Oakland Residents Stage Silent Protests to Save Libraries

If city lawmakers have their way, Oakland will be left with only four public libraries.

By Thoai Lu Jun 15, 2011

Two weeks ago Channing Kennedy interviewed his mother, a former librarian of two decades, on how libraries are part of a safety net and play a huge role in establishing community, particularly for folks of color. Cities across the nation are pulling funding from school and public libraries for budget cuts and Oakland faces the threat of losing this safety net. And now, residents in Oakland are staging a silent protest to help save several libraries that are slated for closure.

The figures are scary: Fourteen out of Oakland’s eighteen branch libraries could be shuttered.  To help stave off the closures, Save Oakland Libraries will hold a 14 days, 14 Branches Read-in on June 20 in the city’s downtown. The Oakland Tribune reports that on June 21, when the budget is due for adoption, supporters will find out whether the libraries will survive this round of cuts.

The impacts could be felt most strongly in low-income communities of color. Kennedy’s mother, Barbara Jean Walsh, commented on the role the library plays as part of the quickly vanishing safety net:

Libraries don’t need to be daycare centers to have community value, to be part of the safety net. Libraries are already, naturally, a part of the safety net, because they empower their community with equitable access to knowledge… If a community doesn’t feel ownership of its library, it’s going to go away. And if the people at the city and the county aren’t made to understand a library’s value for the community, they’re not going to fund it.

If the budget goes as planned, only four public libraries will remain in the city.  What exacerbates the situation is that these libraries would only be open 3 days a week, with limited funding for new books, DVD’s and electronic services.

Kennedy commented on how the internet and the library are not equivalents because of accessibility. In a different piece about libraries, he said:

There are parallels here, not just to the present trend of library closures, but to public services across the board. If cash-strapped city governments are able to shut down something as universally loved as their own libraries, what chance do job training programs or free health clinics have?

Folks will sign up on this spreadsheet to read in 15 minute slots, uninterrupted.  To learn more about Scenario A cut and other related measures, check out the Save Oakland Library site. Please help spread the word to save Oakland’s libraries!