Sep 21 2010

Piedmont Avenue Library in a Trailer?

Oakland Public LibraryEither the Branch Library of the Oakland Public Library on Piedmont Avenue will be eliminated or it will move into a trailer.

At the September 15 meeting of the Friends of the Piedmont Avenue Branch Library, Gerry Garzon, the Associate Director of the Oakland Public Libraries, explained that none of the options for a new Branch Library are feasible. The possible new 8,000 to 10,000 square foot branch library choices were offered in the recent neighborhood survey and presented at several meetings this year. (See PCA “Oakland May Close Piedmont Ave. Library” August 1, 2010 here.)  Nevertheless, these alternatives are not possible.

The OPL administration considers the existing 1700 square foot library building undesirable for several reasons:

  • The 1928 library building is not air-conditioned.
  • The new owners will maintain the roof and foundation of the library building but other maintenance will continue to be the responsibility of the renter.

Funds from Oakland’s library parcel tax (Measure Q) will pay the $4250 monthly rent for the coming year but would not be available for subsequent years according to Garzon.

Measure Q was approved through June 30, 2024 by 77.2% of the voters on March 2, 2004 for the purpose of “maintaining and expanding neighborhood branch library services, days and hours…” It would seem more than $51,000 of Measure Q funds should be available for maintaining the Piedmont Avenue branch Library services. There are 15 Oakland branch libraries in service plus the East Oakland 81 st Street branch where construction is incomplete and halted. Garzon expects Oakland’s Measure Q to yield nearly $14 million next year. Thus, there will be almost $1 million available from Measure Q for each current branch, if the funds were equally divided. The cost of operating the Piedmont Avenue Branch Library, including the new rent, will be less than $500,000 according to Garzon.

At this point either the Branch Library on Piedmont Avenue will be eliminated or it will move into a trailer because of the lack of air conditioning and responsibility for maintenance costs of the existing library building. The single portable unit would be placed on the City’s Key Route parking lot, which is in high demand by customers of the surrounding shops and restaurants or the school playground, if the school district agreed.

Purchasing a portable would cost $102,000, while leasing it would cost $21,000 to install and more than $18,000 per year rent. It would be a smaller facility without a dignified image. If it were located on the city parking lot, the lost parking revenue would be an additional annual cost of $10,000 or more, depending how many parking stalls were removed to accommodate the portable plus access ramp. There would also be unknown costs to outfit and furnish the portable unit with new bookshelves, desks, bathrooms, electricity and air conditioning. Would there be any cost savings in leaving the library building and moving into a portable unit? Leaving an architect-designed library building that fits the neighborhood in order to move into a trailer that will accommodate fewer books and people may not send the right cultural message about the importance of libraries and reading to the community.

Carmen Martinez, Director of Library Services for Oakland, told the audience that she will be discussing the Oakland library at a Piedmont League of Women Voters meeting in December.

Reported by Susan Southworth

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