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‘We’re here to serve’: Berkeley Public Library acts as valuable community resource

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AUGUST 30, 2023

Whether scrambling for a book last minute, joining a community-based chess club or just needing a place to recharge devices, UC Berkeley students see the Berkeley Public Library as a valuable resource.

Aimee Reeder, the library’s communications analyst, said the library has five locations scattered across the city, including the Central, Claremont, North, Tarea Hall Pittman South and West branches.

Supervising librarian Heather Cummins explained students most often browse the library’s young adult collection and use the Teen Room as a place to study. She added that the library offers free wifi, laptop vending machines, “gender-expansive restrooms” and filtered water fountains.

Librarian Kelsey Ockert said she believes the pandemic has caused people to become less reliant on the library, given their access to online subscription services, such as Netflix. However, she emphasized her hopes to increase people’s awareness of the library’s “great, free resources and programming,” Ockert said in an email.

She explained one of the most popular resources for students is the library’s printer and photocopier. The library also offers museum passes, which provide discounted prices for select organizations, such as Cal Science Academy, as well as access to the Tool Lending Library, where visitors can check out cooking tools, such as stand mixers.

She also noted the variety of downloadable e-books, e-audio books, movies and television shows available to community members.

“Honestly, I love telling people about these resources; if I had a megaphone that could announce something to this country, besides world peace stuff, I would be using it to tell people about these free library resources,” Ockert said in the email. “One of my favorite parts of this job is seeing people light up with amazement that they have access to these resources, and then come back and say they download e-audiobooks or stream movies all the time now.”

Other features Ockert emphasized include library users’ access to practice tests for the driver’s exam and newspapers, such as The New York Times.

She added that graduate and postdoctoral students and Berkeley Lab staff interested in speaking about their research can participate in the lecture series “Popping the Science Bubble.” Ockert also explained the library will be hosting a Comic Con, or a comic book convention, this October, where graphic novel authors will be guest speaking.

Cummins explained the library “strives to be a champion of social rights, diversity, and equity,” noting the city of Berkeley aided in their hiring of a social worker. She said she hopes to connect with UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare to further improve its social services.

“It’s been incredible to have an embedded social worker at the Library,” Cummins said in the email. “They help patrons directly inside the Library with services, such as housing, meals, medical, and other quality of life needs. They also help the Library build bridges with other City departments serving our community’s vulnerable members and other service organizations.”

Cummins noted the library will also be at Caltopia, a two-day college lifestyle festival where students can learn about campus opportunities and resources.

“We love this event and want to connect with the Cal students, faculty, and staff,” Cummins said in the email. “We’ll be there to answer questions about the Library, to promote our resources, and get anyone with a valid photo ID a Library card. Caltopia is such a fun event to welcome newcomers to Berkeley.”

Reeder encourages students to provide “invaluable” feedback through its survey, which she said will help to inform the library’s strategic planning process moving forward.

Cummins believes the library can help community members explore their interests and support their academic journey.

“We welcome students and people affiliated with Cal to the Library because we see you and you’re a part of the community! We’re here to serve!” Cummins said in the email.

Contact Matthew Yoshimoto at 


AUGUST 30, 2023