Free Your Mind... And your ass will follow

says Funkadelic

How to Learn for free... Bay Area edition

Incomplete list of resources for the institutionally unconnected, skeptical, and anti-capitalist.

The library start here

KAT sez...

Libraries are amazing! The amount of free knowledge and resources they hold or can connect you to is incredible.

Like schools, sometimes libraries can be more about "educating" ("no talking! no chewing gum!") rather than sharing resources for self-determination.

Some libraries have better selections than others. If they don't have the books you need, you can usually get them through interlibrary loan (LINK+ in NorCal) or request they order them. Ask ask ask!

The libraries below have zero fines, so you don't have to worry about renewing your books every month. And they're very forgiving about late returns.

Oakland Public Library

OPL has tons of branches and amazing online resources, including language learning and car repair. There's also the incredible Oakland History Room and a zine library at the main branch.

Berkeley Public Library

BPL has an eclectic and good selection, especially for books a couple decades old that many other libraries toss out. The CD collection at the central branch is outstanding. Also you can borrow tools -- like hammers and ladders!

SF Public Library

SFPL is a major national library system with a comprehensive collection. They also have lots of great events. They'll send incarcerated people stuff for free!

Fun fact: they threw away a bunch of books when they built the shiny new Main Branch :(

All these libraries have eBooks, movie and music streaming. Ask a librarian how to use Hoopla, OverDrive or Kanopy!

See also: Alameda County Library

Community places heart and healing

KAT sez...

Sometimes libraries are community funded instead of state-funded. They're a lil scrappier, but much cozier :)

Long Haul Infoshop

One of the best zine libraries in the country, lots of newspapers and periodicals, radical book lending library, zine making space! And cool people hanging out. Stop by!

3124 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley
(510) 540-0751

Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library

Communist library and community event space.

6501 Telegraph Ave, Oakland
(in Temescal)
(510) 517-0150

Also see: Bay Area Archives

Going into the archives can change your life! Learn your own history from the source - those who lived it before you.

The ones with a * next to them can sometimes be snooty and harder to get into, but you definitely can. You might need to make up a legit-sounding research project.

Look for local zine fairs, anarchist book fairs, and other cool events! Flyers for these are often posted at the Long Haul, Omni Commons (4799 Shattuck, Oakland) and elsewhere.

Trans girls, visit Scout's Artillery at 752 Natoma St in SF (check hours on yelp first), they have a small lending library with those 12 popular books by trans authors. Plus, you know, a range to shoot marbles at bottles with slingshots.

Radio music and community

KAT sez...

Radio stations are hands-down my favorite resources on this list.

Commercial-free community radio makes me feel less alone, informs me, makes me happy, and makes me dance.

Try it out, it's so much better than spotify. I even put mini-players below so you can listen live right here on this page! ♥


Black-run SF station! Music, news, talk, and good times. Suggested shows/DJs:

  • Finger Snaps Salon
  • Saturday Mornings in Real Time
  • Let Me Touch Your Mind
  • Hip Hop for Change
  • Prison Focus Radio


Berkeley's legendary community station. Suggested shows/DJs:

  • Transitions on Traditions (jazz + movement news)
  • Faultines (afternoon news)


UC Berkeley's radio station, mostly music.

KZSC (Santa Cruz 88.1FM)

UCSC - So many cool shows!

Lower Grand Radio

Oakland-based, online, QTBIPOC centered radio! Live & recorded shows on Mixcloud. Super good.


Foothill College Radio, your source for the weirdest sounds...

Please donate to these stations if you can to keep community radio alive! Most are barely scraping by, and the value they provide for free over the airwaves is truly amazing. If you pay for spotify, netflix, etc, please consider redirecting some $$ towards these local stations.

News and info what's going on in the Bay

SF Bay View

Long-time Black newspaper in SF. Covers SF, Bayview Hunters Point, and national politics, events, policing and prisons. They also have opinion articles and photojournalism and are often involved with local events.

Print subscription is a great deal at $24/year.


Independent news coverage of protests, actions, and more from a leftist perspective. They also have an excellent community-sourced events calendar.


Berkeley-based newspaper, about stuff happening worldwide. Often very inspiring. Free for incarcerated ppl!


Poor people-led and Indigenous led media, education, and arts. They run the Deecolonize Academy and have no-BS books and eBooks available about police, colonialism, gentriFUKation & much more.

See also: 48 Hills progressive news | KPFA radio

Akkkademia... for free!

KAT sez...

Universities concentrate a lot of resources and knowledge in one place. Even if they're publicly-funded, they tend to be elitist and exclusionary. They're also some of the driving engines of the amerikan economy and military.

Luckily, there's almost always ways to worm your way in, and you can probably find some badass students and profs who are down to abolish the university.

Visit the UC Berkeley library

UCB makes you jump through hoops to get access to the library. There are a couple ways you can go about this:

  • Request a day pass. You can do this at the Doe Library Privileges desk. Come prepared with a list of books you want to access (can literally be anything), and they will write you a day pass to go in and out. You can't check out books, though.
  • Use the computer terminal to download electronic books & articles for free. In the lobby of UC Berkeley Doe library there are several unrestricted public computers which have full access to UCB's digital collections. Bring a list of stuff you want to get, a USB flash drive, and download away.
  • (There are a number of ways non-UCB people can get a card to check out books, but they all involve paying obscene fees. Any california resident can get a card for $100/year.)

Watch or go to UCB classes for free

Search the class schedule online. Usually you can sit in on larger classes without being noticed. For smaller classes, try asking the professor if they will let you "audit" (sit in on) the class. Some will say yes, others no.

If you want to tune in from home, check out this huge list of course lecture recordings.

How to get academic articles for free

Most academics know their work, when it gets published in a journal, goes behind a paywall and out of reach of most people. So if there's something you want to read, try emailing them and asking for a PDF! It really works!

If they don't respond or say no, ask on twitter. Put the name of the article/author and tag with #ICanHazPDF.

Finally, some quick internet searching should pull up some ... very free ... websites... where you can download books and articles.

Actually go to college for free

You may have heard you have to pay a buttload of money to go to college. But if you're low-income, informed, and very deliberate about it, you might be able to go debt-free.

Community colleges are increasingly becoming free for the first one or two years. It's worth checking with the school in your area to see!

Even if you can't fully enroll, CCs often have affordable night and weekend classes.

You can also look into the UC and CSU schools. Universities offer financial aid to people who meet their bureaucratic criteria. For UC, if your family's income is less than $80k, your tuition and fees are free.

Usually the biggest costs of going to college for people without a lot of money are housing/food, a laptop, and (most of all) having less income if you have to reduce your work hours to do school.

Enrolling in college is not an option for everyone, and is not an automatic ticket out of poverty. But it may be worth looking into for you.

Technology it's everywhere...

KAT sez...

Grr... Tech is fucking everywhere here in the Bay! There's a lot of sketchy predatory "code bootcamps" advertising on BART, promising you can get a cushy tech job if you do a six week program with them. From what I've heard, this is a bare-faced lie and scam.

If you want to learn about technology, here are some ways to do it for free.


Treehouse is a paid learning platform that has classes on web development, app design, JavaScript, all kinds of things.

It normally costs money, but the San Jose Public Library provides it to free for patrons.

Free UCB Computer Science lectures

A free index of computer science lecture recordings from UC Berkeley.

Sudo Room

Hacker space at Omni Commons in north oakland. One of the things they are working on is building a mesh network in the area for free internet.


Noisebridge is a hackerspace in the Mission. They have free wifi (though be warned of hackers), computers, audio and hip-hop production equipment, sewing machines, woodworking, metal working, and more!

Also be sure to check out their workshops and events, such as classes on audio software or lock-picking.

Note: Me and others have experienced oppression here. Despite being located in the heart of the Mission, white people who work in tech often dominate the space. There is great equipment and other resources here, but be aware of the situation.

272 Capp St.
Mission District, SF (near 16th st BART)

Free Adobe software

Today there are all kinds of design softwares, but for years Adobe Creative Suite has been the holy grail. Unfortunately to put a stop to software cracking they have moved to a subscription model.

You can get a 100% legit, free version of Adobe CS2 they released to the public some years back as a goodwill gesture. Similarly, you can find a copy of CS3 for free but you will need a license key (such as, uh, maybe this one: 1327-1042-4008-7542-4708-2774). Have fun designing it old school!