Researching Your House's History at OPL

Researchers can use several handy tool at the Oakland History Room to discover the history of their homes and businesses.

The houses many of us live in have long and fascinating histories. Some are architecturally distinguished, some have been moved from other locations, some are the former homes of important people. For those of you interested in finding out more about your house, a trip to the Oakland History Room (OHR) may answer your questions.

A first stop should be to OHR's Map Room where patrons can find their houses in tax assessment block books (1877-1925) and Sanborn Fire Insurance maps (1882-1951). There you can find out names of previous owners, property values, physical information about the house, and prior street names. Another important resource in the Map Room is the Oakland annexation map. The city grew by five annexations; knowing when your neighborhood became part of Oakland helps facilitate your search. Researchers can then consult Oakland city directories (in OHR's Main Room) to find out more about the owners. Some, for example, were contractors, possibly the builders of their properties. 


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We Can Help You With That!

One-on-One Computer Help by appointment is now available at the Main Library.

You can now make an appointment to get individual help for your basic computer needs at the Oakland Public Library's Main Library. 

Do you want to know how to 

  • Navigate the Internet?
  • Get an email account?
  • Use a computer to write a resume?
  • Use a computer to look for a job or a place to live?

In addition to their daily drop-in hours, our Computer Lab tutors are now available for 30-minute individual appointments to tutor you in the basic computer skills you need to manage today's connected world.

Hours and times will vary based on the schedules of our friendly lab tutors. Call for an appointment at 510-238-3178. 

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Preserving Family Stories

"Preserving Family Stories," the final program in the Main Library's Fall History Series, will be held October 29, 6 p.m. in the Walters Auditorium.

Did you know that October is Family History Month? To mark the occasion, the Oakland History Room is sponsoring a series to celebrate families. Over the last week, we've held a family photo scanning day and an instructional program on how to determine the age and history of your house.

The next and final event, "Preserving Family Stories," will feature oral historian Nancy Thompson who will present an interactive workshop on collecting and preserving family histories. Participants will learn how to create family trees, how to conduct interviews and write oral histories, and how to use social histories, photographs and a variety of memorabilia to incorporate into your family history.

This event will be held Thursday, October 29 at 6 p.m. in the Walters Auditorium of the Main Library, 125 - 14th Street. For more information, contact the Oakland History Room staff

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Oakland Family History Day is October 17

Oakland Public Library celebrates Oakland Family History Day October 17.

October is Family History Month. With that in mind, the Oakland History Room has planned a series of interesting events that will encourage you to discover and preserve your family's story. First up is Oakland Family History Day on Saturday, October 17, noon to 5 p.m. at the Main Library. Preserving family stories and mementos is very important and contributes to our understanding of ourselves and our communities. Oaklanders are invited to bring up to six photographs or documents to this event where they will be scanned by Oakland History Room staff and volunteers. If you'd like to participate, here are the answers to some questions you may have:

  1. How can I participate in Oakland Family History Day? Space for this event is very limited. Pre-registration is required. Pre-register by October 16 by calling the Oakland History Room at 510.238-3222. Come to the event on Saturday, October 17, noon to 5 p.m. at the

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Delilah Beasley: Oakland's crusading journalist

Delilah Beasley (1871-1934) was Oakland's first Black newspaper columnist who chronicled the activities of Black residents for the Tribune from 1915-1934.

Any serious student of California history will encounter the name of Delilah Beasley, African American author of the 1919 classic work, “Negro Trail Blazers of California.” Her natural curiosity about Black life and culture led her to writing early in her life. As a teen, she wrote articles for the Cleveland Gazette, the Catholic Tribune, and the Ohio State TribuneMs. Beasley came to California from her native Ohio in 1910 at the age of 39. To support herself, she found work as a nurse, a masseuse, and maid. Soon after her arrival, she began to immerse herself in the study of Blacks in California. 

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Be Who You Are - How Boring!

Local author Alex Gino shares a good reason to hope your book is boring -- and gives us a totally awesome new heroine.

Local author Alex Gino has a new book with a powerful message: “Be Who You Are.”

That’s easier said than done in the 4th grade. But it’s especially hard for Melissa, because everyone still calls her George (her birth name) and they don’t know what she knows: She is a girl.

Melissa is transgender and the book George, published by Scholastic, is one of the first middle grade books to give voice to a transgender heroine.

We introduced you to George in a post last week

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Happy International Literacy Day!

Today is International ‪Literacy Day‬! What are you doing to observe the day? We have an idea...

Celebrate literacy today by doing some homework: For the next 30 minutes try to count the number of times you have to read or write something to go about your day.

How many street signs or bus routes? Text messages or Facebook posts? Menus or store prices? Bills or important mail? Job applications or work-related emails? Instructions from a teacher, doctor or pharmacy? What else?

What did you notice? How did you feel? Ask a friend to do the same and talk about your experiences.

Keep Noticing.
Cover of Push by SapphireI'll never forget the book Push by Sapphire (which inspired the movie

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Peace, Love and Jewelry-Making

Main Library Jewelry-Making Workshop, September 12, 3:00-4:30pm

Who doesn't love jewelry?  People all over the world adorn themselves for many reasons.  Jewelry can be worn to convey social status, express cultural heritage and individuality, or simply make a fashion statement. Some even believe jewelry has physical and spiritual healing properties.  Making your own jewelry in not only fun, it also makes people feel good.  Whether jewelry-making is a relaxing, solitary activity or a vibrant social gathering, it relieves stress and gets those creative juice flowing.  Here is a few of books to get you started:

 book cover

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Oakland Has Jobs!

Looking for a job? We're posting Help Wanted signs over on Instagram.

We librarians get asked about job openings all the time.  In an effort to help answer people’s questions about jobs, Main Library Teen Zone librarian Brian Boies started the oaklandhasjobs Instagram account last September. From a slow beginning where Brian posted one or two help wanted signs a week to a handful of followers, the project has grown. He's now posting at least thirty job opportunities a week. Oaklandhasjobs now has more than 2,000 followers and is gaining about a hundred new followers a week.    

You can help us find jobs for these many followers by taking pictures of help wanted signs and sending them, along with the cross streets where you see the signs, to It’s fun! Once you start looking, you’ll see them all over the place, especially along commercial corridors like College, Piedmont, and Lakeshore Avenues and International Boulevard. Brian and the Teen Services team can’t find them all by themselves. 

And keep an eye out for

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Have You Seen ... Mr. Turner?

A coming attraction blog post for Mr. Turner, the DVD

From IMDB: Mr. Turner explores the last quarter century of the great if eccentric British painter J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). Profoundly affected by the death of his father, loved by a housekeeper whom he takes for granted and occasionally exploits sexually, he forms a close relationship with a seaside landlady with whom he eventually lives incognito with in Chelsea, where he dies. Throughout this, he travels, paints, stays with the country aristocracy, visits brothels, is a popular if anarchic member of the Royal Academy of Arts, has himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm, and is both celebrated and reviled by the public and by royalty.

Mike Leigh's "

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