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(OUSD) District Librarian Ann Gallagher assembled a group of dedicated school library volunteers to rehabilitate outdated OUSD libraries, which had been in decline for over a decade.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, raising money to provide public school libraries with new books, supplies, and programming to engage students, supporting library staff with skilled volunteers, actively advocating for expanded library services in Oakland’s public schools, and providing professional development scholarships for library staff.
In 2020, FOPSL provided library staff with stipends to support their ability to work remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic. In June, 2020, FOPSL introduced its new, colorful logo. In September, FOPSL continued its work to expand library services by entering into a partnership with Oakland Unified School District to build a new OUSD Digital Library of eBooks. This Digital Library will ensure that every student in OUSD will have access to a high quality eBook collection, curated and managed by OUSD’s professional library staff. Over $300,000 is needed to create an eBook collection big enough to support all students. OUSD made its first investment of $50,000, and FOPSL will be fundraising with foundations, community organizations and individuals to support the project. In October 2020, FOPSL launched the first of its FAll Author Chats with five award-winning authors, including Pulitzer prize-winning author Jennifer Egan, and acclaimed author and chef, Alice Waters.
Since 2012, FOPSL has provided over $120,000 in funding and over 25,000 skilled volunteer hours to support 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.