Alta Live: Love Letter to Oakland’s Libraries

Liam O’​​Donoghue, creator and host of the podcast East Bay Yesterday, has developed a very specific appreciation for Oakland’s book-filled public spaces.

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East Bay Yesterday is the Oakland-based history podcast created by Liam O’Donoghue, which is nearing its 100th episode of exploring local history and lore. At the show’s conception in 2016, Oakland was changing. “With a lot of longtime residents leaving and a lot of new people coming in, it was really important to preserve the history of this place, not only to make sure that the people who lived here for a long time, their stories were captured and shared and celebrated. Also I wanted to make that history accessible to all the new people coming in,” O’Donoghue told Alta Live. O’Donoghue’s route to Oakland history—and to the Oakland Public Library’s Oakland History Center—was untraditional: he started by exploring abandoned buildings. “I started getting curious about these old buildings and the old architecture and started going to the history room to research it, and so many episodes of East Bay Yesterday are based on those random explorations,” he said.

O’Donoghue has been comfortable among the stacks in libraries since he was a kid, when his curiosity led him to the works of Michael Crichton and piles of Rolling Stone magazines. Now the library is his research home base as a local historian. At a time when local-news archives are in danger of being lost forever if they’re not captured and digitized, libraries have become the safeguards of that information and record keeping, O’Donoghue explained. “Anyone can walk into the Oakland library and say, ‘Here’s what I’m looking for,’” he said. “I love that accessibility that comes along with that public space.”

Check out these links to some of the topics O’Donoghue and Matt Haber brought up this week.

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