In 2009, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) District Librarian Ann Gallagher assembled a group of dedicated school library volunteers to rehabilitate outdated OUSD libraries, which had been in decline for over a decade. Severe state and federal budget cuts, the Great Recession, and several District reorganizations resulted in reduced school library funding. From 2009-2011, volunteers rehabilitated eight OUSD libraries at Garfield, Grass Valley, Howard, Reach Academy, Sankofa elementary schools, and Frick and Madison middle schools.
In 2011, it became clear that rebuilding library book collections and refurbishing physical spaces was not enough to produce fully-functioning school libraries. Quality school libraries require professional staffing, robust book collections, technology, and sufficient funding to be open every school day, before, during, and after school. In 2012, there was only one full-time and two part-time trained librarians in the District. It became clear that to rebuild Oakland public school libraries and ensure every student had equal access to a school library, volunteers would need to form a new organization that could build connections with community groups doing related literacy work.
In 2012, Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries, FOPSL, was formed as a 501c3, non-profit organization, and Kari Hatch became the organization’s first executive director. Under Kari’s leadership, FOPSL joined with OUSD to create a Diablo Valley Community College Library Technician training program that provided training to 14 OUSD Library Technicians, created the Ann Mayo Gallagher Scholarship fund to encourage teachers to become Teacher Librarians, advocated for a Board of Education Policy calling for libraries in each school within the District, and created the Elaine Wells Books Kids Want to Read grant fund to help maintain current collections in OUSD school libraries.
In 2019, Kari retired from FOPSL, and Dagmar Serota became the executive director. Under Dagmar’s leadership, FOPSL continues its work, volunteering in libraries, actively advocating for expanded library services in Oakland’s public schools, and providing professional development scholarships for Oakland public school library staff. Since 2012, FOPSL has provided over $120,000 in funding and 25,000 skilled volunteer hours to supporting Oakland’s public school libraries.
Thank you for your support.
Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries is committed to expanding library services throughout Oakland.