Yesterday, the Council had its first day of committee meetings, which is where most of the City’s policy decisions are made. I didn’t get a chance to watch the meetings, but one thing they should have discussed is the state of Oakland libraries, particularly the Main Library, which just celebrated it’s 60th anniversary.
I must admit that I don’t use our libraries frequently. I used to live in walking distance from the Rockridge branch, and I went there a few times (it’s a great space for meetings), but since library hours were cut, I never seem to be able to find time to go to libraries when they’re open. Last month I was downtown for Robert Raburn’s swearing in, and on my way to meet a friend I walked by the Main Library and thought I’d pop in. Of course, it was closed. I couldn’t understand – it was a Thursday at 11am and not a furlough day or a holiday. I looked it up later and found out that the Main Library doesn’t open until noon on Thursdays.
Sadly, the limited hours of the library are not the only problem. The Main Library seems to be falling into a state of disrepair lately. Though the Council managed to spare libraries from complete closures during the various rounds of budget cuts over the last two years, they must have cut funding sufficiently so that the library can’t make basic repairs.
As of Monday, here are some of the things that were broken at the Main Library:
- Several of the public use internet computers were broken and of course the rest of the computers were booked for the day.
- There was no ability to print from the public use computers.
- One of the men’s restroom on the mezzanine was out of service.
- The ADA women’s restroom downstairs was out of service due to an ant infestation!
- The elevator was out of service. I have no idea what disabled people are supposed to do since it’s a four story building – maybe they have staff get books for them?
- The main catalog search computer in the lobby is broken, and it was broken the last time I went into the Main Library a few months ago (not sure if it worked in the interim or not). It’s lovely to walk into the library and be greeted by an out of order sign.
The Council has been so proud about how they managed to balance the budget without closing libraries (even though the libraries are closed constantly), but if they don’t provide the facilities and IT support required to deliver services, what is the point of having all these libraries?
How can we expect people to use library services if it’s basically a crapshoot whether they’re going to be working on any given day? “Come use our computers and printing, but make sure you call first to see if they’re working this week.” It’s like if AC Transit had some bus that only runs half the times it is scheduled to – who is going to ride it?
Mayor Jean Quan and the Council must step up to fix this situation. I don’t know if the other branches are in such bad shape, but it’s totally unacceptable for our Main Library to be in this condition.