Who We Are and What We Do

FOPSL volunteers working on Bella Vista elementary school library - Summer 2014

FOPSL volunteers working on Bella Vista elementary school library – Summer 2014

Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries (FOPSL) is working in partnership with Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Library Services, individual donors, foundations, local businesses, principals, teachers, parents, community literacy partners and volunteers to support school libraries and advocate for increased services. We believe the school library staffed by a professional teacher librarian is the most democratic, cost effective and efficient source for accessible information, literature, technology and expertise that supports the entire school community.


Provide every Oakland Unified School District student access to a quality school library.


The FOPSL Board of Directors meets monthly. In order to accomplish our mission we have established the following goals.

  • Work closely with OUSD Library Services and support all schools in OUSD to restore school libraries.
  • Ensure an up-to-date library at every OUSD school.
  • Advocate for highly qualified staff in every OUSD library.
  • Build local/staff/parent support/ownership for school libraries.
  • Build community support for OUSD school libraries through education and involvement.
  • Collaborate with and seek community partners that share goals that benefit OUSD libraries.
  • Communicate the purpose of school libraries and FOPSL to the public.
  • Obtain additional resources to support FOPSL and OUSD libraries.
  • Support OUSD’s plan to incorporate the school library into the Full Service Community District Plan.
  • Advocate for every OUSD school library to open during hours indicated by California state law.



Kari Hatch, M.Ed., Executive Director of Friends of Oakland Public School Libraries. Kari is one of the original board members and chairs the Finance and Program Development Committee. Kari has been instrumental in building the infrastructure of FOPSL and developing the organization’s mission and vision statement, strategic plan, website and promotional materials. Kari works closely with OUSD Library Services to plan strategies to maintain and upgrade school libraries and advocate and seek local support at each site. Kari is currently credentialed to teach in California and New Mexico. She has spent over 20 years in the education field, teaching children in grades 1-8 in private, public, and parochial schools in New Mexico and Arizona, as well as graduate-level courses at the University of New Mexico. Kari has taken on numerous leadership roles over the years; chairing and serving on committees that designed school curriculum, assessed teacher accountability, planned professional development and organized fundraising events. After receiving her Masters of Education from Cambridge College, Massachusetts in 2001, Kari worked in the University of New Mexico Resident Teacher Master Degree Program where she provided instructional support by organizing and facilitating workshops, conferences, and seminars in collaboration with fellow Support Teachers, university faculty, public school faculty and administrators. Since arriving in Oakland in 2009, Kari has volunteered for many nonprofit literacy organizations in the Bay Area including: Reading Partners, Writer’s Coach Connection, Satellite Housing Intergenerational Project, and 826 Valencia, further broadening her awareness that educating our children is a public responsibility. Kari is a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is in the process of writing her first middle grade novel.

Dagmar Serota, Program Coordinator of Friends of the Oakland Public Libraries. Dagmar joined FOPSL in September 2017.  After earning her B.S. in Economics from New York University, Dagmar moved to California to continue her career in the securities industry, working on trading floors, in product marketing, and as a financial and strategic analyst at Sutro & Co., GT Global Mutual Funds, Charles Schwab and as a consultant to the Chicago Stock Exchange. Dagmar earned her MBA in Finance from the Haas School of Business in 1994.  In 2005, Dagmar founded and became executive director of Good Cents for Oakland, a non-profit dedicated to engaging Oakland’s School Children in helping their community. Thousands of Oakland students at fourteen public and independent schools worked with their peers to study issues affecting Oakland, select an Oakland non-profit to support and then raised pennies and other coins, “Good Cents”, for their non-profit. In 10 years of operations, students in Good Cents programs raised over $100,000 for local non-profits serving Oakland.  Dagmar was awarded the Jefferson Award for Public Service for her work with Good Cents for Oakland. The organization earned the Alameda County Community Food Bank’s Hope Not Hunger Award.  In 2011, Dagmar reopened the library at Sankofa Academy, an OUSD K-8 school, and became its volunteer librarian. She created a weekly library program for 400 students and built the collection of books from 2,000 outdated books to over 10,500 updated books with the help of community partners like FOPSL, the Rogers Foundation, and Temple Sinai. Dagmar also started a children’s book blog, kidslitcorner.com.

 Board of Directors

Charles E. Rath III, MD, Chair of FOPSL Board of Directors. Chip is one of the founding volunteers of FOPSL. Chip has Medical Specialty boards in internal medicine and emergency medicine, managed a private practice and worked in the Kaiser Hayward Emergency department.  Most recently he served in an executive position at Kaiser regional headquarters for The Permanente Medical Group.  He served for 5 years on the Board of Directors of the California Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians and was a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians.  He was Chairman of the Board of the Emergency Medicine Research and Education Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit, for 8 years. In 2011, he formed a group of knitters called the “Knit Wits” which has donated 700 scarves at the holidays to Project Open Hand, and more to Oakland woman and children’s shelters.

Thomas Kaun, M.S.L.S., Vice Chair of FOPSL Board of Directors. Tom served as a teacher librarian and classroom teacher for 40 years in public and private schools throughout California. He served on the board of the California School Library Association for several years and was the President of the Northern Section of CSLA. He retired from Tamalpais Union High School District. He is a member of the International Association of School Librarianship, the American Library Association and the American Association of School Librarians, and is an honorary member of CSLA and is currently serving on the board of the California School Library Foundation. He has presented at regional, state, national and international library conferences and served on the K-12 Advisory Council for EBSCO Information Services, a world-wide database company.

Elaine Wells, M.A., Treasurer/Secretary of FOPSL Board of Directors. Elaine is a retired Speech/Language Pathologist with a Master’s degree from California State University San Francisco. She has worked in several settings including the public schools, Oakland Children’s Hospital, and her private practice. Elaine helped establish and was on the board of a school for special needs children. She was on the Advisory Board for the National Stuttering Association and also on the Board of America Scores, Bay Area which provides after school programs in low economic areas for soccer and literacy.

Ann Gallagher, M.L.S., Board Member of FOPSL Board of Directors. Ann served as District Librarian from 2007 until she retired in June of 2015. She has 25 years of experience as a middle and high school Teacher Librarian in Southern California and Maine. She has been associated with primary and secondary education and community development work all of her adult life, earning her MLS degree from Clarion University of Pennsylvania in 1990. Previously she organized a state-wide conference on literacy, and served as a Member of the Board and trainer for Literacy Volunteers of America in Maine. Since coming to OUSD she has worked to educate the District decision–makers on the importance of building and maintaining school libraries, and has worked closely with community volunteers to provide support in the modernization and re-opening of school libraries. As District Librarian, Ann was responsible for the support and development of the District’s 75 library sites.

Nancy Rowell, Board Member of FOPSL Board of Directors. Nancy holds a BA from U.C. Berkeley (Phi Beta Kappa) and a MA in Instructional Technology from CSU,Chico (Honors). She holds a California Teaching Credential, Teacher-Librarian Credential, and Professional Clear Administrative Credential. Her professional experience includes: Classroom teacher; High School Teacher-Librarian; District Librarian; Lecturer CSU, Chico, Department of Information and Communication Studies and Department of Education. In addition, Nancy taught all courses in the Library Media Credential Program, was Coordinator of Library Services for San Mateo County Office of Education. She most recently held the position of  Administrator of Library Media Services, Pleasanton USD. Nancy’s experience includes Library Media Consultant for Roseville City Schools, Western Placer USD, and Library/School Facility Consultant for numerous schools and districts in Northern California. 

Kathy Poly, Board Member of FOPSL Board of Directors. Kathy is a retired Insurance Executive with more than 40 years in the Bay Area. She lived in Europe on various job assignments for over 15 years, before moving back to Oakland where her volunteering goal is to help local public school students have access to staffed, clean, organized libraries.

Natalie Van Tassel, Board Member of FOPSL Board of Directors. Natalie is a retired high school counselor. After a 40 year career working with high school students, she spends her retirement in volunteer work for the community of Oakland, travel and enjoying her grandchildren. In addition to her work with FOPSL, Natalie has served on the boards of East Bay Agency for Children and Volunteering for Oakland. She volunteers at Next Step Learning Center, and on committees as needed for her board positions. 

 Advisory Group

Susie (Marjorie) Cummings Goodin, Ph.D. – Professional Teacher Librarian and Educator. Dr. Susie Goodin completed her Ph.D. in Education at U.C. Berkeley in 2011, in the Language, Literacy and Culture field. Focusing on reading development and its link to school librarianship, she did original research and is published in several edited literacy books. Her primary consultant work and research projects in the last nine years have examined the literacy-school library connection. Currently she is a consulting research partner in a science text and literacy project for the Lawrence Hall of Science. She taught elementary school in Vermont and California where she developed and ran a K-6 math lab enrichment program, led a K-6 art docent program, wrote and administered resource grants for math and science instruction, and initiated grant proposals to establish school libraries where none existed. In the last 24 years she has run K-8 school libraries and worked as a consulting or founding librarian at two high schools. She has also chaired an independent school board, chaired a non-profit on behalf of Berkeley High School, and is currently on the Board of Directors of the Berkeley Community Fund.

Karen Smith, J.D. – Karen has a California Secondary Teaching Credential (in English) and a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.  After teaching (in New York) and practicing law (in California), she has focused for the last 28 years on school libraries, partnering with other professionals to establish and expand elementary and middle school libraries, providing professional support for public and private high school libraries, and most recently, working with FOPSL to refurbish and upgrade elementary and high school libraries in OUSD.  She has been involved in various educational programs in the Bay Area, including the Writer Coach Connection at Berkeley High School, and as a docent for the Bay Interpretive Training Program at the Nature Center and Golden Gate Audubon’s Burrowing Owl monitoring project at Cesar Chavez Park, both in Berkeley.  She has devoted a significant amount of time in the last two years on conservation issues, taking a leadership role in working to protect rare native habitats in the Bay Area from development.

Nancy Rowell, Ann Gallagher and Dagmar Serota are members of the Library Advisory Group. See their biographies above.

History of FOPSL

The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Librarian Ann Gallagher began assembling a group of dedicated school library volunteers in 2009 to rehabilitate outdated and unused libraries at various schools in the district. OUSD libraries had been in decline for over a decade as a result of reduced school library funding and staffing, due to severe state and federal budget cuts, the downturn in the economy, and district re-organizations. In the years 2009-2011, these volunteers rehabilitated eight OUSD libraries (Garfield, Grass Valley, Howard, Marshall, Reach Academy, and Sankofa elementary schools and Frick and Madison middle schools).

In 2011, it became clear that the work of automating, restocking, and refurbishing the physical space was not sufficient to produce operating libraries. Quality school library programs are developed and sustained by professional teacher librarians for adequate hours to meet the needs of the children and teachers. However, library staffing continued to deteriorate around the district. As of the 2011-2012 school years, there was only one full-time and two part-time librarians employed in school libraries in OUSD. To address the issues of staffing and sustaining school libraries, some of the volunteers approached the Montclair Community Action Committee (now Volunteering for Oakland) on possible actions to take, but it became apparent that the magnitude and scope of the work required a separate organization, with connections to other community groups doing related work.

FOPSL is Born

Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries (FOPSL), is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that works to ensure every OUSD student has equal access to a quality school library staffed by a professional teacher librarian. 

As of fall 2017, 33 of the 75 school libraries necessary to provide services to all OUSD students, are still closed. We know that school libraries support literacy by providing equal access to information in all its formats, i.e. online databases, information technology, books, etc. In partnership with OUSD Library Services, FOPSL has completely restored, modernized and/or provided support for the opening of over 24 school libraries in Oakland’s most economically challenged schools. Due to our efforts, over 12,000 students, families and school communities can now have access to an updated, resource rich school library.

FOPSL is committed to assisting OUSD in providing professionally staffed quality school libraries to support reading, information literacy, Common Core Curriculum, District initiatives, teachers, students and so much more.

Libraries Restored by FOPSL

Sankofa Elementary School Aug 2009 – Sep 2009
Madison Middle School Oct 2009 – Nov 2009
Frick Middle School Oct 2009 – Feb 2010
REACH Academy Elementary School Feb 2010 – Nov 2010
Howard Elementary School Sep 2010 – Jan 2011
Garfield Elementary School Nov 2010 – Mar 2011
Grass Valley Elementary  School  Feb 2011 – Aug 2011
Fruitvale Elementary School Oct 2011 – Mar 2012
Cleveland Elementary School (primary grades library) Mar 2012
PLACE @ Prescott Elementary School Oct 2011 – June 2012
CUE @ Lockwood/Futures Elementary Schools Oct 2011 – June 2012
Global Family Elementary School  Nov 2012 – Jan 2013
Rise Community/New Highland Elementary Schools Sep 2012-Mar 2013
Melrose Leadership Academy K-8  Jan 2013 – May 2013
Brookfield Village Elementary School  Sept 2012 – July 2013
Kaiser Elementary School  May 2013-July 2013
Lafayette Elementary School  Sept 2013
Madison Park Lower Campus  Jun 2012 – Oct 2013
West Oakland Middle School   Apr 2012 – Nov 2013
Bella Vista Elementary School Feb 2014 – Aug 2014
McClymonds High School Nov 2013 – May 2014 (awaiting funding for next phase)
Fremont High School Oct 2014 – April 2015
East Oakland Pride Sept 2015-Feb 2016
Skyline High School Jan 2016-Mar 2016


  1. This website is looking beautiful and excellently showcases all the progress being made!

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