As the culmination of the months-long 20th anniversary Books for Wider Horizons celebration, we all partied at the end of January in the Main Library. Current and past volunteers, staff, and community members gathered to share memories and honor the passion, effort, and time that have gone into this simple storyreader program.
After we all enjoyed some wonderful snacks, Nina Lindsay, Supervising Librarian for Children's Services, opened the remarks section by reflecting on the impact that BWH has had in the community. This year our 61 volunteers are delivering 91 weekly storytimes at 36 centers, resulting in 1,456 more hours of storytimes a year than the library could possibly offer without these dedicated souls.
Gerry Garzón, OPL's library director, then thanked the past and present volunteers without whom the program could never exist. He reflected on the library's participation in the Oakland Reads 2020 initiative and how the volunteers have an impact every week, helping to make sure that children are ready to learn to read upon entering kindergarten. After Gerry spoke, Julie Odofin, retired Administrative Librarian for OPL who originally shepherded the program, shared some of the original history of the collaboration between the library and Head Start. She, then Supervising LIbrarian for Children's Services, attended California’s first Library-Head Start workshop with Christine Simmon's, then Director of Oakland Head Start. "The Library-Head Start two-day partnership-workshop was to design a Project to demonstrate in communities nationwide how libraries that serve children and Head Start programs can combine resources and work together for family literacy programs." Odofin and Simmons quickly developed and secured funding for Books for Wider Horizons, which has survived so well because of the designed in-kind staffing contributions from the Library and Head Start.
Dr. Karen Lum-Nackley, a veteran volunteer, made a colorful display some of the children's picture books that have been written in the past 20 years, demonstrating the richness of the literature.
Among the community members who attended were City Councilmember Dan Kalb, Ellen Moyer, the president of Friends of the Oakland Public Library, and Victoria Barbero and Susanne Perkins of the Library Advisory Commission.
Ultimately, though, it was all about the volunteers, past and present. They have dedicated their energy, time, passion, and love to the children of Oakland who deserve everything we can give.
Thanks to The Friends of the Oakland Public Library for funding the event and to Ann's Catering, Trader Joe's, and Costco for their generous donations in form of discounts on products.