Vol 7 # 12   September 15, 2023

Changes at our library

New Branch Manager at PAL

Sabah Abdulla has joined the Piedmont Avenue Branch Library as our permanent Branch Manager. Please say “Hi” to Sabah when you next visit the library and watch for our story about her work in the next issue of the HOOT. .

Our Children’s Librarian Moves to César E. Chávez Branch

Shani Boyd, the Children’s Librarian at PAL for the last three years, has been a major force in bringing life back to our library after the pandemic. Slowly, steadily, week after week, she worked with children and families, welcoming them back to the library. Children’s programming in the library’s front yard bloomed, bringing us magicians, animals, Taiko drumming, snakes, and her wonderful story time.

She did such a great job that she was promoted to the position of Children's Librarian II at César E. Chávez branch on September 14th.

Shani came to Piedmont Avenue Library in August of 2021 directly from Library School. She had originally thought the focus of her career would be teen services, but once she entered the “vortex of children’s services,” as she describes it, she found her world. She loved the role of reader’s advisor, opening young minds to what is new in the world, to what’s best in their community. Shani feels this is a great time to be a reader; there are so many options in the “spiral coming out of Covid.”

One of Shani’s favorite memories of PAL is the Halloween parade by the children of Piedmont Ave Elementary School when the school opened after the pandemic. As students walked around the block in costume, the library staff stood in front of the library, ringing loud bells and welcoming them back.

Shani enjoyed all the children’s programs, but among her favorites was the second Ice Cream Making session. The first one didn’t quite produce ice cream, only cream.

Shani wants you to know that this is not goodbye. Until there is a new children’s librarian at PAL, she will still be responsible for the collection and reference questions, and she will return to lead Storytime at the Piedmont Avenue Halloween Parade Celebration, October 28th, 10 am at Key Route Plaza.

Thank you for all your work, Shani. We’ll miss you.

Events at Piedmont Avenue Library

We do not yet have a Children’s Librarian to replace Shani. Some Children’s Programs, like Storytime, have been canceled until we have more staff. Still there are some very interesting programs scheduled:

Stay and Play

Stay & Play, Tuesdays 10:15 -10:45

Science in September, Saturday, September 16th, 2 pm - 3 pm

How does a hand move? Can a lemon light up a light? Join us for science exploration!

Mike the Magician, Saturday, October 7th,

2 pm – 3 pm

Storytime with Shani at the Piedmont Ave Halloween Parade, Saturday, October 28th, 10 am at Key Route Plaza

Día de los Muertos, Saturday, October 28th, 2 pm – 3 pm

Come and make sugar skulls! Sugar skulls are usually made out of cane sugar and used to decorate altars honoring ancestors during Día de los Muertos. We will be using Model Magic to create the skulls and then we’ll decorate them with glitter and other supplies.

Friends of the Piedmont Avenue Library Meeting

September 19th, 6:30 pm, at the library 80 Echo Ave

Please join us at our meeting as we kick off our 2023-24 series of talks with authors with a presentation from retired psychologist and Oakland resident

Irene Sardanis. She will discuss her memoir, Out of the Bronx, the story of a brave young woman who wants to stay connected with her roots while she tries to escape them. The memoir is a past winner of the Gold New York City Big Book


Making buttons at the Jumble

The Friends had two very successful recent events - tabling at the John Street Jumble in August and a Book and Bake sale at Key Route Plaza in September. We made buttons with the children, gave away children’s books, sold and ate incredible baked goods, and talked to our neighbors about our “small but mighty” library. We also made money to fund library programs, and most importantly, gained support and new members.

Next, the Friends will have a table at the Piedmont Avenue Halloween Parade, Saturday, October 28th. Join us for the fun.

Read more about the Friends at friendsofpal.org

Conversation with Principal Ahmad at Piedmont Avenue Elementary School


At the end of the summer, I had a conversation with Principal Ahmad both in my capacity as a Reading Partner at Piedmont Avenue Elementary School [PAES] and as a Friend of the Piedmont Avenue Branch of the Oakland Public Library. Although Ms. Ahmad was very busy with the tasks of preparing for the new school year she was very gracious and we talked about the school and about her hopes for how a new library could help serve PAES. 


The school composition in terms of self-identity and national origin is in descending order, African American, Latin American [Latino], Multiethnic or Mixed Race [mostly Africa American and other ethnicities], White and Asian. Principal Ahmad is justifiably proud that through her advocacy PAES has won a $250,000 dollar a year Community Schools grant which is renewable for the next five years to help supplement meals, after and before school programs, and a variety of needed services needed to make the PAES a full-service community school. As a Reading Partner, I knew of many of the needs that PAES students have and I was surprised and pleased that Ms. Ahmad was keenly aware not only of the school’s statistics but also individual kids who have been Reading Partners over the years. We are so lucky to have such a knowledgeable and passionate educator. Thank you, Principal Ahmad!


I asked Principal Ahmad about what she wanted from the proposed new OPL library on the grounds adjoining PAES. She grew thoughtful and responded in a straight forward manner: to establish literacy, to show the joy of reading, reading programs with incentives and also to develop technological and vocational skills. The library must be a “resourceful place.”   So say we all!

By Louis Segal, Local yokel, avid reader, supporter of libraries everywhere, particularly public ones, a Fopalista!

A Woodchuck

by William, First Grade PAES

Do you love to read?

We are looking for volunteers to read with students at our local Oakland public school. Come join the PAES Reading Partners at Piedmont Avenue Elementary School.

 Share your love of books by reading one-on-one with a K-5 Student (We ask only one hour a week commitment.) We are a small, local program that has been getting kids excited about reading for more than 15 years.

For more information, call (510) 390-7203, or email [email protected]

The Avid Reader by Louis Segal

I’ve been an avid reader since I could read. In high school I used to cut school to read in the Berkeley Public Library.  I’m writing this column to share some of the books I love. I hope, perhaps, you might grow to love a few of them. 

Ex Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread by Michiko Kakutani [2020]


Michiko Kakutani, in addition to being a NY Times book critic for 35 years, and, ergo, a professional reader and gatekeeper is, clearly, also, an avid reader. Her 2020 Ex Libris reveals a lively and eclectic intelligence. In a sparkling introduction she is a passionate advocate for reading, at home, in coffee houses and public libraries. In this collection she urges her readers to read and reread more than a hundred books. For each selection she gives a pithy review. Her range is phenomenal as she reviews and advocates for books from Homer’s Odyssey [2017 translation by Emily Wilson] to Melville’s Moby Dick, to Shakespeare, to Lincoln’s letters and the superb Lincoln at Gettysburg by Garry Wills to Van Gogh’s letters, to the memoirs of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Nanako, to the poems of Wallace Stevens and Dr. Seuss and Derek Wolcott, to the novels of Mary Shelly, Ralph Ellison, to political polemics by George Orwell, Hannah Arendt, Alexis de Tocqueville, Richard Hofstadter and Timothy Snyder, to science writers such as Jon Gertner [The Idea Factory], Hope Jahren [Lab Girl], Elizabeth Kolbert [The Sixth Extinction] and Barry Lopez [Arctic Dreams] to Steven King on writing, to world classics to the ephemeral and a surprising number of writers for young folk [Seuss, Tolkien and Rowland].


Kakutani’s enthusiasms, insights and literary judgments are often exhilarating. Occasionally they are infuriating but they made me want to re-visit old books, read some mid-century political analyses that I’ve so far avoided, and revisit some old books which I know I’ll enjoy again.  And more important, she opens the window to other authors and books that I will read for the first time.


If you are an avid reader I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy this handsome book and find reason to repair to many new and old books. I’m sure you might grow a bit restive as Kakutani rails again and again against her bêtes noires and gloss over the problematics of Nabokov or V. S. Naipaul or Secretary of State Blinken. In my mind this should not be a surprise. While I read The NY Times, I recognize that the ‘paper of record” often hides state secrets [Guatemala 1954, Iraq 2004, Israel from 1949] and that the sensibilities of the Times’ critics, op-eds and reviewers are susceptible to the editors’ insistence on conformity. if you are skeptical about my assertion see Halberstam’s The Powers That Be and Kinzer and Schlesinger’s Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala or for that matter, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s Manufacturing Consent [1988] or Jonathan Schell’s The Time of Illusion: An Historical and Reflective Account of the Nixion Era [1975].  The lesson I draw from the lacunae is contained in a borrowed aphorism: “Within the empire, everything; outside the empire, nothing!”  And even the bright and avid Kakutani seems bound by her employers’ constraints, prejudices, and conceits.


But, overall, this is a wonderful book! I recommend it to the truly avid reader.






By Louis Segal. Louis was born in Oakland, raised his family in Oakland, dropped out of school in 1968, worked many jobs over the decades, dropped back into school in the 80s, got a Ph.D. in history, taught as an adjunct professor from 1993 to 2015. Retired but not withdrawn. 

What's Happening at the Library

Tuesdays - Toddler Stay & Play, 10:15 am

9/16 - Science in September, 2 pm - 3pm

9/19 - Friends of Pal meeting & author talk, 6:30 pm

10/7 - Mike the Magician, 2 pm - 3 pm

10/28 - Storytime With Shani, Piedmont Ave Halloween Parade, 10 am, Key Route Plaza

10/28 - Dia de Los Muertos, 2 pm - 3 pm

Our library is open 6 days a week

Sunday Closed

Monday: 10 am – 5:30 pm

Tuesday: 10 am – 8 pm

Wednesday: 10 am – 8 pm

 Thursday: 10 pm – 5:30 pm

Friday: 12 pm – 5:30 pm

Saturday: 10 am – 5:30 pm

The Friends of the Piedmont Avenue Library is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Our tax ID is 84-4203055.
All contributions are tax deductible.

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