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Best Crowded Library 

Asian Branch Library, Oakland Public Library

The central Chinatown location of this branch of Oakland libraries means lots and lots of visitors, including probably five generations of folks, from the elders reading newspapers to kids running amok. On any given day — well, except Sundays, when all neighborhood branches of the library system are closed — you'll see a group of people gather outside the door, waiting for it to open. The library staff is super nice and helpful, whether you're looking for Mandarin stories on tape or some hard-to-find Vietnamese book. Its offerings include materials — books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs, CDs, tapes — in at least eight Asian languages. Of course, you can request anything from the other branches, too. The library is a crowded but unique spot that shows the diversity of Chinatown, and conveniently located on the first floor of the Pacific Renaissance Plaza. With the recently added benches around the plaza's fountain, it's become even more of a cultural hub, with the nearby restaurants and shops and a cultural center upstairs.

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