to be closed due to budget issues has been devastating to both the West Oakland Library staff and to the West Oakland community.
The West Oakland Library is the oldest branch in the library system and it also serves the largest service area in the City. Due to the many manufacturing sites and businesses located in the West Oakland service area, it does not serve as many Oakland residents as some of the other branches in Oakland, but it faces a greater challenge in reaching out to these residents because of their distance from the library. Ironically as the City Council and the Mayor consider closing the West Oakland Library and twelve other branches, we are all busier than ever. West Oakland has only six public computers, but they are almost constantly busy with people searching for jobs or places where they can afford to live. We need more computers to serve them, not to be closed. Much of our time is now taken by helping these often computer-challenged users who are desperately trying to find a job to support their families and a place to live.
As Children’s Librarian, I was frustrated for many years trying to serve the very needy children of West Oakland. Two elementary schools are within walking distance of the library but two, Hoover and Place at Prescott, are at least a mile away. Many preschools are also too far away for their very young students to be able to come to the library. Six years ago, we applied for and were awarded a grant by the Library Services and Technology division of the California State Library. For one year, we were able to use the grant to charter a bus and bring young preschoolers and kindergarteners from West Oakland schools to the West Oakland Library for class story times and the opportunity to check out books. Two years later, we were awarded another grant of $150,000 by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and were able to bring even more children by bus to the library for three years. We are now nearing the end of the first year of a second three-year grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. We have been able to bring thousands of children to the library thanks to these generous grants and we have the delight of seeing many of them return to the library with their parents. If the West Oakland Library closes, we will no doubt lose our current grant and the opportunity to help improve the lives and education of all these children.
Too many children in Oakland grow up in homes where the importance of being read to is not known by the parents. Children who are read to between birth and age five, have a much better chance of learning to read and succeeding in school. Children who are not read to are soon behind their other classmates in learning to read. This deficiency continues throughout elementary, middle and high school and all too often leads the embarrassed student to drop out of school, be drawn into the support of a gang, or lured by the empty and often deadly promises of engaging in the sale of drugs.
Please consider the points I have made and especially the plight of the children in Oakland. They and their parents need a library to enrich their lives and make it possible for them to complete their education and go out into the world to succeed in a career that will also take care of them for the remainder of their lives.
Second Start Literacy
Amy Prevadel, Second Start Adult Literacy:
Second Start is the free and confidential adult literacy program of the Oakland Public Library.
The program was established in 1984 to serve adults at the very lowest levels of literacy, ensuring that all Oaklanders have equal access to the library, regardless of their reading ability.
Second Start is a positive and powerful force in families, work places and communities all over Oakland. Students’ personal literacy goals drive instruction. Adults’ achievements range from sharing a book with a child, completing a job application, voting, handling home finances, and learning how to use computers for job training.
Talented and generous volunteer tutors meet one-to-one with adult literacy students at libraries all over Oakland. There is no standard curriculum and no standardized testing. Instead, with ongoing support from the Second Start staff, tutors create individualized lesson plans with their specific learner’s needs and interest in mind.
The need for Second Start is great. In Alameda County 19% of adults–our friends and neighbors–lack basic prose literacy skills. This means a new form at work, instructions for an aging parent’s medication, or a bus schedule change can become a major life-changing problem for many Oaklanders.
The City of Oakland has a tremendous high school dropout rate and number of kids who cannot pass the State High School Exit Exam, which raises this percentage of adults who lack functional literacy skillls.