Library Manager: "Dedicated Staff, Supportive Community"

Saturday, April 9, 2016

A 15-year veteran of the Oakland Public Library system, Paul Schiesser has worked "all over the city," including Oakland Main and the Elmhurst, Eastmont and Montclair branches. He can add the Rockridge Branch to that list of postings since his appointment as Branch Manager last July.

Contacted by The Rockridge News for his thoughts on working at the Rockridge Branch Library, Schiesser said he found staff to be "dedicated, very dedicated. They go out of their way to provide service and to be accessible to library patrons." Schiesser himself seems to personify that ethic as well. At a recent visit, he was seen helping a wheelchair-using patron work through the sign-on process for one of the public computers in the library's check-out desk area. Finishing there, he turned to talk patiently with a staffer who had approached him with a procedural question.

Schiesser also finds strong community enthusiasm for the library, from the day-to-day patron population and from the Friends of the Rockridge Library (FORL), the support group formed after the branch's construction that is dedicated to "funding materials and programs for the Rockridge branch not covered by the city of Oakland's budget." FORL's goal is to provide funding for programs, circulated materials, and improvements to facilities, among other things, according to the group's website.

A recent FORL-funded program coincides with staffing additions planned to provide fuller service to adults. "General library priorities have emphasized early literacy," Schiesser explained, "but are starting to expand to include Lifelong Learning programs and support." To that end, and with FORL financial support, the Rockridge Branch has added an Adult Librarian position, filled by Emily Weak.

The goal is to provide one adult program per month, expanding over time as suggestions for programs are incorporated. Initially, these educational offerings will include author talks and book themes. The March program, for example, was a Lit Club offering inviting people to check out and read a copy of the novel "Sideways," then meet at the Barrel Club on College Avenue for a discussion of the book and complimentary wine tasting.

"The early literacy and children's programs are not going to change," Schiesser stressed, pointing out that the branch continues to offer after-school programming for Claremont Middle School students as well as the various other teen and family-oriented offerings already available.

Another item on the Branch Manager's to-do list is to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the branch's construction, likely to be held in September. First, though, three months of interior repairs and remodeling financed by Measure L funds - painting, new carpeting, and electrical repairs - are waiting to be taken care of when the work can be scheduled, work that will close the library building to the public. To Schiesser's dismay, "There is no timeline yet."

Asked to sum up his feelings about working in the Rockridge Branch, he says: "I'm glad I'm here."