Montclair Library, At Risk?

There’s plenty of concern about whether most of Oakland’s libraries can remain open, with the severe budget crunch.

Mayor Jean Quan has laid out three budget options, and Budget A translates into 14 closures — including our Montclair Library.  No one wants this worst-case outcome, given the painful cuts which would impact many city services.

Here’s a recap of the budget options, from District 4 Rep Libby Schaaf:

  • Budget A — Assumes no voluntary employee concessions, so is all-cuts; cuts 395 city jobs.
  • Budget B — Assumes 10-15% concessions from all employees; cuts 162 city jobs.
  • Budget C — Assumes 10-15% concession plus an $80 parcel tax is adopted; cuts 104 city jobs.

Save Oakland Library has outlined all the library closures and cuts caused by Budget A.  There would be only $3.6 million available from general funds, a pittance.  And Measure Q parcel taxes, earmarked for libraries, would evaporate.  Why?  These taxes only get collected if the City funds $9 million minimum from general funds.  (Measure Q contributed around $14 million this past year.)

We hope that Budget A won’t see the light of day!  So let’s move to Budget B which, according to Council Rep Schaaf, will keep the libraries open and hours intact.  She explains this budget scenario:

The total Library budget would actually increase by about $1.3 million and authorized staffing would increase by 1 FTE.  The only change required is shifting $400k in General Fund costs to Measure Q, which staff assures me won’t change services AT ALL.

But believe me, other Councilmembers and I love our libraries and understand their value.  I’m confident that even without full concessions, we’ll be able to preserve current library services and Mayor Quan’s Budget B shows it can be done.

That leaves Budget C, which involves an election and more parcel taxes. It’s a little hard to contemplate that option. Would we even have an election?  Would voters approve another tax, in this climate?  Who knows?

Hey, maybe we will somehow luck out — like Governor Jerry Brown’s recent, surprising revenue projection gift at the state level.

Book Sale and Village Family Fun

In this time of serious budget cuts, the Friends of the Montclair Library have probably never been more important.

The Friends help pay for physical improvements to the library, things like benches, bookdrops, and general upkeep. Here’s your chance to help the helpers, and pick up some new (to you) reading material. They are having a booksale at the library on Saturday from 10am to 3pm. Books range from $0.50 to $2. The selection is wide range of books you ACTUALLY want, including children’s books, classics, and what the Friends call Book Club Books. Think bestsellers only a couple of years old.

On Sunday, the Montclair Village Association hosts its Family Fun Festival 12pm – 5pm in Montclair Park. There’ll be music, food, drink, and plenty of fun for the kids.

The Library Will be Closed, But the Internet’s Open

Between Labor Day, Admissions Day (What?! You don’t celebrate Admissions Day? Shame on you.) and the budget crisis, the library is going to pretty much shut down next week. Wednesday is the one day next week when you will be able to do your library business. Unless you have Internet access, that is.

Montclair's Storybook Library (OPL)

Use the unfortunate library blackout to experiment with the Oakland Public Library’s cool new OverDrive system, which allows patrons to download ebooks and audiobooks to PCs and Macs. The audiobooks play on most MP3 players, including the iPod. You can read the ebooks on your computer with free software, on the Barnes and Noble Nook or the Sony Reader. You can’t use your Kindle or iPad…yet. Start browsing.

While we’re on the subject of the Oakland Public Library, help out your friendly local librarian and take this survey about the library’s website. They are in the process of revamping it and making it easier to use.

Pick a Card, Any Card

Born to fourth-generation circus performers in Algeria, Jean-Paul Valjean has juggling in his blood. His motto: “Don’t laugh, it kept me out of the army.”

Jean-Paul Valjean at Work

The French army’s loss is our gain. Valjean brings his one-man circus to the Montclair Library Tuesday evening. Expect Valjean to twist himself into unusual shapes, juggle with his feet, tell jokes, and pull the odd rabbit from a hat.  A free, fun, family-friendly event on a summer evening, that’s why we love the Oakland Public Library. Tuesday, July 20, 7 pm, 1687 Mountain Boulevard.

Happy 80th Birthday, Montclair Library!

Today was an Oakland-weather day, sunny and perfect for a quick celebration.  Locals and a couple city dignitaries stopped by the Montclair Branch of the Oakland Library to honor our octogenarian:  the Montclair Branch itself.

At today’s event, District 4 Council Rep Jean Quan was on hand to thank Montclair Library Assistant Geremie Celli and Oakland Library Director Carmen Martinez.  My ears perked up when Director Martinez mentioned they intend to reorganize our library’s layout, though we didn’t hear details today.  Then Aurora School’s Head for the Hills race organizers proudly delivered a $275 donation, to wrap up the proceedings.  And we all dug into some nice, fruit-filled birthday cake from Lucky’s.

Throughout May, the Friends of Montclair Library organized and held a series of library programs honoring this 80th year milestone.  The history presentation by Kathleen diGiovanni, an Oakland Heritage Alliance member and city librarian, was very interesting.  We also heard the other book readings and events were pretty well-attended too.

In these times, at least we can celebrate our local library!  Good ‘ole Measure Q requires minimum funding levels for city libraries, though the system did cut back service days last year.  Our Montclair Library is now open five days a week:   Tuesday (12:30 pm – 8:00 pm); Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday (10:00 am – 5:30 pm); and Friday (12:00 pm – 5:30 pm).

Montclair’s storybook library has been welcoming locals since the district started getting settled, and expanded over the years as well.  While it caters to kids, this blogger likes getting lost in the travel books and recently-arrived fiction.  The place is comfortable and inviting, not to mention properly de-molded last year.

So remember to stop by the library this summer to read a paper, check the aisles, hop on a computer or just read in a quiet place.  Besides the weekly story times, there’s a a knitting class for kids (May 26th) and lawyers in the library (June 8th) ahead – just check upcoming events.

Who Were The Montclarions?

Who were the Montclarions?  We all know about the Ohlones, Spanish, Gold Rush era and later settlers.  But there’s more color and dimension to these earlier inhabitants, according to Oakland historian and librarian Kathleen diGiovanni.  She brought her well-researched and clever observations to the Montclair Library today, as part of their 80th year celebratory events.

Without further introduction, here’s a bit more about the people who lived outside, camped, planted flags and established the good life here:

  • Native Americans – Sure enough, the Ohlones populated these parts and lived in small units rather than some centralized settlements.  Decades before the Spanish arrived, these newcomers transmitted their old-world pathogens and sickened many of the natives through trade.  By the mid-1800s, the remaining Ohlones were living as virtual-slaves in the nearby missions.
  • Land Grantees – To pay their military, the Spanish government handed out land grants and Luis Maria Peralta received nearly 44 thousand acres.  His four sons ranched lands from Albany to San Leandro, including Antonio Maria around Oakland.  The Peraltas spent substantial energies proving their ownership to Uncle Sam, yet their holdings were gone by the next generation.
  • Bad Eggs – There were people who leased property from the Peraltas, all above board.  There were other people who were bad eggs, and just squatted all over the place – and even sold land they didn’t own.  Our very own version of the Wild West, right here!
  • City Fathers – Well, Montclair was the place to escape for John Coffee Hays.  He built the first amazing estate in the hills, right around Thornhill Drive.  Hays was a big shot, as a Texas Ranger, before arriving in California.  Once here in Oakland, he helped found the city and wanted that (mostly unused) home outside city limits.
  • Entrepreneurs – Now this is a species we can understand.  Everyone was rather scrappy around here, but John Percy ended up living in the same general area as Hays.  He was involved in real estate and in the water business.  However, Percy was absolutely over-extended and this came to light when his estate burned down.  The guy went broke.
  • Settlers – By the 1920s, there were many workers living here who hailed from Portugal.  There were also farmers, including the Medau family at (now) Montclair Park.  In the next decade-plus, developers built homes for modest and more well-healed buyers who arrived in droves.  Various covenants restricted ownership, and they were blatantly advertised.

From afar, these Montclarions might teach us a lesson or two.  At some level, we know it’s worth preventing infectious diseases.  Please clear deeds on your property.  Don’t do land scams.  Get fire insurance that covers replacement value.  And try living within your means.

Last but not least, everyone should be welcome to live here.  History teaches lessons, and sometimes we listen.

Montclair Library Returns, Needs Help

Montclarions are pretty relieved to have the Montclair Library reopened and thriving again.  We decided to check in with Leon Cho, Montclair branch librarian, and hear how things are going.

“We had a very busy opening day, with about a 25% increase in circulation over what we do on a regular Monday,” said Cho.  “People were really glad to have us back, which was really gratifying.”

Montclair Library

Kids Have Returned

We think parents are celebrating, actually.  Everyone missed the place, which was closed from late March through early July for mold abatement.  That’s a long time to keep your kids away from their library, and traveling to nearby branches was not cutting it.

Librarian Cho reported that children have returned in “full force” to the branch.  Story time has resumed on Thursdays at 10:30am, with stories, songs and fingerplays for pre-schoolers.  For all kids, there’s a Summer Reading program and they are being encouraged to read for fun.

As part of Summer Reading, Drummm (yes, three m’s) will appear this Wednesday, at 10:30am.  These performers plan to make plenty of loud noises at the library, through their group drumming, African percussion demos and rhythm connections.

Budget Cuts Hit Montclair Library

Like all things Oakland, Montclair has been impacted by budget cuts and staff shortages – notably the children’s librarian position.  Unfortunately the second weekly story time, especially for toddlers, has been scrapped for now.  You may take your tiny tikes to the Rockridge branch (map) on Saturdays, at 10:30am.

As part of your civic duty, come support the Montclair Library!  This Saturday, the  Friends of Montclair Library are holding a grand Re-opening Party from 11am-3pm.  The party features a short welcoming ceremony at 11am, light refreshments and a bargain-basement book sale.  All proceeds help our library directly.

Of course, sweat-of-the-brow volunteers are also welcomed at the library.  There are a lot of things that need to get done, so please reach Librarian Cho about openings for adult and youth anytime.

More info:  Montclair Library is located at 1687 Mountain Blvd (map).  It’s opened daily except Sundays.  Hours are Mon from 12:30pm-8:00pm; Tues, Wed, Thurs and Sat from 10:00am-5:30pm; and Fri from 12:00pm-5:30pm.  Branch Manager Leon Cho may be reached by emailing or calling (510) 482-7810.