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Miss this? Almost all library branches will reopen to the public later this month. Credit: Pete Rosos

The closure of Oakland’s library branches at the start of the pandemic was a blow to the countless residents who rely on the library for reading material, internet access, gardening tools, legal advice, and community. While branches have been offering sidewalk pickup for books reserved online, it’s just not the same as getting lost in the stacks and emerging with your next favorite novel.

Oakland library Reopening

What: OPL Express will offer some in-person browsing and computer use

Where: All Oakland library branches, except the Asian branch and Tool Lending Library

When: Starting April 19

Note: Visitors must wear masks and social-distance

Now library lovers can rejoice, because some of those services are returning this month. On Monday, April 19, the Oakland Public Library will launch OPL Express, allowing in-person browsing and computer use.

It’s library basics: You can check out books, print important documents, and get a new library card, but you can’t find a cozy corner to read in for hours, or catch a live event, yet.

Visitors to the 16 OPL Express branches will be required to wear masks, get screened for a temperature at the door, and maintain social distancing. Capacity will be limited and no seating will be provided, except at the computers. The library quarantines returned materials for 24 hours before putting them back on the shelves. 

The Oakland History Center and the African American Museum and Library will be available by appointment only. Children’s play areas will remain closed. Two branches, the Asian branch and the Tool Lending Library, will continue sidewalk service only, because of facility renovations, but the sidewalk service will stop everywhere else. 

If you’re not feeling quite ready to go inside a library, e-books and movies are still available online, and OPL hosts several virtual classes and events. The library can be reached by phone at 510-238-3134 or email at  eanswers@oaklandlibrary.org

Natalie Orenstein covers housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. She was previously on staff at Berkeleyside, where her extensive reporting on the legacy of school desegregation received recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists NorCal and the Education Writers Association. Natalie’s reporting has also appeared in The J Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, and she’s written about public policy for a number of research institutes and think tanks. Natalie grew up in Berkeley and has only left her beloved East Bay once, to attend Pomona College.