Happy 135th Birthday, OPL!

Today is the 135th birthday of the Oakland Public Library!

Today is the 135th birthday of the Oakland Public Library!

You can learn a little about the history of the Oakland Public Library on our website, and you can learn A LOT in the Oakland History Room. So, I learned that although the library existed even earlier, it was founded as a municipal entity on November 7, 1878 and was the second public library system in California. I also learned that the first librarian, Ina Coolbrith was not only the first California Poet Laureate, she was also a MAJOR cat lover.

With the help of the wonderful librarians who know the Oakland History Room inside and out I was able to find some of the oldest library-related things we still have hanging around, and I thought I'd share with you some of what the Oakland Public Library was like in its earliest days.

First, here is Ina herself. This photo was taken before she became our librarian. (I think I know my Halloween costume for next year!)

Here is an image of the building that was likely the library in 1878. Notice the writing on the side: Free Public Library.

Now back to Ina, and her love of cats. The Oakland History Room has this framed photo of Ina's cat, Calla, and a poem written by Ina for Calla. The poem is quite hard to decipher, but stop by and check it out in person. Maybe you'll have better luck that I did!

Did you think that this was all I had to say about Ina and her cats? Oh no! You are so wrong! Check out this article about Ina, her nephew, and her cats from 1890.

The early library workers kept quite a scrapbook of news clippings about OPL and other lbiraries around the country and the world. It is really fscinating to see what made the news over 100 years ago! Here is a sample of some of the clips I found about the Oakland Public Library at the time. Super fun! There are hundreds of these, so this is just a small selection.


My personal favorite:

I can't help but feel glad that the Tribune doesn't pay quite such close attention to the personal lives of library staff these days!

Among other interesting finds is this Monthly Bulletin from 1897 where the library shares all of their new acquisitions.


I also got my hands on this early library catalogue from 1885. This is pre-Dewey Decimal and pre-card catalog. The catalog, in this case, is a book that lists all the books the library has and where to find them. Click through to get a closer look at some of the pages. One of my favorite tidbits from this are the directions for how to check out a book found on the 3rd page.

Last, but definitely not least, this is the Annual Report from 1890. Looks a bit different than our most current one, eh? Again, click through to get a closer look. I included the entire report because I just couldn't decide what was the most interesting. The library has 1,251 new users that year for a total of 9,696 users and spent under $3,000 that year on salaries.

I could go on and on, but I'll stop here. If you dig this stuff, stop by the History Room and ask to see more! In the meantime, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, OAKLAND PUBLIC LIBRARY!!!!


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