Many of you may not know that in 1966 when the Latin American branch library opened (now César E. Chávez branch library) it was the first library in the country to have dedicated services to Spanish speakers…. woo hoo Oakland! Since then we have been in four different locations in Fruitvale and San Antonio.
Throughout those years the library has been one of the community hubs for people in those districts. As such, people would bring many fliers, pamphlets and posters with information about campaigns, organizing, festivals, advertisements, and political activism to the library, knowing we would share it all with the community. Remember this is long before the internet and social media existed, so sharing ideas and information was a lot different than today. Thankfully, the sharp-witted library staff would also collect these paper materials while out in the community to share with their patrons. As a result, in the last 50 years the Chávez branch has acquired over 250 amazing fliers, pamphlets, and posters made by local artists and activists, many of it directed to Spanish speakers.
During the COVID-19 shut down, previous Chávez library branch managers, Pete Villaseñor and Elissa Miller realized they could finally tackle the huge project of digitizing the posters in order to share them with the public. They had wanted to "return" these materials to the community for many years but knew it would have to be via digital access in order to preserve them. Fortunately, two volunteers also assisted with photographing and curating the pieces. Oakland Public Library cataloger Catherine Jennings and her amazing team began the challenging process of cataloging the posters, opens a new window and creating subject headings so staff and patrons could easily search the collection. Many months later, after many people helped, the project is complete and we are excited to give this exciting resource back to the community to enjoy and find inspiration. We know the public will appreciate the historical significance and beauty of the posters... and perhaps use them as a resource for their own community organizing, research projects, or artistic endeavors... the ideas are endless.
Please come celebrate with us on Saturday, January 28th at 2pm to unveil this exciting new resource. Many of the artists, volunteers and staff who worked so hard to get it accomplished will also be in attendance and showing some original pieces.
From Xóchitl Gavidia, Branch Manager, César Chávez Branch