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The Superpowers of OPL's Advocate Groups

When COVID-19 shut down the Town, OPL’s librarians and staff kept working. Read the infographic to see how OPL continues to show up for us. As Oakland’s annual budget process unfolds, OPL Advocates speak up for librarians who provide essential services every day to all who desperately need them.

Infographic by OPL Community

Relations Librarian Amy Martin

These are some of the groups that advocate on behalf of Oakland Public Library (OPL). But what’s the difference, and who does what? In this primer, we'll outline the different OPL Advocates and how they support our library services and, importantly, its funding.

Let’s start with the essential institution at the heart of all of these groups: OPL, a city agency funded primarily by parcel taxes and the city’s General Fund. The city budget (which includes the library) is decided by the City Council, after the Mayor and City Administrator present a draft budget. This is important, because library funding – both protecting it and increasing it – is often the main focus of all of OPL’s advocacy groups. So knowing who fills the library’s “wallet” is Step One.

Step Two is building the relationships between the advocate groups. Each group brings unique “superpowers” to the mix. When we understand each other’s strengths, we can join forces and maximize our impact.

Here’s a list of OPL’s primary advocate groups, with basic details about each one. One thing we all have in common (besides undying love for OPL): We’re all volunteers.

WHAT City commission.

WHO A maximum of 15 commissioners, appointed by City Council to a maximum of two three-year terms.

MISSION Provides mandated oversight of revenue generated by OPL’s two parcel taxes, created by Measures Q and D. (They don’t authorize spending; they review OPL’s expenditures to ensure the Library Administration follows the guidelines spelled out for each parcel tax.) Advises Library Administration and elected officials regarding delivery of library services. Provides advocacy for OPL staff, programs and services.

ADVOCACY STRENGTHS Access to elected officials. Access to financial information.

Friends of the Oakland Public Library (sometimes called "FOPL" – but we prefer Friends of the OPL!)

WHAT City-wide nonprofit fundraising organization that provides substantial grants to benefit all OPL branches. Owner of The Bookmark Bookstore, which supports the Friends through book and media sales. Creator of “Mini-Grants” for OPL staff.

WHO Led by the Friends of the OPL Board of Directors, with a maximum of 20 directors elected to two-year terms. No term limits.

ADVOCACY STRENGTHS Provides funding to cover advocacy expenses. Through Friends members, Bookmark patrons and volunteers, it supplies a strong base of book and library lovers.

WHAT Volunteer groups that support individual OPL branches. Branch Friends groups are independent of the system-wide Friends of the OPL; however, Friends support Friends (in both directions) in our shared goal of supporting OPL programs and services.

WHO There are currently about 20 Branch Friends groups! See the list here.

ADVOCACY STRENGTHS Raise funds. Possess intimate knowledge of the unique strengths, challenges and needs of each branch and its community. Provide a volunteer base of “boots on the ground” at key moments, like budget time. Represent the city’s diversity.

WHAT A youth-driven advisory board for OPL

WHO Diverse members are ages 13-18

ADVOCACY STRENGTHS Knowledge of OPL’s teen programs and services. YLC members are trained speakers, and no one gets keener attention from elected officials than they do.

WHAT Grass-roots group that can react quickly in clutch moments.

WHO Library staff, patrons, and “rogue advocates.”

ADVOCACY STRENGTHS Knowledge of library programs and usage. Union relationships. Staff can gather stories, bring relationships with Administration, and act as advocacy mentors.

WHAT The union that represents the majority of OPL employees.

WHO Representatives of OPL workers or staff.

ADVOCACY STRENGTHS OPL program and staff knowledge; ability to share information among library staff quickly; and city budget expertise.

Oakland is beyond fortunate to have so many groups working together to support OPL. But there was a time when these groups knew little of each other and couldn’t take advantage of their myriad superpowers. What changed? That’s where OPL Advocates comes in. We’ll cover that in Part Two!

Questions? Want to join one of these amazing groups? Contact us!


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