Oakland Activists Liberate Shuttered Library

San Francisco Bay Area, 22.08.2012

An abandoned historic building in Oakland was unveiled on the morning of August 13th as the Victor Martinez Community Library. The building was one of seven library branch casualties of budget cuts in the late seventies, and since then it has mostly sat empty. On the first day of the re-opening, donations of books poured in and area children helped to start a community garden in a side lot. In less than 15 hours, however, OPD raided the Community Library. The next morning, activists re-opened the library on the sidewalk in front of the building and it has been growing since.



The historic building at 1449 Miller Avenue was unveiled on the morning of August 13th as the Victor Martinez Community Library. Originally, it was part of a Carnegie Foundation endowment of four libraries given to the city of Oakland between 1916 and 1918. Oakland’s librarian at the time, Charles S. Greene, believed that the city’s people would benefit most from libraries placed within their communities. Despite this vision, the building was one of seven branch casualties of budget cuts in the late seventies. In 1978, the Emiliano Zapata Street Academy merged with the East Oakland Street Academy and moved to the Miller Library location until 1988 when the Street Academy moved to a new location. Since then, the “Latin American Branch” library has mostly sat empty

The building has been renamed after recently deceased author, Victor Martinez, who overcame a young life of hard agricultural work in the Central Valley to become a successful writer in the Bay Area. His semi-autobiographical novel, Parrot in the Oven, has become a seminal work of the Latino experience. Martinez died last year at 56 of an illness caused by his work in the fields.

On the first day, as garbage was cleared from the grounds and the building was cleaned, donations of books poured in and area children helped to start a community garden in a side lot. Occupy Oakland sponsored a pot luck dinner before a speak-out in the evening.

photoRead More | audioAudio Report from the Victor Martínez Popular Library in Oakland

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