OAKLAND -- There hasn't been a library at Acorn Woodland Elementary School, where students gather their books from small, wheeled shelves kept in the hallways.

Nonetheless, hundreds of those students are ravenous readers, and they jumped and cheered Wednesday when they glimpsed an end to the cramped conditions and limited selection they have dealt with.

The East Oakland Community Library, which will open at 1021 81st Ave. in January, received its first major shipment of books Wednesday morning and opened its doors to the students, who run from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Child librarian Derrick DeMay, who has worked in the Cesar Chavez branch in Frutivale and the Eastmont branch, said he's honored to be among the staff at the new facility, where he pledged to work daily with teachers and students to adapt the new facility to the changing needs people have from their libraries.

"I want us to be innovative and do things nobody's done in libraries before," DeMay said. He suggested teaching children how to do research on the Internet as one example of a crucial skill they couldn't learn in traditional classrooms.

The building is the first such collaboration between the Oakland Public Library and the Oakland Unified School District, with the children getting their own dedicated entrance to the building.


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DeMay ran boxes to class after class of children who lined up to see inside the 21,000-square-foot building, getting their help in opening them and placing some of the first books on the new shelves.

Principal Leroy Gaines said the library "will do wonders for our school. We're actually finding a lot of kids have read everything we have," and those students are already feeling some ownership of the new facility.

The project was first conceived in 2003 and will cost almost $15 million, funded mostly by a state bond act passed in 2000 and the city's redevelopment agency, said Gerry Garzon, associate director of the Oakland Public Library. The library system itself remains in dire financial shape, but administrators are trying to cope by automating more services and keeping staff levels down, he said.

"We're very proud to see this getting done," Garzon said. "We've been through three mayors and I don't know how many (school) superintendents."

The branch will be the first one opened since the Cesar Chavez branch launched in 2004, Garzon said. It will open Jan. 21, making 30,000 books, DVDs and CDs available to the public along with computer services, including the ability to borrow digital copies of books.

For details, call the library at 510-238-3271 or go to www.oaklandlibrary.org.