Temescal Library Diversity Asssessment

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Temescal Library Diversity Asssessment

  1. 1. Library Visit and Diversity Assessment of the Temescal Branch of the Oakland Public Library Mahal Watkins San Jose State School of Library and Information Science LIBR 220 RISPD: African Americans and Persons of African Descent
  2. 2. Introduction and Demographics The stated mission of the Oakland Public Library is to inform, inspire, and delight Oakland’s diverse community as a resource for information, knowledge, and artistic and literary expression by providing the best in traditional services, new technologies, and innovative programs. The Library fulfills this mission by selecting, acquiring, organizing, preserving, maintaining, and providing access to materials and resources that address the needs of Oakland’s diverse and complex communities. The Library’s collections provide general reference resources in addition to information and entertainment that speaks to the interests of the special communities served by specific branches. The Oakland Public Library seeks to be sensitive to the expressed needs and concerns of the community. The collections affirm and uphold the right to intellectual freedom and access to the full range of information and ideas. Over 70% of Oakland residents are of non-European ancestry. Approximately 30% of Oakland residents speak languages other than English. Chinese and Spanish are the most frequently spoken, but the Oakland Unified School District lists over thirty other languages that are spoken by Oakland students. Temescal is an ethnically diverse residential neighborhood in the northern part of Oakland, California with large concentrations of African-Americans and Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrants. The Temescal Branch of the Oakland Public Library is located at 5205 Telegraph Avenue at the end of the Temescal commercial district where restaurants include Eritrean, Korean, Spanish, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, and American cuisines. Small shops populate the area and there are three nearby schools. The Temescal neighborhood reflects the homogenous cultural vibe that permeates Oakland, California. Programs, Services, and Activities The Oakland Public Library and its branches offer several programs and services aimed at improving literacy, language, and intellectual skills among the diverse populations of Oakland. Besides borrowing privileges, the Oakland Public Library provides Adult Literacy Programs, computer classes, online book clubs, story reader programs, disability services, tax help, homework assistance programs, Bookmobiles, Lawyers in the Library, Meeting Rooms, a Tool Lending Library, and Interlibrary loans services that enable access to the Library’s collections from any branch of the Library. Oakland Public Library programs and services are generally conducted in English, but aimed at the low- income underemployed populations of Oakland. The Temescal Branch provides current information on local community college schedules and local employment opportunities that do not require a college education. The basement of the Temescal Branch houses the Oakland Public Library’s Tool Lending Library where patrons can borrow tools for up to three days in order to complete home maintenance and other projects. The Tool Library was opened in January 2000 and was originally funded by a Community Development Block Grant. The Tool Library offers 1200 hand and power tools free of charge for home improvement, remodeling and repairs, gardening, landscaping, and seismic retrofitting. Residents of Oakland, Piedmont, or Emeryville, California may borrow the tools. Because most of the older homes in the Temescal neighborhood belong to African-Americans, this is a tremendous local resource that provides for the upkeep of the physical environment and maintenance of property values.
  3. 3. The Oakland Public Library Second Start Literacy Program is an important community resource for educating illiterate adults in Oakland. Temescal Branch offers a confidential setting where adults can receive a free opportunity to learn literacy skills. Second Start matches volunteer tutors and adult students to provide instruction in basic reading skills necessary to improve their lives. An estimated 38% of Oakland adults (more than 114,000) lack the literacy skills needed to perform even the simplest, everyday reading, writing, and math tasks. An estimated 60% (more than 180,000) are not ready to meet the basic literacy demands of work in the 21st century. These data reflect native-born English speakers, those whose first language is different from English, young and older adults who never had a chance to attend school, those who may have dropped out of school, or attended substandard schools, or those with undiagnosed learning difficulties. Given that Oakland is almost 40% African American, there is a strong presumption that the number of illiterate adults includes a substantial number of African Americans. The weekly story time for toddlers and families is a substantial effort at providing language instruction to a community where many children are home with parents and do not attend pre-school. African-American grandparents are particularly prone to raising their grandchildren due to parental absence resulting from employment, incarceration, or abandonment. Africans who seek to involve their children in educational English language reading activities will appreciate this free and regular activity provided by the library. The mission and policies of the Oakland Public Library operate on the presumption of diversity and an awareness of the presence of several non-European cultures in Oakland. Thus, the Oakland Public Library Collections include items in the Amharic, Chinese, French, Japanese, Khmer, Spanish, Korean, Laotian, Russian, Tagalog, Thai, Tigrinya, and Vietnamese languages. Collections The Temescal Branch has approximately 29,000 books, compact disks, videos, DVDs, audio books, audiocassettes, magazines, and newspapers for all ages. Circulating materials consist mainly of fiction, home repair, home decorating, and gardening. A search of the library catalog for the subject, “African American” revealed 322 subjects housed at the Temescal Branch. A similar search for the subject “African” revealed only 6 subjects at the Temescal Branch. In regard of the Ethiopian and Eritrean populations in the neighborhood, the Temescal Branch is the only branch of the Oakland Public Library with books in the Amharic and Tigrinya languages. African American topics are mingled in relevant subject areas along the shelves, while Amharic and Tigrinya language materials on specified shelves. Other ethnic specific resources are available at other branches and may be available through interlibrary loan. Reference materials are generally excluded from interlibrary loan. In addition to the Amharic and Tigrinya collections at the Temescal Branch, there are several ethnic resources available at other Oakland Public Library Branches. The African American Museum and Library at Oakland is a service of the Oakland Pubic Library devoted to preserving, organizing, and sharing the African American experience in Northern California through exhibit, programming, archival, and research documents. The Dimond Branch of the Oakland Public Library has an American Indian Collection. There is an Asian Branch in Oakland Chinatown that houses and Asian and Asian
  4. 4. American studies collection and provides books in Cambodian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, Thai, Vietnamese, and Laotian. Spanish language materials and materials about Latin America and the Chicano/Latino experience in the United States are available at the César E. Chávez Branch Library. In addition to the African American Museum and Library at Oakland, Black history collections are available at the Main Library, the Martin Luther King, Jr. and West Oakland Branch Libraries. Staffing Two female individuals consisting of an older Anglo-American and a younger African- American staff the Library. Their rank and titles are not apparent by their appearance. Presumably, at least one person is the Librarian while the other might be an Assistant Librarian or Volunteer. Two males and one female consisting of African-American and two Anglo-Americans staff the Tool Lending Library in the basement. These numbers match the demographics in the community given that Oakland has almost an equal number of African-Americans and Anglo-Americans. However, no other minorities groups were represented. Yet, volunteers of diverse backgrounds are invited to participate at the library. The racial makeup of the Oakland Friends of the Library is not apparent by its membership lists. Physical Description The Temescal Branch of the Oakland Public Library has the exterior of a modest Tudor mansion that is tempered by an interior decorated with wooden beams and natural sunlight. The entry way is filled with shelving that houses publication and flyers regarding neighborhood events and programs. Copies of the Globe Newspaper, billed at the only certified audited African American newspaper in the East Bay, are prominently displayed. Another available publication relevant to diversity issues is the Temescal News & Views whose mission is to enhance the quality of life in Temescal’s diverse community through revitalization of homes, businesses, schools, and public services by providing an ongoing forum for community interaction and empowerment. The Library has displays commemorating its approaching 90th birthday and the Carnegie libraries, including Temescal, across the nation. The circulation desk is centered between the two wings of the Library. One wing is dedicated to children’s material while the other houses fiction, nonfiction, audio books, and media for teens and adults. There are several round tables with chairs for comfortable browsing of the materials. The only items for sale were magnets featuring images of the Temescal Library exterior at the cost of one dollar. The Tool Library is located in the basement an elevator ride away from the adult wing. There was a stark absence of artwork depicting the multi-cultural heritage of the local community. Summary and Recommendations The Temescal Branch of Oakland Public Library performs an adequate job addressing the needs of Africans and African Americans in the community by providing adult literacy programs, toddler story readings, African language materials, and the tool lending library. Recommendations for improving the services and programs for Africans and African- Americans include 1) soliciting African and African-American business involvement with issues concerning the support and funding of the Library; 2) encouraging African and African American patrons to participate in the Libraries programs and services; 3)
  5. 5. prominently displaying multi-cultural depictions of library patrons. The Temescal Branch of the Oakland Public Library remains a community resource and fixture in a thriving community of diverse inhabitants. References Oakland Adult Literacy Task Force. http://literacynet.org/oallc/ Oakland Public Library Home Page http://www.oaklandlibrary.org/ Temescal Branch Library http://www.oaklandlibrary.org/Branches/tem.htm Oakland Public Library Collection Development Policy http://www.oaklandlibrary.org/COLLECTION%20DEVELOPMENT %20POLICY2004.doc Adult Literacy – Second Start Literacy Program http://www.oaklandlibrary.org/services/SecondStart/index.html Bay Area Census – City of Oakland http://www.bayareacensus.ca.gov/cities/Oakland.htm Temescal, Oakland, California http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temescal,_Oakland,_California East Bay: Temescal http://www.sfgate.com/neighborhoods/eb/temescal/

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