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Oakland librarians add biking to job description

Oakland Public Library TeenZone Facebook page

Mana Tominaga is part of the Oakland Library Main Branch's unique outreach program, the Mobile Bike Library. When patrons can't make it to the library, the library comes to them by bicycle.

Pulling a pyramid-shaped bookcase on a trailer behind her bike, Tominaga is bringing about 50 books to LibrosLibres, an event that promotes literacy by loaning books to anyone who wants them. Today the selection is mostly children’s literature, but it changes for different events and includes books that are in popular demand. All of the books can be checked out on the spot. 

"We're hoping that it will be a nice reminder to visit their local library, and also, just a way to get books into the hands of readers without a lot of obstacles," Tominaga says. "We can't do mobile library card applications just yet and this is the next best thing."

Tominaga’s been a librarian since June, and this LibrosLibres event is only the third event the Mobile Library has embarked upon. Tominaga’s an avid cyclist, which is a big reason she wanted to start this mobile project.

“Its a way to get librarians out of the buildings to showcase our books and build relationships in a very positive way,” she says. “I think it serves to diminish the perception of libraries and librarians being stoic and static. We’re out there and we’re active promoting cycling.”

Plus, she thinks that bicyclists in Oakland are an untapped demographic for libraries. “Theres so much energy in Oakland right now behind cycling. I think there's definitely a lot of community building possibility by having an outlet like the bike library.” 

The LibrosLibres event is starting to wrap up. Tominaga begins packing up her books. Sara Carlburg, a co-founder of LibrosLibres, walks over to our trailer and thanks us for coming. She identifies with the Oakland Public Library’s values.

“Libros Libres shares a lot of the same values with the Oakland Public Library,” Carlburg says. “One of those is to liberate books from the standard institutional walls of the library and bring them out to the people where they are, and it reminds people that books aren’t just something that you do quietly in a big brick building.”

Tominaga waves and pedals off, closing the mobile library for the day, still excited about the potential of this budding new program.

Sarah O'Neal is a student reporter at Mills College in Oakland.