The start of Bus Rapid Transit service along the International Boulevard corridor will make life easier for commuters. But it’s also going to provide new opportunities – and more potential clients – for the many businesses and community services located along the route.
One of those who is eager to embrace the prospect of increased traffic is Pete Villasenor, the head librarian at the Cesar Chavez Branch of the Oakland Public Library (3301 East 12th Street, Ste. 271, at Fruitvale Village).
“BRT would be really beneficial for our patrons,” said Villasenor. “I can only see benefit from this project.
“I expect more people will visit the library as a result of BRT. BART is nearby, but we draw mostly from the nearby neighborhoods, within a 1-2 mile radius. Parking isn’t easy here, but with this, it should be easier for people who don’t want to drive here and who are not able to make the walk.”
Villasenor knows his clientele well. He has worked for the library system since 1996, serving at Cesar Chavez for nine years and leading the branch for five years.
The Cesar Chavez branch has a rich history. It opened in 1966 as the Latin American Branch Library, the first library in the nation to specifically serve the Spanish speaking population. And it continues that tradition today with computer classes in Spanish every Saturday and bi-lingual story time for toddlers and preschoolers.
Today, libraries provide other services too.
“In a way, we’re becoming de-facto day care for these kids whose parent or parents have to work,” Villasenor explained. “This way, they are not on their own. They eat here and hang out here longer. We feed their stomachs and then feed their minds.
“This is the third summer that we will be offering free lunches for kids up to (age) 18 healthy lunches Tuesday through Friday. We feed on average 50 kids on each of those days during the summer.”
Villasenor also is looking forward to BRT on a personal level. “I’m a bicycler and I’m very happy that there will be bike lanes.”