Students weed out old books at Oakland Tech, work to turn neglected library around

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A group of dedicated book lovers at Oakland Tech plans to spend another weekend weeding out dated and dusty books and sprucing up a room that serves more as a study hall rather than a library.

Sophomore Sally Garreston and a team of friends who have called themselves the “Students for Library Improvement” have been propelled into action after realizing the room that is called the library at their premier public high school is one of about 30 percent in the Oakland Unified School District that has no full-time librarian, and is full of 20- 30- and even 50-year-old books.

Sally and her peers have been poring through Farmer's Almanacs and copies of Moby Dick, boxing them up and making lists of new books that they’d like to order for the library. And they are heartened by some other good news. As of a few weeks ago, Tech's computer system was fixed to allow students to check out books. The PTSA is able to continue staffing the library part-time through the end of the year with a library clerk who was laid off during the district's mid-year budget cuts, said PTSA President Laura Impellizzeri. "We are super lucky," she added. Plus, Oakland Tech's principal has budgeted for a full-time library technician for next year as well; the position has already been advertised.


In addition, Kari Hatch, executive director of the Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries, has been helping out by securing 75 new young adult books through a donation from MacMillan Publishers. Her group is also working to seek several grants in order to re-establish the library. 

In December, KTVU reported about the dire library situation across the district, noting that in Oakland, roughly 25 of its 80 school libraries were closed. At the high school level it's even worse. Fourteen of OUSD’s 17 high school libraries were shuttered. And the remaining three are run by a teacher, not a credentialed librarian. Of the libraries that are open, many stay afloat only because volunteers and PTAs have been able to raise enough money to finance them.

To compare, San Francisco and San Jose school districts do not face this same predicament. All of the school libraries in their districts are open. San Francisco Unified employs 94 credentialed teacher-librarians; Oakland has five.

The lack of library services has infuriated many Tech students, who have been doing what they can to keep the issue alive. They've been documenting their efforts on a blog, where they have been taking photos and journaling what they’re doing to spruce up their “neglected and underutilized” library. 

“Libraries are a vital resource for all school communities and have the power to positively impact the lives of many,” the wrote. “They not only serve as an excellent source of academic help and research skills for students but also as a place for students to explore other interests, build community, and foster a love for reading. We believe that having a usable and updated library at our school will create endless opportunities for students and will improve the community at Oakland Tech as a whole.”

The library cleanup will occur at Oakland Tech on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Anyone interesting in donating to the library can contact Kari Hatch at