Biblioteca Popular Victor Martinez

Kyung Jin Lee

Last year, activists and residents took over an abandoned library at 1449 Miller Avenue in East Oakland. They set out books, planted vegetables, and declared it the “People’s Library.” But technically, their project was illegal, and no one was sure what would ultimately happen to their reclaimed space.

Kyung-Jin Lee

Book lending and community gardening continues in front of an abandoned library in Oakland’s San Antonio district despite a police raid earlier this month. The historic building, a gift from Andrew Carnegie to the city back in 1918, was a branch library until 1976. Two other ventures have come and gone, but the building’s been vacant since 2001. The city says it’s not safe to use.

The blighted property has since attracted drug use, prostitution, and violence. So when activists moved in to reclaim it, local residents enthusiastically joined the effort.