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OPL Advocates | 2020 Year End Report

By the FOPL Advocacy Committee

COVID-19 has not slowed the pace for the Friends of the OPL Advocates. We worked throughout 2020 to understand and mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on the Oakland Public Libraries. The work has begun and is far from over. We will endure!

Welcome, Helen Bloch!

The Friends’ Advocacy Committee is thrilled to welcome a third member – advocate extraordinaire Helen Bloch. As a community member, Helen joins Friends Directors Ronile Lahti and Kathryn Sterbenc on the committee. Helen is well-known to OPL patrons as a longtime Children’s Librarian, retiring in 2018. She also was a founding member of Save Oakland Libraries, OPL Advocates, and the new Friends of the Main. Welcome aboard, Helen!

City of Oakland Budget Update

As the City of Oakland prepares for what is certain to be a tough budget season in 2021, OPL Advocates have already begun urging the City Council to protect and restore funding for Oakland Public Library.

A report under review by Oakland City Councilmembers in December projects the city’s budget gap for the current year as $32 million. This will grow to $62 million, the report states, if no “fiscal corrective action” is taken.

In response to the budget shortfall, Mayor Schaaf recently announced a series of austerity measures. Among them: Temporary workers were terminated, all conference attendance was eliminated, all department directors will forgo scheduled raises, and departments were asked to submit reduced budgets (by 10 percent and 20 percent) for the remainder of this fiscal year. New Councilmembers will take office Jan. 4, and the Council will consider additional budget cuts after that date. View the full proposal here.

For us, this all means working hard, starting now, to make sure every single Councilmember knows that the library has continued to provide essential services to Oaklanders throughout the pandemic – and that OPL should be prioritized in upcoming budget decision-making.

Our overall goal so far will be to urge the Council to fully fund the library under the terms of Measure D. Of course, we will be in touch with you as always to share what we know, and find the best way forward to protect and support our vital library staff and services. For our full budget report, please go to the OPL Advocates website.

OPL Advocates attended the Dec. 7 meeting of the City Finance and Management Committee, when the report was reviewed. We submitted the following e-comments to committee members:

“Since the pandemic struck in March, the Oakland Public Library has provided crucial resources and services to all Oaklanders, regardless of age, race, gender, ethnicity, income level and housing status. It has, as always, distributed books, online and print information, movies, music, magazines, toys and tools. However, even though its doors have been closed to the public, the library has also innovated and expanded its services, responding to the community's new and greater needs.

“The library has distributed thousands of meals and produce bags to the hungry, collected masks to keep people healthy, created online resources for families and young children to prepare them for the start of school, offered free virtual legal consultations, distributed Wi-Fi hot spots to OUSD, and offered free Wi-Fi and mobile printing services outside its buildings, all to lessen the digital divide. On the horizon, the library plans to further expand and innovate, for example, enriching Oakland’s children by providing art and science kits and remotely visiting classrooms. The impact the library has had during this crisis is profound.

“During the midcycle budget process this year, the library lost substantial Measure D funding. Given the crucial role that the library continues to play in the community, we ask that full funding be restored during the next budget cycle.”

OPL Advocates Holiday Mixer

The Eighth Annual OPL Advocates Holiday Mixer was a great Zoom success on Dec. 6. Organized and co-hosted by the Friends of the Oakland Public Library and the City of Oakland Library Advisory Commission (LAC), the mixer drew about 100 virtual attendees!

OPL Advocates, founded in 2013, is an informal coalition harnessing the organizing prowess and library passion of myriad groups, including the LAC; the Friends of the OPL nonprofit organization; Branch Friends groups representing all of OPL’s locations; the Youth Leadership Council and Teen Advisory Boards; library unions SEIU Local 1021 and IFPTE Local 21, and the grassroots group Save Oakland Libraries. OPL Advocates members meet monthly to share strategies, goals and resources.

This year’s content-packed mixer program featured:

  • A “State of the Library” report from Jamie Turbak, Director of Library Services.

  • Greetings from the elected officials in attendance, including Mayor Libby Schaaf; City Councilmember Dan Kalb (District 1), City Councilmember-elect Treva Reid (District 7), and Miya Saika Chen, Chief of Staff of Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas (District 2).

  • Derrick DeMay, Supervising Librarian of Branches, on OPL’s food distribution programs and how it has provided Wi-Fi hotspots for the Oakland Unified School District.

  • Oakland History Center Librarian Dorothy Lazard on the COVID-19 East Bay Community Archive.

  • Laura Liang, Children’s Services Supervising Librarian and former Library Commissioner, on Children’s Services during the pandemic.

  • Greetings from Bamidele Agbasegbe-Demerson, Chief Curator of the African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO) – the beautiful site of our annual · A virtual tour of AAMLO and its current exhibition from AAMLO Library Assistant mixer in non-pandemic years.

  • Marco Frazier, and a video report on OPL’s service during the pandemic from OPL Public Information Officer Matt Berson.

  • As if THAT isn’t enough, attendees were inspired by a performance by the blazingly talented Greer Nakadegawa-Lee, 2020 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate.

  • The event was co-hosted by Kathryn Sterbenc, president of the Friends of the OPL, and Commissioner Angelica Valentine of the LAC.

Many thanks to OPL for its endless support of all of our advocate groups, with special thanks to Jamie Turbak, Director of Library Services; Sara DuBois, Coordinator of Grants and Volunteers; Amy Martin, Community Relations Librarian; and Matt Berson, Public Information Officer. When it comes to the mixer, our biggest thanks go to Sharon McKellar, Teen Services Supervising Librarian, who “directed” the live Zoom event, helped us prep and plan, and then pulled all of this together! We could NOT have done it without you, Sharon! Thanks also to former Commissioner Amy Johnson for creating our invitations.

The Zoom-based mixer was recorded, so we hope to bring you a link to the event in the near future. Thanks to all who joined us for this unique presentation year!


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