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The Oakland Public Library is the public library in Oakland, California. Opened in 1878, the Oakland Public Library currently serves the city of Oakland, along with some neighboring smaller cities including Emeryville and Piedmont. The Oakland Public Library has the largest collection of any public library in the East Bay, featuring approximately 1.5 million items. It consists of a main library located in downtown Oakland, a roving bookmobile, and 15 branch libraries throughout the city (see below).
Special services within the Oakland Public Library system include the African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO), the Second Start Adult Literacy Program, and the Temescal Tool Lending Library.
The Oakland Library Association was formed in 1868 as a subscription library. The poet Ina Coolbrith was hired as librarian in 1873. In 1878, the library was reformed as the Oakland Free Library, the second public library created in California under the Rogers Free Library Act. (Eureka was first.) With her personal style, Coolbrith nurtured the reading habits of many young Oakland students including Jack London and Isadora Duncan. Coolbrith's nephew Henry Frank Peterson replaced Coolbrith in 1892, greatly expanding the library's circulation as well as improving accessibility by completing a card catalog system. Charles S. Greene, poet and former editor of the Overland Monthly, became librarian in 1899 and served until 1926. Mabel W. Thomas, who served as assistant librarian and chief reference librarian under Greene, and retired in 1948, began a collection of books, periodicals, and other material that were the foundation of the California Room in the 1940s and now contained in the well-used Oakland History Room.
The Main Library has occupied its present location at 125 14th Street near Lake Merritt since 1951. It is one of the largest public library facilities in the Bay Area. It features popular reading materials, business resources, government publications, videos/DVDs/CDs, maps, and a computer lab for the public. It is also houses the Oakland History Room, including primary materials and unique books that explore the history of the East Bay; a large and active Children’s Room; and the TeenZone. Adaptive technology is available for persons with disabilities at this and other sites. Call (510) 238-4974 for more details.
As of 2014 the Oakland Public Library has 17 branches. Dates listed in the following list of current branches indicate the year the branch was established and, if the branch has since moved, the year the current location opened.
The African American Museum & Library at Oakland (AAMLO) is a non-circulating library that archives historic collections and reference materials documenting the African American experience in California. Among the more than 160 collections in the library are archives relating to Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, Africa, and genealogy. Materials include photographs, manuscripts, letters, diaries, newspapers, recorded oral histories, videos, and microfilms. AAMLO’s two galleries host changing exhibitions of art, history, and culture.