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Indybay Feature
Oakland Liberates Shuttered Library
Monday Aug 13th, 2012 10:27 AM
Open the doors, reclaim the commons. This was an abandoned library, now its a reclaimed one.
Where: 1449 Miller Ave, Oakland CA
More info: Biblioteca Popular Victor Martinez on Facebook: | @bibliotecapopul, #peopleslibrary

The building unveiled today as the Victor Martinez Community Library was part of a Carnegie Foundation endowment of four libraries given to the city of Oakland between 1916 and 1918. Oakland’s librarian at the time, Charles S. Greene, believed that the city’s people would benefit most from libraries placed within their communities.

Despite this vision, the building was one of seven branch casualties of budget cuts in the late seventies, severing vital library life-lines in poor and working communities. Since then, the “Latin American Branch” library building located at the corner of Miller and 15th st. has mostly sat empty, despite the fact that the next nearest library is miles away, and increasingly difficult to access in a city like Oakland with an increasingly expensive transit system. With its eroding chain link fence and decaying, armored exterior, the building is much more than an eyesore; the unused, but inaccessible, space creates a life-draining dark vacuum of stability that serves at best as a convenient place for the unscrupulous to dump their old mattresses, couches and assorted garbage.

This morning, a group of activists opened this building again for use as a library. Inside is the modest seed for a library and community center—hundreds of books donated by people who envision the rebirth of local, community-owned libraries and social and political centers throughout Oakland. We’ve named the building after recently deceased author, Victor Martinez, who overcame a young life of hard agricultural work to become a successful writer in the Bay Area. His semi-autobiographical novel, Parrot in the Oven, has become a seminal work of the Latino experience. Martinez died last year at 56 of an illness caused by his work in the fields.

If you live in this community, we only ask that you think about how you can use this building. Name it anything you like. Purpose it to any goal that benefits the community—library, social or political neighborhood center. All we ask is that you consider keeping it out of the hands of a city which will only seal the fence and doors again, turning the space back into an aggregator of the city’s trash and a dark hole in the middle of an embattled community. The doors here are open. And there are many others simply waiting to be.

Update: Occupy Oakland announces a community potluck at 6pm local time and poetry/spoken word reading at 7pm at the Library tonight!
§Emiliano Zapata Street Academy
by via JL Monday Aug 13th, 2012 11:00 AM
cool take back that abandoned building for the community but a you left out one part of the history of this building. from the early 70s till the late 80s this building was a School created during the Chicano Movement. it was called Emiliano Zapata Street academy. it moved out in the late 80s and has been abandoned ever since. each one teach one.
§Emiliano Zapata Street Academy
by Betsy S. Monday Aug 13th, 2012 6:39 PM
From 1973 to 1978, Emiliano Zapata Street Academy was at the corner of east 14th (International) and Fruitvale, where the Wendy's is now. In 1978, it mergered with the East Oakland Street Academy and moved to the Miller Library location. In 1988, it was moved to its current location at 417 29th St., Oakland. For more information on Emiliano Zapata Street Academy go to
11:54 PM - 13 Aug 12

What the Biblioteca Popular looked like before people cleaned it up & brought books, & what OPD wants it to return to.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Dani
Monday Aug 13th, 2012 4:28 PM
The next nearest library isn't "miles away". It's the Cesar Chavez branch in the Fruitvale BART transit center, 0.9 miles away. Just the right distance for a walk, if you don't check out too many books.
by well, then
Monday Aug 13th, 2012 4:51 PM
while you are feeling so superior now with your geographical prowess, I'm wondering if your point is that this neighborhood library being closed is a good thing

more distant libraries = more exercise walking to library

it's all part of Oakland's secret fitness program. if you want to read, you're going to have a good 2 mile walk there and back to get a book

thanks, Dani, for thoughtfully and constructively contributing to the dialogue about literacy and access to public libraries in East Oakland
by freedom fighter
Monday Aug 13th, 2012 6:20 PM
...libraries should be every half mile, if only for accessibility by disabled and elderly people.
by Occupy the Crisis
Tuesday Aug 14th, 2012 1:24 AM
"Of course the sphere of movements is eminently that of the 'social', the extra-institutional, of civil society in the broadest sense; their dialectic has been antibureaucratic and antistatist, part of historic attempts to carve out realms of autonomy shielded from autoritarian incursions of the bourgeois state. But this fetishism of civil society leaves unresolved the question of how radical goals can be achieved without completely restructuring the state itself. A purely negative, reactive stance is not adequate to this task. Thus the lack of a distinctly political (and therefore strategic) outlook can be expected to produce one of two outcomes: either the well-known lapse into spontaneist and localist impotence, or retreat to more manageable liberal reform efforts where minor victories are possible." (Carl Boggs, Social Movements and Political Power, Emerging Forms of Radicalism in the West, 1986: 76).
by Zachary RunningWolf
(runningwolf.zachary [at] Wednesday Aug 15th, 2012 10:56 AM
How many times have we (occupation movement) run into buildings and held that building? The answer is zero. How many people has it got into trouble jail time or the court system? Easily over 1000. this strategy simply does not work. The police and our fucked up officials use private property to remove the occupiers and give them paper work. I'm a Native American elder and pipe carrier (spiritual man0 and I see the poison behind buildings in that we have cut down the forests of the world leaving only 2% of the old growth trees left. At the height of the occupation movement where were we? the answer Oscar Grant Plaza< and Snow Park in Oakland and in San Francisco in front of the Federal reserve which we were in in no building. We had such pressure on the power structure that four of Mayor Jean Quan's staff resigned. We were in public areas like the Commons and parks putting the pressure clearly on the officials to come up with the ridiculous excuses to evict us like the killing of their grass or feeding the homeless was a health code violation. I support this library action but it was not done right which I will not communicate over this median. When dealing with communities of colour it is good to communicate. Great action but wrong timing. Please come and talk to me I'm a COMMUNITY ELDER and we are here to help the young noes reach their highest potential not to oppress them.
by John A Imani
(johnaimani3 [at] Thursday Aug 16th, 2012 9:52 AM
In my opinion, these actions--such as a previous attempt to occupy an Oakland elementary school and made into a community resource---and the courageous attempt by the Los Angeles Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) to reclaim an abandoned library--these things are one of the best thing that we can do as revolutionaries.

To reclaim disused public land, public buildings and public institutions and transform them into the instruments of community assistance, learning and cooperation is:

A demand/action that is difficult to argue against: "We want our schools,
playgrounds and recreation areas to serve the people."

A demand/action that can have an immediate effect upon the lives of the
neighbors (including, first above all, the students) in close proximity to the
liberated area.

A demand/action that necessitates radicals going into the surrounding
area to advise of the proposed action and thereby seek the support of the
those living in the neighborhood.

A demand/action that will spur on and give an example to others and be copied or modified
according to the local conditions.


Regarding the Elementary school occupation go to:

For the YJC occupation go to:
by sam love
Tuesday Sep 4th, 2012 12:23 PM
i grew up on 24th ave, when you ask me where im from, 2-400 is what i'll tell you. all my life(25 years), i've wondered what the inside of this beautiful old building looked like. before occupy activist re-opened it as a community library this abandoned site was being used to deficate, shoot dope and smoke crack. when people climbed the gates to get high no one cared but when community activist went beyond the gates to provide books, food and a garden for the kids; the cops are now around enforcing "tresspassing". thank you occupy! let's put the outcome of the community into the hands of the people. And we say library and garden!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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