Oakland Public Library Historical Timeline


  • Oakland Public Library opens, November 7, 1878
  • Poet Ina D. Coolbrith appointed as Oakland's first City Librarian
  • First branch library, the West Oakland Reading Room, is established, 1878
  • Henry F. Peterson named City Librarian, 1893
  • Construction is begun on a new Main Library, endowed by Andrew Carnegie, at 14th Street & Grove Street (now Martin Luther King, Jr. Way), 1899
  • Alden Branch Library, now Temescal, is established, 1899
  • Golden Gate Branch Library is established, 1899
  • Charles S. Greene appointed City Librarian, 1899


  • New Main Library opens at 14th Street & Grove Street, June 30, 1902
  • Oakland hosts the first meeting of the California Library Association, 1903
  • The Children's Room in the Oakland Main Library opens with Tiffany-made furnishings, 1904


  • Telephone reference service is initiated, 1911
  • Elmhurst & Melrose Branch libraries are established, 1911
  • Piedmont Branch Library is established, 1912
  • Dimond Branch Library is established, 1915
  • Melrose Branch Library occupies its current Carnegie-endowed building, 1916
  • Golden Gate Branch Library occupies its current Carnegie-endowed building, 1918 
  • Temescal Branch Library occupies its current Carnegie-endowed building, 1918
  • Rockridge Branch Library is established, 1919


  • John B. Kaiser appointed City Librarian, 1927
  • Lakeview Branch Library is established, 1930
  • Montclair Branch Library is established, 1930


  • Workers from the federal Works Projects Administration accomplish major indexing and historical projects for the Oakland Public Library, including the first comprehensive history of the city
  • Piedmont Branch Library occupies its current location, 1932
  • Oakland voters fail to pass a bond proposition to provide funds for construction of a new Main Library, December 19, 1933


  • Peter T. Conmy is appointed City Librarian, 1943
  • Eastmont Branch Library is established, 1945
  • Bond measure passed to finance construction of a new Main Library and new buildings to house the Elmhurst and Lakeview branch libraries, 1945
  • New Elmhurst Branch Library moves to its current location, 1949
  • Lakeview Branch Library moves to its current location, 1949
  • Friends of the Oakland Public Library is formed, 1950


  • Adult education programs are expanded
  • The Oakland Main Library occupies its current location at 14th and Oak Streets, 1951
  • The California Room (now the Oakland History Room) is founded, 1951
  • Brookfield Branch Library is established, 1957


  • Bookmobile service begins, 1965
  • The Latin American Branch (now César E. Chávez Branch) Library, the first branch devoted to serving the Spanish-speaking community in the U.S., is established, 1966
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Branch is established, 1970
  • William H. Brett appointed City Librarian, 1970


  • Oakland Public Library establishes special services for the blind, visually impaired and deaf
  • Oakland Public Library joins BARC (Bay Area Reference Center), which provides supplemental reference services
  • Project Outreach to serve senior citizens is established, 1973
  • Lelia White appointed Library Director, 1976
  • Asian Branch Library is established, 1976
  • New West Oakland Branch Library opens, 1977
  • Oakland Public Library celebrates its centennial, 1978
  • Oakland Public Library Association is formed, 1978
  • BALIS (Bay Area Library and Information Service), a cooperative network of Bay Area libraries, is established with Oakland Public Library as a charter member, 1978
  • Cityline is established, 1978
  • American Indian Library Service is established, 1979
  • Dimond Branch Library moves to its current location, 1980
  • 1981-1990
  • Eastmont Branch Library moves to Eastmont Mall, 1983
  • Second Start Adult Literacy Program is launched, 1984
  • Rockridge Branch Library moves to Birch Court, 1987
  • Oakland Public Library automates its card catalog and procedures for cataloging and circulation, 1989
  • Martín J. Gomez is appointed Director of Library Services, 1990


  • New Brookfield Branch Library opens, 1992
  • Oakland voters pass Measure O, the Library Services Retention and Enhancement Act, to provide supplemental financial support for the Oakland Public Library, June 7, 1994
  • The African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO) is created, 1994
  • PASS! (Partners Achieving School Success) homework centers are launched, 1994
  • A 15-year Strategic Plan, "A Library for the 21st Century," is published, 1995
  • New Asian Branch Library opens, 1995
  • Oakland Public Library Foundation is incorporated, 1995
  • Oakland Public Library begins providing Internet access to the public, 1995
  • Books for Wider Horizons, a partnership with the City's Head Start program, is launched, 1995
  • Business Information Center is established, 1995
  • Billy Dancy is appointed as Director of Library Services, 1996
  • New Rockridge Branch Library opens, 1996
  • Oakland voters approve Measure I, a general obligation bond, which includes funding to seismically retrofit several Carnegie libraries, 1996
  • Library begins extended services for patrons with disabilities, 1997
  • First teenaged member, Esther Fuentes-Garcia, appointed to the Oakland Public Library Commission, 1997
  • New Eastmont Branch Library opens, 1998
  • Renovations completed at Temescal Branch Library, 1999
  • Tool lending begins at Temescal Branch Library, 1999
  • Renovation and expansion of Montclair Branch Library's Children Room completed, 1999
  • Cityline is transformed into the Oaklanders' Assistance Center, 1999
  • Renovations completed at Melrose Branch Library, 2000
  • Renovations completed at Golden Gate Branch Library, 2000
  • Carmen Martinez appointed Director of Library Services, 2000


  • Oakland Main Library celebrates its Golden Jubilee, 2001
  • Books in electronic format (e-books) are offered via the Internet, 2001
  • The African American Museum & Library at Oakland opens in the renovated Charles Greene building (the old main library), 2002
  • Reference service via electronic mail and live chat begins, 2002
  • TeenZone is created in Main Library, 2002
  • Oakland Public Library celebrates its 125th anniversary, 2003
  • New César Chávez Branch Library opens in Fruitvale Transit Village, 2004

 1878-1995 Compiled by William Sturm, Oakland History Room1995- Compiled by Steven Lavoie, Oakland History Room