Letters for the Week of March 26

Readers sound off on Albany Library dumping library books, surveillance in Oakland, and the return of Birdland Jazzista Social Club.

“Alameda County Trashes Library Books,” News, 3/12

Ban Dumping

I cannot believe this is true. However, it fits with an experience I had about three years ago.  I was looking at some books on a shelf that were free. The librarian offered me a huge book bag if I took them all. I did. I wondered about their practices and procedures, but never connected the dots. Of course, there are many of us who would willingly come by the library to pick up the free books. We never want to see books go into a trash can, and that a library is doing it is absolutely unprofessional and wrong. Stop all library books from going into dumpsters now! It should be a banned practice.

Judith Rathbone, Oakland

A Reader for Every Book

I find it remarkable that so many people are defending the act of throwing books in the trash. As a bookstore owner for 33 years I can tell you that there is a reader for almost any book, especially if it is free. These librarians are just too lazy to find an easy way to distribute them for free. Old computer manuals, back-dated magazines, yesterday’s novels, books in bad condition — all these books will be scooped up if offered for free. How do I know this? Because everyday we fill our free box with “trash” like this. In fact, I have given away entire houses full of books with a simple phone call. Yes, of course, libraries need to clean house, and no, they are not a repository for every book ever printed (except for national libraries), but to throw them in the trash is emblematic of the kind of short-sighted “vision” of our librarians, and it is this kind of behavior that has garnered the wrath of scholars and archivists the world over. And hats off to all the overworked and underpaid librarians who cringe at the very thought of throwing books in the trash, and will do anything they can to rescue them and find a place for them.

Todd Pratum, Oakland

Responsibility to Residents

I am horrified to learn that the Albany Library is throwing books away. There are so many poor people who need books, and libraries that would welcome more books. The administration needs to find people, organizations, and libraries that would be delighted to have the books. This should be considered part of their responsibility to Albany residents. Is this legal? Really shameful.

Liz Wiener, Albany

Weeding Is Necessary

Please continue to support your local library. Weeding is a necessary and important part of building a vibrant and attractive library collection, one that keeps people visiting the library. I worry that this article paints an unfair picture of the work librarians at Alameda County public libraries are doing. The fact is, most of the books that a member of the public wants that a library may not hold in its own collection can be obtained through interlibrary loan and cooperative sharing agreements. I’m skeptical of the claim that the public is being deprived of content through weeding, even weeding as drastic (and likely necessary) as some quoted in this article describe.

Josh Rose, Oakland

Rethinking Support

I strongly support my local Alameda County library (Albany) by using the library, donating books to the friends’ sales, and always voting for parcel taxes to increase services. If the county has so much money that they have to spend large amounts quickly (usually a sign of poor management and too much money), I need to rethink my voting! And dumping books instead of attempting to find further use: Wow.

Diane Delany, Albany

“Dear Oakland Politicians: Stop Trying to Infringe on Civil Liberties,” Seven Days, 3/12

Mistaken Presumptions

Robert Gammon’s recent column contains more than a little presumption. He writes that “hundreds of residents felt compelled to pack city council meetings,” when, in fact, news accounts identified a good number of those attending as residents of other cities — Berkeley, in particular. He ends by saying that Oakland residents in general oppose the Domain Awareness Center. He presumes that the protesters that pack our council meetings and boo and hiss and sometimes threaten anyone that voices a differing opinion are representative of the Oakland citizenry as a whole. Another dubious proposition.

I’m a firm supporter of the right to privacy, aghast and saddened by the things brought to light by Edward Snowden, but in regards to the DAC, I fail to see how keeping a visual record of what happens in the commons constitutes a violation of civil liberties. Many neighborhoods, including our little Laurel District street, have or are installing their own private surveillance systems in response to the dramatic surge in crime we are experiencing.

What activists seem to fear is an objective record of what occurs during their periodic “occupations” of our downtown district. Oakland may have a proud history of protest, but the recent history is anything but that. Legitimate protests have been used as cover for thieves bent on looting, and masked anarchists smashing windows of honest merchants and starting fires. We need to elect a new mayor that won’t be swayed by hostile crowds, and her first piece of business should be retaking our city council from the unruly crowd that has occupied it. Anyone who can’t sit quietly and listen to all the views being expressed, especially those opposed to her’s, has no place sitting in a deliberative body, and should be immediately ejected.

Bob Madera, Oakland

“Birdland Jazzista Social Club Eyes an Oakland Nest,” Music, 3/12

Dream Come True

This is a dream come true! I have been playing at Birdland since the end of high school in 2010. I randomly ran into the Birdman on the street, thinking that I was supposed to be playing that night when I was actually a day early. He invited me to come play with my band the next night and the rest is history. I’ve seen the place transform over the past four years, and every time I am home in the Bay that’s the first place I go (when it’s open). It is definitely my second home and I am so glad that people have caught on. Very excited to see what the future holds for Birdland! 

Jonah Levine, Los Angeles

Jazz Isn’t for the Rich

Being a performer who has played many major clubs and festivals in San Francisco and New York City since the 1990s, I can tell you that Birdland is a special place because Michael isn’t concerned about profit. Jazz isn’t for the rich. When you take away the money lust, the music stays in its purest form. That’s why great musicians and real music lovers gravitate to this place. Plus, these guys can grill! Birdman is the Jazz Saint of the Bay Area.

Chuck MacKinnon, Oakland

Infectious Positivity

When I think of the Bay Area, I always remember Birdland. Birdland is the gem of the Bay Area. Not only is it an accommodating and fun environment for performers, it has something special that you just simply can’t find in other jazz venues. The community is involved here and everyone has a good time. The positivity is infectious.

Timothy Lin, Fremont


In our March 19 music story “Jazz’s Old Boy’s Club,” we incorrectly stated that, in the 1970s, Ellen Seeling knew of only two professional female jazz instrumentalists in New York City. In fact, she knew of only two professional female jazz trumpet players in the city. 


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