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The library is free(ish)

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much the Rockridge Library provides our community. In January alone, there were family story times, a writer’s support and critique group, an adult knitting group, teen craft activities, tutor-led homework clubs, a podcaster meetup, preschool story times, an all-day adult writers’ workshop on how to get published, a STEM workshop led by the Bay Area Discovery Museum, toddler story times, a documentary film screening on the origins of slavery hosted by the film’s co-producer, lawyers in the library, a teen advisory group meeting, and a mindfulness workshop, all in the first 31 days of the year!

Libraries do so much. And most everything we as visitors enjoy at the library is free. -Ish. To

bring home the “ish” part, some libraries promote the value of their services and programs by providing a receipt, listing what visitors SAVE when they check out materials. These brilliant due date slips detail each item’s monetary value with the total savings at the bottom of the printed receipt. While the materials and services you enjoy at public libraries are free to the public, these receipts showcase what “free” actually means.

Imagine what your library receipt might look like: three books ($60), two DVDs ($30), a toddler story time led by a professional ($15), a 30 minute lawyer visit at the library ($75)… while these are all my estimates, you can imagine how an annual bill of all the events and materials your family benefited from adds up quickly.

Of course the library isn’t really free. Our librarians and staff receive salaries, the materials have price tags—all costs that the City and tax payers fund. But what if you could pay it forward? What would it look like to do a bit to pay that imaginary (but very real) bill?

Well, actually you can. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Volunteer your expertise

Perhaps you’re a yoga instructor, or a talented genealogist, or a social media whiz who knows something about building a brand, or a painter, or a gardener… if you’re interested in sharing your gifts with the library, email

2. Vote in support of future library measures

Show your support at the ballot box. Voting for library funding is a key part of ensuring the library continues to provide the services we all love and depend on.

3. Make a tax-deductible donation to the Friends of the Rockridge Library

It’s as easy as visiting're already here! Our volunteer-run 501c3 nonprofit collaborates with librarians and staff to fund materials and programs not covered by the City of Oakland budget. Donate now.

This year, consider your imaginary library receipt, and think about how you can pay it forward. And if you haven’t visited the Rockridge Library lately, stop in and check it out!

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