By Birute Skurdenis
The West Oakland library is one of the OPL branches that received a $1,500 Equity Grant last year from FOPL. Built in the late 1970’s, the branch is located across from DeFremery Park on Adeline and 18th Streets which, urban legend has it, sits on land that was the site of the home in which the Pointer Sisters grew up.
Branch Manager, Susy Moorhead, told me that the Equity Grant money was used for two purposes. They replaced the unrepairable dishwasher to make it easier to clean up after the popular “What’s Cooking @ West Oakland” monthly events. Started in 2017 and featuring librarians and local residents cooking together, up to 30 people can participate in “What’s Cooking”. On hiatus during COVID, the cooking classes will restart February 2023.
They also used the grant to supplement the small number of hygiene kits they get from the OPL system. These gallon zip lock bags filled with full sized bottles of shampoo, toothpaste, and other toiletries are available to anyone who comes in and asks for one. Their availability is advertised in the bathrooms. At locals' suggestions, they plan to add a washcloth and deodorant.
One thing I’ve learned as I visit the different branches to find out how they have used their FOPL Equity Grants, is how the branches are de facto Community Centers. Besides “What’s Cooking”, the large community room at West Oakland is used by the NAACP, Red Hat Ladies, a quilting group and a drumming group, among others.
If you’re in the neighborhood, come in and check out the history photo wall in the lobby. Photo reproduction and framing was paid for by an earlier FOPL donation and features photos of the first black librarian in Oakland and other photos from the 20th Century showing African-American firefighters, police and Pullman porters.