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Frequently Asked Reference Questions


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The library has printed reference material to help you begin your search for an artist or artwork. You may also want to check Internet sources. Many educational institutions and museums provide biographical information and images of artists' works on their web sites.

General Art Guides

Artlex is a dictionary of visual arts terms with illustrations, pronunciation notes, and links to representative works.

World Wide Arts Resources
has links to artists, museums, art history and more.

provides a search engine searchable by artist name, title of artwork, or art museums by name or location.

Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
Information on the de Young and Legion of Honor museums as well as 75,000+ copyright-free images of works in the collections.


Art-In-Context maintains a large number of images. You may also search by artist, style, movement, or genre. Graphics searchable by subject, genre, artist or keyword. Dictionary and museum databases are also available.


The interest in appraisals of art and collectibles has grown considerably along with the popularity of the PBS program Antiques Roadshow. Be sure to look at their "Tips of the Trade" section.

Appraisals are available at some auction houses. Usually there is a fee for this service.  Bonhams in San Francisco can provide either a free, minimal appraisal or a fee-based, more in depth format. They also host free first come, first-served appraisal clinics from 9 a.m. to noon on the first and third Mondays of the month at 220 San Bruno Ave., San Francisco.

Consult the Directory of Auction Houses for links to your local area or more than 2,000 auction companies worldwide.


Information on collectibles is available at a variety of sites. For an overview, look at

Antique Ring has listings of 150,000 stores and 3,000 web sites specializing in antiques and collectibles.

Kovel's price guides are well-known printed sources. This online database combines five of the price guides into one. Price quotes require registration.


Birth/Death/Marriage Certificates

If the event occurred in Alameda County, birth certificates from 1940 to the present, death certificates from 1960 to the present and marriage certificates from 1854 to the present may be ordered online from Alameda County.

For other areas of California or dates not covered by Alameda County, certificates may be ordered online from the State of California Department of Health Services.

California Vital Records

VitalCheck provides links to the vital records.


College/Adult School/Recreation Schedule Questions

Local college schedules, adult school and regional or city recreation schedules are available in limited quantities at local libraries. Check with your local branch. For local college schedules, you can also select from the list below:

If the college you want is not listed, try this more complete list of Bay Area Colleges and Universities.


Consumer Questions Buying Guides

Most branches carry the print versions of Consumer Reports, Kelley Blue Book, Edmund's new & used car and truck guides, Bay Area Consumers CheckBook and other resources for product and service comparisons. Some of this information can also be obtained on the Internet.

Automobile price and buying advice from Kelley Blue Book and Edmund's is available on their web sites.

ConsumerWorld is a public service, non-commercial guide cataloging over 2000 of the most useful consumer resources.

General Questions and Complaints

Consumer World is a good all-purpose consumer site.

The Better Business Bureau allows you to check out a company or charity online. Consumer tips and online complaint form are also provided.

The California Attorney General--Public Inquiry Unit provides information on a range of consumer topics, complaint procedures and an online complaint form.

At the California Department of Consumer Affairs you can check the license status of State-licensed businesses and professions, from accountants and contractors to veterinarians.

The Medical Board of California provides information on physicians and registers complaints.


Donations to the Library

The branch libraries accept donations of gently used books. Donations of used videos, DVDs, audiocassettes or software cannot be added to the library’s collection and will be sent to the book sale. Generally, the library is most interested in new or recent bestsellers, mysteries, science fiction, romance, fantasy and westerns. Recent non-fiction is also appreciated.

The library staff will evaluate donations and either add items to the collection or designate them for the book sale. Please check with individual branches before donating large numbers of items.


Exam Monitoring

In keeping with the Alameda County Library’s mission to support the educational activities and goals of its customers, the Library will assist in the monitoring of exams with the guidelines listed below.

  • All exams must be open book

  • Library customers may use Internet terminals for online exams or to receive exams by e-mail, but must comply with the standard Library time limitations for use of Library computers. Library staff may extend the computer time limit based on availability and demand. This may be facilitated by prior arrangement with library staff.

  • Library customers must use their own library cards to access services/information available on Library-owned computers

  • The Library will:
    • Receive a printed copy of the exam, by U.S. mail, on the student’s behalf and verify the student’s I.D. The student is responsible for verifying the exam has arrived

    • The Library will attempt to provide a reasonably quiet place to take the exam

    • Library staff can, upon request by the student, verify the time of beginning and ending the exam

    • Mail the exam by standard US Mail within the normal procedures of the Alameda County Library, providing that the student provides an addressed envelope and appropriate postage. The Library will not accept responsibility for exams returned due to insufficient postage or inaccurate address

    The Library will not:
    • Accept or return exams by e-mail or fax

The following libraries may provide monitoring of exams. Please contact the libraries directly to get the latest information.


Fictitious Business Name

Starting a business in Alameda County? You may need to file a statement of Fictitious Business Name (FBN). A fictitious business name is any name that does not identify the business owner(s). Sole proprietorships and partnerships need to file an FBN if their business name does not include the last names of all the owners. Corporations should file if their business name is different from the full corporate name. Names are registered through the County Clerk's office in the county where you business is headquartered.

For businesses in Alameda County you can check a name without a charge if you appear in person at the County Clerk's office, 1106 Madison Street, Oakland 94612. or, for a $25.00 fee, you can request a name check by mail.

To protect yourself from legal problems or conflicts with other businesses using the same name, make sure that your name is unique outside of Alameda County as well, especially in cities, counties or metropolitan areas in which you plan to do business. Any easy way to do this is by using Reference USA which allows you to check business names by metropolitan area, county, city, state or all of the U.S. You can use this database at any Alameda County Library branch or, if you have an Alameda County Library card, through the Library's webpage.

One of the hazards in choosing a business name is using a name that has trademark protection. A check of the Trademark Electronic Search System from the Office of Patents & Trademarks is a quick way to find names that are trademarked. Beware of using well known brand or company names or tradenames for products or services similar to yours.

Forms to register an FBN in Alameda County are available online, through the Oakland Office of the Clerk, or the Business Library in the Fremont Main Library. You need to renew Fictitious Names every five years. To contact the County Clerk office for further question about FBNs call (510) 272-6363.

Procedure for Starting a Business provides additional information about the requirements for starting a business. Remember, if you need other business startup information, contact the Business Library at (510) 505-7001.


Genealogy Questions

Most branches have a core collection of sources useful for beginning a genealogical search. The largest collections are at the San Lorenzo Branch and at the Fremont Main Library.

We are happy to help you begin your search. Please see "Birth/Death/Marriage" and "Obituaries" FAQs for related information. There are a number of organizations in Alameda County that may be helpful in advancing your research. Local organizations are: Hayward Area Genealogy Society

P.O. Box 754
Hayward, CA 94543

Hayward Area Historical Society
22701 Main Street
Hayward, CA 94541
(510) 581-0223

Museum of Local History
190 Anza Street
Fremont, CA 94539
(510) 623-7907

Livermore-Amador Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 901
Livermore, CA 94551



Homeowners & Renters Assistance is a once-a year program administered through the Franchise Tax Board. The library does not receive any paper copies. Copies of the form may be printed from the Franchise Tax Board website.


Library Jobs

The Library hires for both full and part-time positions. Many of the positions in the Library are part-time.

As a County Department, we follow civil service procedures for hiring. This means that when a position is announced as open, the County invites applications and creates a list of candidates for future openings based on an initial screening process.

Currently open Library positions are listed on the Alameda County web site and on the Alameda County Library web site. The library will provide job description and the necessary supplemental questionnaires for library positions when they are open.

We have an ongoing need for experienced librarians with a professional degree to work on an on-call basis.


Newspaper Holdings

Branch libraries carry both local and national newspapers. Generally only the most recent few months are held in paper format. You can check the library catalog under the title of a newspaper to verify holdings. Newspapers do not check out. If you need help finding a particular newspaper, please ask a librarian.

The most extensive back issues of local newspapers are kept on microfilm at the Fremont Main Library and at the San Lorenzo Branch.

Fremont Main has The Argus, which covers the cities of Fremont (including Centerville, Irvington, Warm Springs & Niles districts), Newark and Union City. We have microfilm from April 29, 1960 to current. The Main Library also has microfilm of the News Register (which was continued by The Argus in 1972) for the years 1955-1972. Prior to the News Register, the local paper for the Fremont area, covering what were then Washington Township and Niles, was the Township Register. We have bound volumes for the years 1921-1922 and 1928-1936.

The San Lorenzo Branch has the Daily Review, which covers Castro Valley, Hayward, San Lorenzo, San Leandro and the neighboring unincorporated communities of Ashland and Cherryland. We have microfilm from 1966 to current.

Other local newspapers in our area for which we only have recent issues are the Tri-Valley Herald, covering Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore, and the Valley Times, covering the same area.

Archives of recent articles from some of the local papers are available on their web sites. The Alameda Newspaper Group publishes The Argus, The Daily Review, and the Tri-Valley Herald. They also publish the Oakland Tribune and the Alameda Times-Star. The Contra Costa Times, which covers neighboring Contra Costa County, is also online.



If the deceased resided in one of the parts of the County served by Alameda County Library, we will try to locate an obituary for you by checking our local papers. The parts of the County we cover are: Albany, Castro Valley, Dublin, Fremont, Newark, San Lorenzo, Union City and other unincorporated areas. Please note our newspaper holdings listed above to see which areas are covered by each. Generally, we have archives back to the 1960's. For earlier dates, some of the city libraries may be able to help. Oakland Public Library has an especially strong local history collection in their Oakland History Room 510-238-3222.

There are a number of city libraries that are not part of Alameda County Library. These independent city libraries are:

Alameda City Library

Berkeley Public Library

Hayward Public Library

Livermore Public Library

Oakland Public Library

Pleasanton Library

San Francisco Public Library

San Leandro Public Library

If the deceased resided in one of these cities, you may want to contact the city library directly to obtain information regarding local files they maintain and whether they conduct obituary searches. The following information is critical to a successful obituary search:

Full Name

Date of Death

Place of residence

Place of death

If you do not know the city of residence or the city where the death occurred, you can order an informational death certificate from the Alameda County Clerk-Recorder. This office can provide death certificates for deaths occurring since 1893 for a fee. Death certificates may also be obtained from the state of California Vital Records.

You may be able to find recent obituaries by checking Internet sites. has recent obituaries from 1000 newspapers. Some of the local papers mentioned in the Newspaper Holdings section above also provide recent obituaries through their web sites. and CemeteryJunction provide cemetery records.


Reverse Directories

The Fremont Main Library 510-745-1444 has the Haines East Bay/Southern Alameda County Criss-Cross Directory. The Albany Branch 510-526-3720 has the Haines Oakland City & Suburban Criss-Cross Directory. We will look up 3 addresses or phone numbers for you over the telephone.

There are also a number of telephone directories available on the Internet such as, and The Ultimate Directory (InfoSpace).



Most branch libraries have tax assistance programs during tax season. Please check with the reference desk at your branch for dates and sign-up information.

Most of our branch libraries also provide tax forms and publications as a public service. We cannot provide any tax advice. Please contact the IRS or the California State Franchise Tax Board with any questions.



Voter Registration information is available at the website of the California Secretary of State.

Absentee ballot applications, sample ballots and information regarding polling locations can be found at the Alameda County Registrar of Voters website.

Voter registration forms can be picked up at branch libraries. You must mail in these forms. The library cannot mail registration forms for you.