Colorful sample design for a library card
Six winning card designs will be selected and offered to patrons beginning in February. Credit: Oakland Public Library/Nikolitsa Paranomos

The Oakland Public Library is inviting artists of all ages to design limited-edition library cards honoring the contributions of African Americans to the arts in Oakland. 

But hurry: you have one week left for the chance to have your artwork live on in other people’s wallets. 

OPL is accepting submissions of library card designs until Nov. 16. After that, a group of judges will select six winning entries for a run of cards to launch during Black History Month in February. 

“Oakland is gifted with a rich history of innovative Black artists who have shaped the cultural and political landscapes of the city,” OPL said in an announcement of the contest. “Black art and artists in Oakland have ignited social justice movements, brought families together in healing, and sparked joy in the hearts of countless people.”

Each submission must correspond to one of the following categories: music, visual arts, theater and performing arts, literature and poetry, or the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. Need inspiration or help whittling down your options? The African American Museum and Library at Oakland has several study guides and collections on local Black artists.

The limited run will include 60,000 cards, or 10,000 of each design. Winners will be selected from three age groups: children ages 5 to 12 (parental permission required), teenagers ages 13 to 17, and adults.

The winning works will also be displayed in an exhibit in February.

OPL held a similar contest in 2017, on the theme “Oakland and libraries.”

“The winning cards are still in circulation and one of the choices for patrons to choose when signing up for a library card,” said Tarshel Beards, OPL spokesperson.

Entries can be submitted online.

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 lives in Oakland, grew up in Berkeley, and has only left her beloved East Bay once, to attend Pomona College.