By Stephen Cole
It’s a warm Sunday afternoon and I’m tabling with Julie Waldman at the Dimond district’s annual Oaktoberfest on behalf of the Friends of the Oakland Public Library (natch!). The crowd is beginning to thin, and the folks at some booths are packing up for the day.
“I think I’d like a corndog,” Julie announces.
I’m surprised – not by the choice of snack but rather by hearing Julie express an individual desire, for my experience of her is of a selfless and devoted Board member whose commitment to the Friends and to our libraries is almost unparalleled. After twenty-four years, however, she’s retiring from the Board. More time for reading, knitting, quilting, puzzles, and travel! And the “aspirational” hobby of gardening too.
After Julie attended a non-profit board fair in 1999, she found herself a member of two boards – the Friends of OPL and one she stayed with for just three years. What was the difference? On that she’s quite clear: “wonderful people,” some of whom became good friends. I asked Julie’s colleagues how they would describe her: “dedicated” and “steadfast” were common responses; “determined, effective, reliable, impactful, smart, funny,” another wrote; a “bookworm” with a wry sense of humor and a great sense of fun, a “renaissance woman.”
Julie has held just about every position on the Board — secretary, president, treasurer, and most recently chair of the bookstore committee where she helped pilot the Bookmark through the unprecedented challenges of Covid to emerge stronger than ever. Laura Guzman, one of the store’s co-managers, writes, Julie “has been nothing but committed to me and Sven as we have transitioned into the management roles, and of every idea that we’ve brought to the table. She is committed to seeing the store thrive and ensuring it supports the impact we want to have on … OPL. She commits countless hours to this effort and we simply wouldn’t be where we are if it weren’t for her selfless support.”
Born in San Francisco, Julie lived in Germany and France as a child (her father was then a physician in the Army) and all over the East Bay before her parents moved her and her siblings to Oakland. She remembers the thrill as a kindergartener of the bookmobile’s arrival on her Orinda street and using the old Rockridge branch – “cramped and dark” – on College Avenue when she attended what was then Claremont Junior High. Graduated from Berkeley High, after a couple of false starts that took in UC-Berkeley and the Academy of Art, she graduated from Golden Gate University with a degree in business and made a career in the insurance industry from which she retired a few years ago.
And now another retirement – though, to all our benefit, an incomplete one, as Julie will still volunteer at the Bookmark. We will miss you, Julie – your wit, your cool-headedness, your book recommendations (Kent Haruf, everyone!), and of course the cats Zoom-bombing Board meetings. Happy trails. And get weeding!