Oaklandish and Solano Stroll (Tie)
Walk into this unassuming brick building in North Oakland and if Don Waters is there -- as he is six days a week -- you'll be met with a stream of helpful chatter. Expect to be invited to any events the library is hosting in upcoming weeks and be offered whatever he has on hand: lollipops, free basketball tickets, stuffed animals for the children. This Oakland native -- he was born in a hospital less than five miles from the branch library and lives within walking distance of the house he grew up in -- greets patrons by name, works to get college scholarships for underprivileged neighborhood kids, and helps wayward youth work off their community service at the library. He also started an enormously popular chess club and is single-handedly responsible for the system's only high school and middle-aged homework program. "I do what I love," he says, as he files papers, processes books, and hands out fliers. "I would do it for free."