Beyond the Shelves at the Rockridge Branch Library

Friday, December 12, 2014

After a hard-fought community campaign led by the RCPC, the Rockridge Branch of the Oakland Public Library opened on August 3, 1996, on the southeast corner of College Avenue and Manila.

Rockridge's first library was established 95 years ago on Shafter just off College and has since been housed at a handful of locations. The current site is where the Longo family lived and worked for the better part of the last century, making and selling decorative cement sculptures as part of their Art Stone business.

While the library has circulating collections focused on general subjects, it also provides opportunities for seeing art.On permanent display at the library are two colorful sets of quilts. Four quilts were made by children under the guidance of artist Ellen Oppenheimer and another pair, according to Children's Services Librarian Erica Siskind, were made with interactivity in mind: "We have two quilts made by organizers of the Bay Area Storytelling Festival which feature themes from both oral and written storytelling traditions, with sufficient detail in the stitches that they make a good guessing game for children visiting the library."

As part of an active exhibitions program, rotating displays at the library are held in both the upstairs gallery area and in a display case downstairs. Over the years, the monthly shows have featured works of the Oakland Art Association, Rockridge Community Photography Group, grade-school or college classes, and Oakland Public Library employees. Artwork in a variety of media has been shown, from oil paintings, watercolors, and mixed media, to photographs and quilts. The exhibition program is booked for the next year, but community members can learn how to propose their own shows by asking at the reference desk.Through the Oakland Library's participation in the Discover & Go program (, library cardholders can request complimentary family passes to an impressive variety of area museums and other cultural organizations. Participating visual arts institutions include the nearby Oakland Museum of California and the Berkeley Art Museum (closed from December 22 until early 2016 while it moves to a new location); San Francisco's Asian Art Museum; Cartoon Art Museum; Contemporary Jewish Museum; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; Bedford Art Gallery, Walnut Creek; San Jose Museum of Art; Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History; and Napa's di Rosa galleries.Since passes can be reserved online and printed at home, library patrons are just a few clicks away from a world of inspiration.

Carl Schmitz is Art Research Librarian at the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation. A card-carrying member of the Clyfford Still Museum and an expert on the pedestrian traffic light patterns at the intersection of College and Claremont, he can be reached at