When it comes to high-brow -- or even medium-brow -- civic services, most Oaklanders head either to Berkeley or to San Francisco. Along with Silicon Valley, these neighboring cities are the only reason Oakland has the residents and home values it does.
Recently, I headed to the Berkeley Public Library's main branch to beat the heat. There, I was pleasantly surprised to see buildingwide free Internet access. I tested it out with my laptop, and it worked right away.
Seeing this alongside the library's excellent selection of magazines, newspapers and music from around the world got me excited about what offerings might be available in my native Oakland.
Now, I haven't entered an Oakland library in several years. My recollection of the Oakland main library was that it contained a rather large selection of books in eastern european languages, several decrepit computers and an enormous "ethnic studies" section. My local library branch is basically a children's library, which is fine, though it too contains only a couple totally outdated computers.
Rather than endure a trip to the Oakland library to check for wi-fi, I thought I'd check online. It seemed possible that this service might be available, considering the existence of the city's bizarre Ogawa Plaza hotspot.
Incidentally, I've always wondered what the point of that City Hall public hotspot is. It reminds me of the weird timing of traffic lights in downtown Oakland which I believe are perfectly designed to encourage carjacking. Anyone sitting around Ogawa plaza with an open laptop is taking a pretty big risk.
But I digress. My Internet search for wi-fi at Oakland's libraries turned up nothing. I did find Dellums' "task force" reports, which are as preposterous as they are pathetic, but I no wi-fi information.
Finally, I went ahead and drove downtown. Sadly, but with little surprise, I discovered no wi-fi at Oakland's library. Guess I'll stick to Berkeley for services aimed at grown-ups.