Who are we, and why are we fighting to save RPL branches?

We all have personal connections to our public libraries. They are the heartbeat of our community. They are a safe space for the vulnerable among us. They offer guidance and growth to anyone who seeks it.  

These are our stories.
We'd love to hear yours! 

Sheila Dickinson

Richmond CA, Children's Librarian
Favorite Recent Kid’s Chapter Book:
Daring Darleen Queen of the Screen by Anne Nesbet

Your kids, these kids, are my kids. I miss them. These families and care givers & library users are friends. I miss you. These connections are genuine, strong, valuable & so necessary.

How do you use your library?
How do your kids use the library?
Does it matter if they close the neighborhood branches & stop using the bookmobile?
Does it matter if the Main library is only opened a couple days a week?

Tarnel Abbott

Librarian, Activist
Favorite authors: Margaret Atwood, A.S. Byatt, Barbara Kingsolver
Currently reading: Living to Tell the Tale by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud 

Books have always loomed large in my life. I come from a literary family. I spent a lot of time in libraries as a youth. Works I read as a young person formed my philosophical core of humanitarianism and service. My great aunt, my grandmother and my favorite mother-in-law were librarians. I worked in many blue collar jobs, then bookstores in Oakland and Berkeley before completing my BA (Antioch University West) in Liberal Arts and then graduating with a Masters Degree in Library & Information Studies (MLIS) from UC Berkeley. I have worked at Benicia Public Library, Contra Costa County Library, and Richmond Public Library (22 years at RPL).

I was the winner of the California State Library Zoia Horn Intellectual Freedom Award for defending patron privacy against the USA Patriot Act (2006), educating the public through a film series with the ACLU about the unlawful detention of immigrants, the alternative film series “Outside the Mainstream” and my work with Richmond Regla (Cuba) Friendship Committee.

I was a union activist and fought against (and lost) the layoff of 2/3 of the library staff in the budget crisis of 2004 from which the Richmond Public Library never fully recovered (loss of staff, loss of hours, loss of collections). I retired about 10 years ago after determining that my efforts to have a strong library were doomed to continual flogging by the management. I remain determined to save the institution in spite of poor management because the people of Richmond deserve and need a library.

The library is where we can learn to value our cultures, our histories. It is the People’s University. My other passions are nature, art, politics and my dogs. And, oh yeah- it's true: Jack London was indeed my great grandfather, there’s a person whose life was saved by the library.

Claudia Jimenez

Candidate for Richmond City Council

The idea that the city is considering to close Public libraries is sending a message to our community that we do not deserve better. We are proud of having the public libraries and they are the few public spaces for our Richmond community. We have to care for our librarians who are also service workers who have been helping our kids and youth. As a mother with two kids who use the library frequently I see how many people rely on the library, I strongly oppose the idea. Public libraries are important for our community and especially for our kids. It is very troubling for me that this is an idea that it is being considered. I hope you vote your values and protect city services and service workers who are essential for the city.

Andrea Mullarkey

Richmond resident, Teen librarian, SEIU member
Favorite format: Audiobooks
Currently readingA Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope by Patrice Caldwell

The library is where I go to meet my community and where neighbors come together to learn, explore and grow. It is books (oh how our community loves books!) but it is also computers and music and creativity and job preparation and volunteering and seeds and tools and wifi and legos and movies and language learning and homework help. And of course the library is people: library workers to help you find what you are looking for and tell your kids stories and show our elders how to zoom with their grandkids and walk teens through applying for jobs or whatever thing it is our patrons want help with to make their lives better. I go to a library in another city to work. And then I come home to Richmond where I have three community libraries for my recreational and personal development. Richmond deserves all of this and the workers to fill the building with materials and the calendar with events. That's why I'm working to Save Richmond Public Libraries!

Lilia Edgell

6th grader, avid reader, library enthusiast
Favorite Book Series: Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Last ReadNumber the Stars by Lois Lowry

My name is Lilia Edgell, I am a 12-year-old Richmond resident and I am concerned about the proposal to shut down the Richmond Public Library. Before Covid-19 I spent countless hours in the library reading and looking for new books to read. If it wasn't for the library I would still be re-reading the Harry Potter series for the six millionth time.

Every Monday I would go there for an hour or more to pick up/read books. Even during Coronavirus, I am still using their online resources and after the pandemic, I bet many people would be devastated to see that the library had been closed.

So many people use the library (more than you probably thought) people use it for information for school, to learn languages, to get movies, to read for fun, to teach children to read, and it is open to all different types of people. The Richmond Public Library doesn't care what skin color you are, what age you are, or how much money you have. They just care about educating people and giving people the joy of reading.

Laura Thomas

Community Activist, Mom, Writer, Book Lover
Favorite Book: 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Last Read: Inward by Yung Pueblo

I have a life long love of reading and have always been a casual patron of my local libraries. Last year, that changed. Due to mental health issues within our household, my family became dependent on the library as a safe space to let down our guard and meet all of our individual needs. My oldest daughter would get lost in the stacks or consult with her favorite librarians on what she should read next. My youngest would meet with a tutor once a week and other times beelined to the computers for some fun. I would catch up on calls, texts or emails, meditate while my children were safely occupied, or unwind with a book myself.

That time was sacred to all of us and the idea of that safe space being taken away sets a dangerous precedent for our community as a whole. 

Dorothy Gilbert

Writer, retired English teacher
Last Read: Barkskins, by Annie Proulx; The Overstory, by Richard Powers

Reading has always been one of the supreme delights of my life, My mother was a school librarian, and she had a great gift for getting kids to love books, to think of them as fascinating journeys of many sorts.

After a long life of reading and writing, for my profession and for pleasure. I couldn't feel more strongly that a library is an indispensable part of a community, as vital in its way as the police and the fire department, if what it offers can sometimes be visible more slowly.

The Richmond Public Library is an excellent source, with a fine collection. And it serves so many crucial purposes. People take their kids there for story time; people use the computers--they may not have computers at home; after school help with homework is available; LEAP provides a way to essential literacy skills; a quiet place to study, whether for school or the GED, is dependably available. At the Library one can find information on career possibilities; enjoy the craft programs, take part in the Summer Reading Game; and it is a safe place to meet friends, for studying or whatever.

What do libraries mean to you?

We'd love to hear your story. How would it impact you, your family and your community if the Richmond City Council closed the Bayview and West Side branches and cut staff, hours and services from our main branch? Please let us know if you are comfortable with us sharing your story here. Your voice matters! 
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