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Oakland libraries to close for 10 days due to holidays, furloughs

on December 23, 2010

The conductor turns his back to the crowd, taps his baton and looks at each musician purposefully before lifting his arms. The music that follows is not what you’d expect from an orchestra, but that’s because it’s being produced by a stage full of giggling children, all pretending to be instruments. A very small child growls out a bass line while two girls make their best guess at the tone of a French horn. They throw in an occasional, “Oh la la,” for authenticity.

The activity is part of the Story Builder Workshop at the Golden Gate branch of the Oakland Public Library, and it’s exactly the kind of program that won’t take place next week when all libraries close from Christmas Day until January 4. The 10-day closure comes from a combination of winter holidays and mandatory furloughs caused by shortfalls in the city budget, and brings disappointment to those who’d like to access books, movies or music, or just get something done in a library computer lab during the winter holiday. Oakland children will be particularly affected, since most will be out of school for the duration of the closure.

Anaiyah Bartley, an 8-year-old who portrayed one of the French horns, said she comes to the library frequently. “We have lots of book reports,” said Anaiyah, who is a third-grader at Anna Yates Elementary in Emeryville. During the workshop, which was put on by the Berkeley Repertory Theater, her hand shot up almost every time she was given the chance to participate. As the children acted out Lemony Snickets’ The Conductor is Dead, she pretended to play a piano and answered questions from workshop leader Dave Maier.

girl pretends to play piano

Anaiyah Bartley, 8, pretends to play the piano at the Story Builder Workshop, in which children reenacted Lemony Snicket’s “The Composer is Dead” under the direction of Dave Maier of the Berkeley Repertory Theater.

Anaiyah and others have until Friday at 5:30 pm to stock up on books and movies before all Oakland libraries close for the rest of the holiday season. The closure comes “primarily because of the city’s holiday and furlough schedule,” according to Gerry Garzon, associate director of the Oakland Public Library. Due to the city’s ongoing financial difficulties, many public workers in Oakland must take furlough days, or unpaid days off, as part of a strategy to save the city money. Garzon said the union representing library workers negotiated to have their furlough days take place during the holidays rather than at various times throughout the year.

But Golden Gate children’s librarian Claire Scott thinks it’s bad timing. “I’m disappointed we aren’t an open space while schools are closed,” Scott said. “But I understand the budget climate.”

Still, she said, mandatory time off is better than layoffs. “I’d rather have furloughs than people cut,” she said.

Not only will patrons lose access to library materials, but kids will also see their favorite story times and other library events go on hiatus. Parents who brought their children to the Story Builder Workshop smiled throughout the event and encouraged their children to participate. “It gave a lot of kids that normally don’t have access to this sort of thing a chance to showcase their little talents and give them confidence,” said Lisa Klein, who brought her 8-year-old daughter Cali to the event. “I think this is an unfortunate time to close, with a lot of kids out of school.”

Cali, who said she is a fan of the library, has attended the free arts program at the Golden Gate branch. “I made my name in a stamp,” she said.

Zoe St. Arnaud, 8, said that she was thinking about checking out extra books for the closure. A fan of anime, Zoe said she comes to the library often. “I check out books, usually comic books,” she said.

Scott made sure everyone at the workshop knew she could help them get all the books they needed over the 10-day closure. “You’ll have them for an extra long time,” she told the children after the workshop ended. Library materials checked out this week in all Oakland libraries won’t be due until January 15 to give people more time to return them, and to prevent the book drop from overflowing. “We’re asking people to wait to return the books. I think there will be really a flood after we reopen,” Scott said.

To see a schedule for all branches of the Oakland Public Library, visit For closures into 2011, see

Lead image: Zoe St. Arnaud, 8, stands in the children’s room at the Golden Gate branch of the Oakland Public Library. A fan of anime, Zoe will have to stock up on books while the library closes from December 25 until January 4.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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