Events & Programs

Mam Cultural Festival Celebrates Growing Mayan Presence in Bay Area

 Musical ensemble Maco y su marimba el quetzal play the marimba at the Mam Cultural Festival

To view pictures of the Mam Cultural Festival, click here. All photos courtesy of volunteer photographer Khai Pham.

As a high-schooler, Henry Sales frequented the César E. Chávez Branch Library in Fruitvale; it was a perfect place to finish school work and hang out until it was time to head home. However, he found it difficult to communicate with his fellow library goers - many of whom were fluent Spanish speakers.

Henry’s native language is Mam, the second-most popular language of the 21 Mayan languages currently spoken in Guatemala and Southern Mexico. For the last 15 years, thousands of indigenous Mayan immigrants have settled in Oakland and the East Bay, including Henry.

“I used to ask the staff and other patrons a lot of questions, but I wasn’t fluent in Spanish. And, I didn’t speak English very well at all back then. So naturally we had a lot of trouble communicating,” says Henry, now 25 and a library aide at the Chávez Branch. “I assumed if this was happening to me, then a lot of other Mam might be experiencing the same thing, and not just at the library.”

So, Henry decided to get involved. Upon graduation, he volunteered as a tutor at the Chávez Branch before joining Oakland Public Library’s Ready, Set, Connect! - a professional development program designed to help Oakland youth discover the professional skills necessary for technology focused careers. Eventually, he became a library aide at the Chávez Branch, where he immediately became the go-to person to help communicate with Mam patrons. Non-profit organizations and government agencies asked Henry to be a language consultant to cater to the needs of Mam clients.

Henry Sales (left) speaks with a patron during the festival.

Photo: Henry Sales (left) speaks with a patron.

It became obvious to Henry that the Mam community was growing. He was being asked more and more questions about his heritage - the language, the dress, the history. In addition, he encountered Mam families directly affected by changing immigration laws, limited access to healthcare and education, and an expensive housing market.

“Instead of blaming someone, I thought, maybe I can help by letting people know that we are [in the Bay Area]. We’re active, proud members of these communities, and we have a unique culture that we want to celebrate,said Sales. “So, that’s where the idea came from.”

Sales organized the Mam Cultural Exchange - a group of Mam community members that help out fellow Mam and share the Mam culture to the wider public. And, with the help of two grants - Cal Humanities’ Library Innovation Lab and the Akonadi Foundation’s Beloved Community Fund - he organized the Mam Cultural Festival at the Chávez Branch.

So on Saturday, September 15, nearly 300 attendees joined Henry in a celebration of the Mam culture.

Two dancers perform in front of the Marimba.
Photo: Two dancers in traditional Mam dress dance in front of the marimba.

Traditional Mayan music resounded throughout the afternoon as three musicians played the Marimba - an instrument resembling a large xylophone - with men and women displaying traditional dance in the center of the courtyard.

Mam women served hungry patrons chuchitos with corn and beans, a typical Mam meal, and displayed traditional weaving techniques while making blankets and clothes. In one corner, patrons were invited to learn basic phrases and words in the Mam language.

All in all, Henry was grateful for the opportunity to display his culture to people who might not have even heard of the Mam.

“It was an amazing experience. For me, it was a success,” says Henry. “To see the public enjoying watching our traditional performances, eating our food, enjoying our company - it was more than I could ask for. I’m excited to do it again - and not only in Oakland.”

Henry hopes for the opportunity to showcase his culture to other areas where a Mam community exists.

“Since we are a minor group that keeps growing every year, we want people to know we are human beings just like everyone. Many families have been separated and this is a good way to show that we are not a threat, we are not criminals, we are not the enemy,” says Henry. “We still exist. We’re not extinct, like many people believe the Mayans are. We are a part of this century, this country and this world.”

A woman showcases the traditional weaving process.

Photo: A woman in traditional dress displays a Mam weaving technique.

Storytime on the Bus!: Saturday July 15th

We're excited to welcome AC Transit to our libraries on Saturday July 15th!  Visit one of these stops to climb on board the parked bus for children's storytime with your very own children’s librarian:


Storytime on the Bus will be visiting:

Main Library Children's Room (facing Oak) at 10:30 am

81st Avenue Library at 2pm

West Oakland Library at 3:30pm


Explore AC Transit:

Martin Luther King, Jr. Branch at 12:30pm 

There will be no stoytime at this stop, but there will be a free gift! All ages welcome to find out about the Clipper Card. 

Summer Reading for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers

Oakland Public Library is always full of fun things to do during the summer, with performers, crafts, science, dance, martial arts and free lunches for youth at many branches, and of course, Kids' Summer Reading

Babies and toddlers can do summer reading too, and this year we've created a special Pre-Reader card for parents and caregivers to do with them. Talking, Reading, Singing, Writing, and Playing, are all activities that support the youngest children to be ready to read and learn.  Caregivers and their children 0-4 can count every day they do a pre-literacy activity, and after 20 days, pick up their prize at the library: a book, special coupons, and a chance to win a raffle for a family membership to Fairyland. 

To encourage these activities, the pre-reader card is available only in paper.  Stop by any of out 17 locations to pick one up along with stickers or a crayon for decorating the card together.  

Challenge Extended: 1000 Books Before Kindergarten!

Shhh.  Listen.  Did you hear that? 

Yes, it was the sound of librarians everywhere shouting hooray while reading about Daliyah Marie Arana. This amazing young book worm visited the Library of Congress, met with the newest Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden and was Guest Librarian for the day, a most prestigious title, especially when bestowed upon an impeccably dressed 4 year old! Daliyah's special afternoon was in celebration of a big reading accomplishment that her family celebrated with their local public library.


When Daliyah was 3, her mom enrolled her in her public library's 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program in Georgia. This program encourages families to read 1000 books before the first day of kindergarten and when her family completed this most impressive feat, her mother contacted the Library of Congress to share the sweet accomplishment and request a tour for her young reader. Cue the collective sighs of joy.


Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden welcomes 4-year-old Daliyah Marie Arana of Gainesville, Georgia to be "Librarian for the Day," January 10, 2017. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Adorable? Yes

Impressive? Oh yes!

Doable? Totally!

Now, I know that 1000 books seems like a lot but think about it, how many times have you read that one book? You know the one. That one with the bunny, or the truck or...heaven forbid, Caillou? You probably read that book 10 times just yesterday! When we run the hypothetical numbers, if a parent read  just one book, one time each day to their child every day since the day they were born until the day they turned five, that would be 365 books for 5 years, 1825 books!  

baby at library   

So Many Books, So Much Time! 

baby at library 


This means we all get wiggle room for busy days, or busy years. Even if your baby was colicky and you just walked around the house rocking her for the first three months and didn't get a chance to pick up Moo Baa La La for a while, you have probably already read a TON of books together.  Or maybe when your daughter was 2, she decided that sitting was just the worst thing ever so your bedtime snuggle with a book became a wrestling match with a toothbrush, it's okay, because I can bet on bowl of mush that you have read, Goodnight Moon about a million times. Or maybe it was a Pigeon book or maybe one of those floppy paperbacks that has way too many words but your daughter is so smart that she knows exactly what Thomas just said so you can't skip even one line.  Sigh.  


Where was I?  Oh yes,1000 books.  

So while librarians everywhere loved and widely shared the heartwarming story of the youngest librarian in our ranks, Ms. Daliyah, we know you can to it too. Oakland Public Library hereby extends the challenge to you and your family today. We may not be able to offer personal tours of the Library of Congress, but our online badges are colorful and our high-fives plentiful!  

Sign up today!

Beanstack logo



Nitty Gritty Details

  • How does this all work?

Oakland Public Library has teamed up with Beanstack to help you reach some amazing reading goals!  Just click here and follow the steps. You can create a reading profile for each child in your family and keep everything together in one place. Choose the "1000 books before Kindergarten Reading Program" when registering and you're done! You can also choose to get one email a week with a personalized book recommendation, a link to the library catalog and reading tips based on your child's profile. 

  • Does it really count if I read the same book 5 or more times?

Yep! Repeated reading of the same book is extremely beneficial for pre-readers. It helps develop vocabulary, memory, positive connections with literature, self-confidence and more!

  • My kiddo is 3, is it too late to join?

No way! Even if your child starts kinder next year, you can still join! You can even go in a enter all of your favorites from back in the day and move on from there.

  • What if we don't make it to 1000 by the time kindergarten starts?  Did we fail?

Nope, you are awesome.

  • What do we do when it is done?

Keep reading of course! The Beanstack software can come in very handy for those homework reading logs too!

It is time for Winter Bingo!

Winter Bingo cardsIt is once again time for Winter Bingo! Your child can earn a free book just for completing fun activities over winter break. There are two Bingo cards available: one for children in grades K-5, and one for pre-readers and their caregivers. On the K-5 card are activities that include “Splash in a puddle,” “Tell a story” and my favorite: “Tell a librarian what to read.” The pre-reader card includes a variety of early literacy activities like “Build with blocks” or “Cuddle while you read.” Just do five activities in a row and you have B-I-N-G-O. Winter Bingo starts December 17, 2016 and ends January 14, 2017. Pick your cards up at any Oakland Public Library or just print your own right now!

Parents and Pre-Readers, English

Parents and Pre-Readers, Spanish

Parents and Pre-Readers, Chinese

Grades K-5, English

Grades K-5, Spanish

Grades K-5, Chinese 

Back to School

There is only one time of year that is more financally stress-enducing for parents than Christmas: Back to School season. One of my favorite retailers had the Back to School displays up on July 5th. If that is not pressure enough, according to Good Morning America last week parents are anticipated to spend an average of $230-some odd dollars on back to school materials. PER CHILD! Wait...what? $230 per child? I have three children, and I DO NOT HAVE $690 in back to school money. Who did this math anyway? Now we all want our children to start school confident and successful with everything they need, but sometimes our financial situation doesn't support this desire completely. Luckily Oakland has a wealth of resources designed to support parents during the back to school season. I don't know about them all, but here are a few to consider.

Disclaimer: The supplies are offered by indendent orginizations and suppiles are limited. For more information please contact the sponsoring orginization.

If you know about one that is not listed here add it to the comments section, we need all the help we can get.

The H.U.G.S Foundation Back to School Backpack Giveaway

Saturday August 6, 2016

10:00 am - 2:00 pm

Youth Uprising

8711 MacArthur Blvd

Children's Home Society of California, Pull up Your Pants Barbershop & Eastmont Library Present:

A Back to School Reading Celebration. (Clothing closet, school supplies giveaway, free haircuts for children*)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Eastmont Library Children's Area

* For for information about Children's Haircuts please contact the children's librarian at the Eastmont Library*

Roots Community Health Center Back to School Health and Resource Fair (Giveaways include: backpacks, diapers, booster seats and natural soap)

Saturday August 13, 2016

12:00 pm - 3:00 pm

2700 International Blvd. (Fruitvale) @ Roots Pediatrics Clinic

Questions? Call 510-777-1177

Put Your Best Foot Forward: Back to School Shoe Giveaway (giving away new shoes and backpacks)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

9:00 am - 3:00 pm

Oracle Arena & Oakland Alameda Coliseum



Talking with Kids about Race and Racism

Right now, stories of racialized violence, images of protestors demanding justice, and discussions about the movement for Black Lives are dominating the media – and people nationwide are struggling to find age-appropriate ways they can talk with youth about current events, race, and racism.

If you’re looking for support with these difficult conversations, come to the library! Oakland Public Library has books, DVDs, and an up-to-date, downloadable #BlackLivesMatter resource series to help spark discussion with kids of all ages.

We also have this powerful audio recording available to stream, from a recent panel discussion that features local parents, caregivers, and educators sharing their thoughts, experiences, and best practices relating to how adults can effectively talk about race and racism with children. 

Panel discussion 1, photo by Rivkah Beth Medow

This conversation, which took place May 10th at the West Oakland library, was co-sponsored by the Youth and Families committee of Showing Up for Racial Justice Bay Area.

Panel discussion 2, photo by Rivkah Beth Medow

Lindsay Imai Hong facilitated the panel, which included Shayna Cureton from Abundant Beginnings, Marilyn Hollinquest from the Radical Monarchs, artist and activist Ariel Luckey, and Malaika Parker from PACT, an Adoption Alliance.

Please share this blog post and the audio recording out to your social networks! And contact Miriam Medow at if you have any questions about the May 10th event.

Do you have suggestions of how the library can better support equity and justice in our community? Let us know in the comments!

Photos © Rivkah Beth Medow, used here with permission.

Oakland Celebrates Día (Diversity in Action)

Día, celebrating its 20th year in 2016, is a nationally recognized initiative that emphasizes the importance of literacy for all children from all backgrounds. It is a daily commitment to linking children and their families to diverse books, languages and cultures. We uphold this daily commitment, and this April and May, each Oakland Public Library location will celebrate Día with one of the following performances, followed by a book giveaway. Please join us.

Image advertising Alphabet Rockers Alphabet Rockers, a hip hop, rapping, moving kind of group, is Oakland's answer to "Sesame Street." They amplify family fun in their new show: "The Playground Zone." This hit new show for kids age 3-9 and parents uses hot beats, hip hop moves, and rap lyrics.

West Oakland 4/14/16 at 1:15 PM 

Golden Gate 4/19/16 at 6:30 PM

Dimond 4/21/16 at 10:15 AM

81st Avenue 4/21/16 at 1:30 PM

César E. Chávez 4/30/16 at 2:00 PM


Image advertising Mariela HerreraMariela Herrera a Chilean-born performer who is well-versed her native country’s folkloric traditions, brings her energetic and exciting bilingual music, dance and storytelling to Oakland Libraries. Especially for ages 2-6.

Melrose 4/7/16 at 10:30 AM

Montclair 4/19/16 at1:00 PM

Brookfield 4/22/16 at 1:00 PM

Main Library, Children's Room 5/14/16 at 10:30 AM


Image advertising Sean's ShadowsSean's Shadow Puppet Theatre entrances audiences with folk tales come from Africa, China, or the Caribbean. His stories, hand-made shadow puppets, and instruments from around the world demonstrate the power of tales in every culture. 

 Lakeview 4/13/16 at 11:00 AM

Elmhurst 4/13/16 at 3:00 PM

Martin Luther King, Jr. 4/14/16 at 10:30 AM

Eastmont 4/14/16 at 2:00 PM


Kamishibai (paper theater) is a story telling form that was popular throughout Japan in the 1920s to 1950s.  Join Librarian Erica Siskind as she travels from branch to branch on her bicycle to deliver stories.

 Asian 4/6/16 at 10:30 AM

Piedmont Avenue 4/27/16 at 10:15 AM 

Temescal 5/18/16 at 10:30 AM

What Will You Submit to the 90-Second Newbery Festival?

90 Second Newbery LogoOnce again, we are thrilled to host a screening of James Kennedy's 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, coming to the Rockridge Branch on Saturday, February 13, at 12noon.  

James will introduce many of the amazing films, made by kids around the country, that tell the story of a Newbery book in 90-Seconds or less. 

Will he show your film? Not if you don't submit one! The rules are all at, and the deadline is January 10, 2016

So check out or download your favorite Newbery title for the Thanksgiving break, and start planning your 90-second Newbery. Here's one of my favorites: a musical rendition of Ramona and Her Father:

Make Zines with Author Cathy Camper

Book Cover Lowriders in SpaceCathy Camper, the author of Low Riders in Space, comes to Oakland to present a series of zine-making workshops at five braches. Join us as she shares her process in writing Lowriders in Space and shows how to create zines. These workshops are designed for ages 10 to 14, but all are welcome. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015 - 1:00pm 81st Avenue

Wednesday, October 14, 2015 - 10:30am Martin Luther King, Jr

Wednesday, October 14, 2015 - 3:00pm Elmhurst

Thursday, October 15, 2015 - 1:00pm César Chávez

Thursday, October 15, 2015 - 4:00pm Eastmont