This Librarian Holds the Keys to Oakland's History

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An older Black woman with short hair wears glasses, a pink sweater and a light scarf, smiling in a library
Dorothy Lazard, head librarian in the Oakland Public Library’s History Center. (Pendarvis Harshaw/KQED)

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Dorothy Lazard is head librarian in the Oakland Public Library’s History Center. She is the gatekeeper to a long list of books, periodicals, photos and other documents that tell the story of this city. Many of these items would be difficult to find anywhere else, such as “Blacks in Oakland 1852-1987,” written by Donald E. Hausler. This important piece of literature documents of a century's worth of African American life in this major American city; and I wouldn’t have found the book without the help of Lazard.

I also appreciate that Lazard can speak about Oakland history from personal experience. She can tell you firsthand about climbing local fruit trees in the 1970s, skipping school to attend one of the Oakland A’s championship parades and going to star-studded local film festivals.

At a time when the city is in the midst of a changing population and rapid cultural shifts, Lazard plays the important role of a public servant who can supplement historical documentation with knowledge, wisdom and personal stories. Today on Rightnowish, she shares just a few of her jewels.

Rightnowish is an arts and culture podcast produced at KQED. Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts or click the play button at the top of this page.