There’s something about momentum. In our daily phone call last Sunday, Anna and I chatted about the Oakland Running Festival. She was practically in tears as she told me about people standing on the side of the route, or leaning out of apartment windows cheering on the runners. She described a route that took runners through the eclectic neighborhoods that make up our hometown. The festival included the first running of a marathon in Oakland in 25 years. I was very sad to be out of town for what seemed like a giant, happy multi-block party in Oakland. She sent me some photos and, thanks to my blogging friends, I enjoyed the event vicariously.
The running festival is just one event that reflects the kind of momentum that seems to be pulsing through Oakland. In spite of a sagging economy, troubling acts of violence, and other challenges, Oaklanders seem to be looking forward, pushing a vision of optimism. The city seems poised for a renaissance.
Moline (where I’m living temporarily with Jon and Sonja) is facing some of the same challenges that are pressuring Oakland. Moline is a great town. Filled with fine people and home to one of the world’s most successful businesses, John Deere. Moline was our home town for the past 7 years. We owned our first home here. Our dog Smiley is buried here and our pal Tucker grew up here.
There are significant differences between Moline and Oakland. Size, climate, industry, and culture, to name a few. Oakland and Moline do have some things in common, though. There are buildings in each city built by businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. There were nearly 1,700 Carnegie Libraries built in the US between 1883 and 1929. Carnegie funded library buildings in both Moline and Oakland. The original Main Oakland library at the corner of 14th Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard (just a few blocks from the start/finish line of the Oakland Marathon) is now home to the African American Museum and Library. The building was lovingly restored in 2002 following damage suffered in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. This is one of 6 Carnegie funded library buildings in Oakland, 4 of which are still libraries. The Mills College Carnegie Library (designed by architect Julia Morgan) still stands, but was replaced as the college library in 1989. Of Oakland’s Carnegie Libraries, only the former 23rd Avenue Branch of the Oakland Free Library is currently vacant.
The original Carnegie funded Moline Main Library is for sale. Could Moline be on the brink of the kind of renaissance that’s reflected in the momentum in Oakland? We’ll see who buys the Moline Carnegie Library. That will be an indicator of which direction the city is headed.