and Expanding Services
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Branch reopened in August 2012, after a lengthy closure for repair work that greatly improved accessibility and security. The upgrades include an ADA accessible front entry and bathrooms, better lighting, new electrical wiring and communications cables, more computers, and some cosmetic enhancements. On the branch’s reopening, neighbors, library officials, and staff joined for a celebration that featured family-friendly entertainment.
After more than 80 years at its 41st Street location, Piedmont Avenue Branch moved into its new location in November 2012. The branch is now ensconced in a temporary structure at 80 Echo Avenue, on the grounds of the Piedmont Avenue Elementary School. The move went remarkably smoothly, and in fact involved a bit of fun when volunteers helped move books to the new branch in a procession of wheel barrows, as part of the Piedmont Avenue Halloween Parade. The Piedmont Avenue Branch will stay put for at least a few years, but the long-term goal is to establish a permanent home in the neighborhood.
During the 2012–13 fiscal year, OPL continued to flesh out and fine-tune its website, after the site underwent a design overhaul the previous year. With its new look and enhanced flexibility in place, the table was set for a far more dynamic home page featuring numerous interactive blogs. The new website has become a hub for all kinds of library-related information, from upcoming programming to volunteer opportunities. The ultimate goal is to feature up-to-date information and the library’s always expanding services in ways that are accessible and easy to find.
The Library is always improving its already extensive online and electronic offerings. In April 2013, OPL marked the first anniversary of offering access to Transparent Language Online, a powerful language learning resource. With web access, patrons can learn and hone their skills in over 80 languages, including English. Meanwhile, the Library laid the groundwork for new services that offer free music downloads and online magazines.
Digital book checkouts climbed rapidly as the Library’s e-book and online audiobook collections grew, and as an increasing number of patrons discovered this service. The OPL collection includes books for children and teens, and in Spanish, Chinese and Russian. In a two-year period, e-book and online audiobook checkouts have increased nearly four-fold – from 2,216 checkouts in July 2011 to 7,998 checkouts in June 2013.
Even in the electronic era, traditional books remain valued resources that maintain their relevance when they are available to a greater number of users. LINK+, a service that makes books from other library systems available to OPL patrons, was introduced in mid-2012. In its first year, OPL patrons checked out over 7,000 items from other libraries, and in turn library users elsewhere utilized more than 5,400 items from Oakland’s collections.