Asian Branch at 40: An Oral History

This current phase highlights stories from former/current staff and patrons about the Asian Branch Library's community role for the last 40 years.

The exhibit is currently showing at UC Berkeley's Ethnic Studies Library at 30 Stephens Hall through the end of October 2016.

For more info, contact Project Directors Lora or Roy at rcoacc(at)


In 2014/2015, the Oakland Chinatown Oral History Project documented the living history of the Asian Branch Library through interviews of long-time branch advocates, librarians, and patrons spanning five decades. The Asian Branch Library in Oakland Chinatown is the busiest branch in the city's library system. It is unique in library branches throughout the United States as it houses collections in eight different Asian languages including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Khmer, Lao, Tagalog, and Thai. This collection speaks to the diverse Asian immigrant population growing in Oakland during the last several decades. The creation of the branch resulted from tremendous community advocacy starting as a bookmobile in the 1970s and later housed in several temporary neighborhood locations until it made its home in the Pacific Renaissance Plaza in 1996.  

More than a library, the Asian Branch can be thought of as the "living room" of Chinatown, a local gathering space where hundreds of seniors, youth, and families congregate each day to read their ethnic newspaper, participate in culturally relevant story-time, do homework together, learn about job opportunities/training, use the computer/internet, and build community. Through these captured stories, we hope to present not only the library's traditional functions, but as a place of vital cultural and social exchange that is critical to a diverse immigrant community.

Asian Branch Library Stories is made possible with support from the East Bay Community Foundation, Oakland Public Library. and Friends of the Asian Branch Library.