Library contraversy heats up Montclair


IN KEEPING with the light, fluffy nature of my column, I almost never get political. There are plenty of columnists who want to dip their pen into that inkwell, and I’m happy to let them. But as the Town Crier, I feel it’s my duty to report unrest in the Village — so here goes.

Pulling up to the Montclair Library last Saturday, I got burned again. The sign in the window read “closed,” and I should have known better. It wasn’t the first time I’d brought my kids there to check out books on a Saturday. I looked around for some way to vent and spotted an orange flier on the book receptacle. It read: “Our library, which we support with our city taxes, has to be open on Saturdays for many of us to be able to use it!”

The unknown author railed against the closure, saying it was decided with “no notice, no public meetings, nothing in the newspaper.” I felt my blood pressure rise. The flier went on to say, “The library absolutely has to serve working adults. It is not here to offer free day care to students!”

A light bulb went off in my head, recalling what a woman there had told me months earlier. She compared the library to an after-school day-care center, where students with working parents could do homework and socialize. Closing on Saturdays allowed the Montclair Library to open on Mondays — for the after-school crowd.

Now, it’s only fair that I give you the other side. Oakland Library director Carmen Martinez lives in Montclair. She’s aware of the fliers and is getting calls and e-mails about the decision. She says she did what she had to do in the wake of the city’s big budget cut. “We laid off a significant number (22) of part-time staff,” she says, adding that library officials were critical when it came to covering weekend branch schedules.

And the day-care issue? “Your remarks about the ‘brisk child-care service’ are not accurate,” Martinez says. All of the branch libraries experience an influx of children after school, she insists. She also says the library does not provide child-care service; it is simply a technology and resource center for students who have homework.

All of this could be a moot point if the Measure Q parcel tax passes in March. Martinez says the extra money would be put toward extending hours to six days a week at every branch, as well as adding books and programs.

“In the meantime, unfortunately, we will remain closed on Saturdays in Montclair,” she says. But if Measure Q fails, Martinez promises she’ll have a community forum to get public input on the library hours. Any feedback can go to her at cmartinez@oaklandnet.com.

Speaking of voting

How does a $3 Bay Bridge toll sound to you? In just a few weeks, we’ll be voting on Regional Measure 2, which asks us to raise our state bridge tolls by a buck.

My friends at baycrossings.com remind us that we reap what we sow. “It means facing up to the disastrous consequences of ripping out the coordinated rail and ferry network that so ably served the Bay Area into the 1950s.”

Trumpeting Oakland

Ever wonder what travel journalists who’ve seen the world write about Oakland? Here’s what the Oakland Convention and Visitor’s Bureau said recently to lure journalists to “the sunny side of San Francisco Bay.”

In a broadcast e-mail, the organization wrote: “You’ll experience the food and flavor of the city’s colorful, multicultural neighborhoods and historic districts. Take an enchanting gondola ride around scenic Lake Merritt or perhaps kayak on San Francisco Bay. Explore the mysteries of Oakland’s Chinatown. And groove to world-class jazz or blues set in the restored waterfront district at Jack London Square.”

Reading this reminded me that Oakland has some great attractions. It would be nice to read about the good things we have to offer — if not on the front page, then at least in the travel section.

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