2004 Library News
Here are library and Friends of the Palo Alto Library news stories from 2004.
Current News - Current and Previous
Library Holiday Hours and Events
Library and Friends of the Palo Alto Library News for
A New Way to Think about Libraries
(12/15/04) We're always happy to say that the benefits of a library are beyond
measure, but some have wondered if these benefits could actually be measured.
Beginning in 1998, a group of researchers has studied several public library
systems to quantify the economic benefits that library users derive. For
example, their study of the St. Louis, Missouri public library system
concluded, "that the library's users are receiving back more than $4 in direct benefits for every $1 of tax revenues that the public is contributing annually to the institution."
In other words, the money given to libraries by cities is really an investment
that not only pays itself back fully but also generates an excellent return.
In one part of the study, St. Louis library users were asked how large a tax
refund they'd want in exchange for allowing their libraries to be shut down.
The average respondent wanted a tax refund seven times larger than what the
libraries actually cost. But only 12% were willing to be bought off in
this manner. The other 88% said they wouldn't close the libraries
regardless of how much money they'd receive back for doing so. The most
common reason they gave was that libraries are too simply important and valuable
to be shut down.
For more information, read a
summary of the
results for five different cities and also the
full St. Louis study.
City Council Votes to Retain Branches and Expand One
(updated 12/15/04) After almost three hours of presentations, speakers, and council discussion
on the evening of Monday, December 13, with over a hundred members of the public looking on, the City Council unanimously rejected all four of the City Manager’s recommendations regarding the library, including the two that would have closed the Downtown and College Terrace branches. Furthermore, by a 7 to 2 vote, the Council approved keeping the branches open and directed the Library Advisory Commission to work on a long-term plan to see
how these branches might evolve to better serve the community alongside an expanded full-service library, possibly at Mitchell Park.
San Jose Mercury article,
Palo Alto Weekly article,
Francisco Examiner article, our previous coverage, and
letters to the Council
One official speaker was Lenore
Jones, whose co-wrote the following remarks with fellow commissioner
Honorable Mayor and Council members, Thank you for your attention tonight.
I am Lenore Jones, Chair of the Library Advisory Commission.
Thank you to Paula Simpson for her diligence and thoughtfulness in putting
together the report she presented in November on the state of the Library and
outlining possibilities, and to Frank Benest and Paula for putting forth their
proposal this evening - and for including us in the agenda.
The LAC has worked closely with Paula Simpson in reviewing how to address the
future of the Palo Library. While we agree on the need to create a full service
library in Palo Alto, the LAC also weighs the desire of the community to not
lose the benefit to those walkable neighborhoods that include library services.
To summarize our conclusions for the Council, at our November 18 mtg. the LAC
unanimously passed the following motion:
THE LAC recommends the City Council adopt a long-term vision for the Library
that includes a full-service library, on an existing or a to-be-determined site,
supporting a distributed branch library system that includes the current
branches, and also recommends the library be recognized as a Top 5 priority for
the 05/07 budget cycle.
This motion was subsequently endorsed, also unanimously, by the Board of the
Friends of the Palo Alto Library.
Therefore while we support the CMR's recommendation for creation of a
full-service library and the formation of a Blue-ribbon committee to develop an
implementation plan, we do not support the short-term proposal to close branch
libraries. This is contrary to the LAC’s long-term vision of a full-service
library supported by library services distributed throughout the City. Study
after study has shown that the city's library services at all existing branches
are highly utilized and valued by residents. The community is not asking for
fewer library services but rather improved library services.
We do understand that the city is facing increased financial challenges in
the upcoming budget cycle; however as we chart a course for improving the City
Library we do not agree that the best path to achieve this is to erode the
Library even further by cutting back what we have to offer today. Instead the
LAC would like the opportunity to re-define branch services and create
distributed library services that look different from those we have today, but
preserve their spirit. We would like to think creatively about how people might
pick up and drop off books in their own neighborhoods where computer access is
provided to the Library collection. We need to think beyond the outlets we have
today. Think about Channing House, Cubberley, the Junior Museum, or a fire
station. Could the Friends of the Library provide volunteers at pickup and
drop-off locations and small reading rooms, thus enabling us as a community to
maintain the goal of walkable neighborhoods? We think it is time to re-think the
design of the services at the branches and not be constrained by their 20 to 30
Towards that end, while we urge the city council to endorse the long range
plan as put forth in the CMR before you this evening, that is points 1 and 2, we
offer this substitute for points 3 and 4:
1. Include Palo Alto Libraries as a Top 5 priority for the 2005-2007 budget
2. Direct the LAC to come back with a proposal within the next year for a
forward-thinking plan for how the City distributes library services at library
outlets throughout the City.
3. Keep Downtown and College Terrace as outlets for library services.
Allocate an additional $850,000 for the next fiscal year to restore library
hours and address the deterioration of collections at the five existing
locations during this interim period while we re-define the future for
distributing library services.
The LAC is available this evening to answer your questions. Thank you for
Children's and Bargain Rooms to Open at 10 am
(12/9/04) The elves who operate our Children's and Bargain Rooms (K6 and K7) have decided to open from now on at 10 am on Saturday (it used to be 9 am). Given how hard all the elves work, we couldn't say no. Both rooms are open until 4 pm on Saturday and then again from 1 to 4 pm on Sunday.
A Free Way to Help the Libraries
(12/9/04) Whenever you shop online for anything at Amazon.com or at Keplers (our largest local independent book seller), a percentage of your purchases will be donated to us if you start your shopping trip on our web pages. Just click on the Amazon or Keplers
links on the top right of any of our web pages. All the proceeds raised in this way go to help the library, and it costs you nothing.
Several Branches Threatened with Closure
(updated 12/13/04) For the fourth time in five years, the City is again considering closing library branches. This time, as many as four branches could be affected.
In short, the City Manager will propose to the City Council tonight (December 13) that the College Terrace and Downtown branches be closed no later than June 2007. Meanwhile, he proposes to begin to plan and find funding for a "full-service" library somewhere in Palo Alto. If that library were located at Mitchell Park, the Main Library would be closed as well, leaving no library facilities for adults in North Palo Alto whatsoever. If instead the Main Library were the site for the "full-service" library, then the Mitchell Park branch would lose significant staff and other resources.
The only library that is certain to remain under this proposal is Children's. The result will be a two or three library system very different from the present set of five libraries spread across the town.
Branch closure has resurfaced this year because city finances are under pressure. However, the Downtown and College Terrace branches actually cost very little to operate and are used a lot. While the city has still not detailed the operating costs of the individual branches, only about 7% of the library's staff (and no higher-paid degreed librarians) work at these branches, which at the same time generated 10% of circulations and 16% of visits in the 2003-2004 fiscal year. Closing branches that cost less than the usage they generate is not an efficient way to save money. Furthermore, once these branches are shut down, it is extremely unlikely they would ever be opened again.
The City Manager has recommended that if the College Terrace and Downtown
branches are kept open, an additional $850,000 in annual funding be given to the
libraries. However, that is far more than the actual cost of operating
those branches, which the current budget already covers. Of the $850,000,
$250,000 is to enhance the collection and approximately $300,000 is for staff
time that will not affect open hours at any branch. Closing the branches
will not free up $850,000 either, so there is no reason to connect this request
to the closure decision. Said simply, it clearly will not cost $850,000 to
keep all the branches open, despite what an editorial in one local newspaper
claimed yesterday. In addition, the board of the Friends of the Palo Alto
Library has not voted on whether to support the request for the additional
Other California cities affected by budget shortfalls have opted instead to reduce library hours or to cut extra services, or even to use volunteers to fill in. With the exception of Salinas (which may have to shut down its entire library system), Palo Alto will apparently be the only city in California to have branch closures. That will be quite a comedown for our city's prized college-town reputation.
Palo Alto also emphasizes walkable neighborhoods, which impart a small-town flavor while reducing car traffic and encouraging healthy biking and walking. Our present library branch structure supports this concept, making it possible to visit and use a library without a trip across town. Indeed, technology and interlibrary loans increasingly bring more resources to these branches, such that many residents find no need to visit a large, central facility at all.
The City's own Library Advisory Commission, which is separate from the City Manager, has opted to oppose the branch closure proposal, as has our own organization's board of directors. Indeed, we are actively working with community groups and numerous residents to save the threatened libraries.
With the exception of the Terman Park branch, which was reclaimed by the school district, Palo Altans have successfully defeated all past attempts to close branches, dating back to the 1960s. You can help keep the College Terrace and Downtown libraries open by e-mailing the
City Council with your
support for the branches. Your e-mail will go to all nine City Council members,
so it's an easy way to convey your opinion to them. You can also attend the City
Council meeting tonight at 7 pm at City Hall (250 Hamilton Avenue).
You may also read want to read the full
Manager's recommendation. Note that it is mute about the projected
impact on usage or traffic. Closing and
downsizing branches in favor of a central library might well mean fewer people would
go and usage would decline. That would be a galling outcome after spending
perhaps $50 million or more to build a new library on the scale of Santa Clara's.
No document has emerged yet that explains the actual cost of the branches or how
closing them would affect usage, traffic, or crowding and parking at the
remaining branches. We calculate that visits at the Main Library might
rise by 52%, adding immense problems to an already-heavily used facility. The most clear advantage cited (page 4) is that "the
Library would be able to purchase approximately 2,300 more books in year one by
redirecting funds from the College Terrace and Downtown collection allocations,"
but that obviously is incorrect. These would not be "more books" but
rather just different locations that would get new books. Moreover, these
will also be the least popular new books at those locations, since the more
popular ones are being purchased anyway.
See related story and the December 10
Palo Alto Weekly and
Jose Mercury articles.
Have a Glorious Holiday Season
(12/9/04) If we don't get a chance to say it to you personally at our booksales, all of us at the Friends wish you a very joyous holiday season and New Year. We hope you'll have some time during the holidays to actually read a few of the books you purchase from us and get good and rested in time for the January 2005 sale!
It has been a glorious year for us as well. November's sale earned $19,151 overall, which is an incredible achievement for us. Our sales over the last five months have averaged $15,400 each. We wish to thank all of our wonderful customers, donors, volunteers, members, and supporters who together make our book sales possible.
Computer Reservations Now Running
(12/9/04) The new software that allows your to reserve time on the public Internet stations is now running, after some initial technical difficulties.
Library Annual Report
(12/9/04) Read the library's new
Report for the fiscal year from July 2003 to June 2004. The report
gives information about the overall library system, the individual branches,
and the budget.
Library Fate to be Discussed
(12/8/04) Next Monday's City Council meeting will no doubt be an important day
for the city's libraries, as City Manager Frank Benest is scheduled to present
his recommendation as to how the library system should change, if at all.
City Council members will have a chance to voice their opinions and possibly
vote on the future of the library system. The council meeting takes place
at 7 pm in City Hall at 250 Forest Avenue.
Projected city budget pressures and rising library costs have some local
residents arguing for closing the College Terrace and Downtown branches, while
others believe that the efficiency of those branches (they serve more users than
they cost) and the walkable neighborhoods that have grown up around the
libraries make them well worth preserving. Branch supporters also
point to the difficulty of passing further bond measures if certain communities
lose libraries and that cutting less vital services might make more sense than
closing branches. On December 1, the Board of Directors of the
Friends of the Palo Alto Library discussed this issue after having heard from
many sides. The board members voted unanimously to support the Library
Advisory Commission's recent recommendation that all
branches be preserved and that an expanded library be built at Main, Mitchell,
or possibly some other site.
We are also very excited about a
quicker and far less-expensive way to expand our collection, namely by joining
the LINK+ consortium.
For a taste of what's to come, the Library Advisory Commission will itself
examine this issue and the City Manager's recommendation on Wednesday, December
8 at City Hall at 7 pm.
The December 8th issue of the Palo Alto Weekly has a number of articles devoted
to this topic, which you can read here:
Cover story: Out on a Limb?
Branch Comparison Chart [note:
the College Terrace branch's hours were slightly longer when the data was
Previous Attempts to Close the Branches
Editorial: End the Deadlock in Library Debate
Guest Opinion: Another Approach to Library Organization
Letter to the Editor: Why Branches Make Sense
[fourth letter down]
Library Commission Supports Branches, but Downtown Hours Delayed
(11/18/04 later) The Library Advisory Commission met this evening for about three hours and debated a number of issues. In response to the various options presented last week to the Council by the Library Director
our coverage), and acknowledging a perception among many outsiders that the Commission was anti-branches, the commissioners unanimously adopted a motion recommending that all existing branches continue to be operated and that a full-service library be developed at Main, Mitchell, or possibly some other site. Strictly speaking, this is different than the option presented to Council last week that would have closed Downtown, College Terrace, and Main in order to build a central library elsewhere. Of course, the Commission only serves in an advisory role, and the City may still end up advocating the closure of Downtown and College Terrace on December 13, when the City Manager will make a recommendation to the Council. Anticipating and hoping to respond to that recommendation, the Commission moved up its next meeting to December 8. This will give the Commission a chance to review the recommendation and perhaps communicate about it to the Council.
Palo Alto Weekly article.
The Commission went on to finalize its letter to the City Council advocating that the $35,000 offered by the Council be used to reopen the Downtown Library on Saturdays. This was also unanimously approved.
This matter first came to the Commission in July, which then worked on the letter throughout the summer and fall.
The Council was supposed to take a final vote on the $35,000 next Monday.
However, the item has been dropped from the Council agenda and no date is known
for when it be acted upon. Many of the commissioners expressed frustration
tonight over this. Councilwoman Hillary Freeman, who serves as the Council’s
liaison to the Library Advisory Commission and was present tonight, said she’d
look into the matter.
Will the City Council Reopen Downtown Library on Saturdays?
The Library Advisory Commission met on September 30 and again on October 28 to work on their
recommendation to the City Council that $35,000 be used to restore Saturday
library hours at the Downtown Library. The commission will continue to discuss
this at their November 18 meeting, with the matter expected to go to the
council on November 22. The Council offered the funds back in June and the
Commission voted unanimously in July to apply these to the Downtown Library. We
are very appreciative of the Council and Commission support for reopening the
library on weekends, which will make it far more accessible to working people.
See previous coverage by us.
Join for Bookstore Discounts and Credit Union Eligibility
Here's some new benefits you get by joining the Friends:
off on purchases at
Books Inc. in the Stanford Shopping Center.
The store also offers a Frequent Reader discount program on
top of our member discount.
10% off on all regularly-priced paperbacks and magazines at
Tower Books at San Antonio and El Camino.
Eligibility to join the Stanford Federal
Credit Union. Previously, you had to be part of the
Stanford community or employed by certain local companies to
join the credit union.
To get these benefits, just show your Friends of the Palo Alto Library
membership card. Lifetime, new, and renewing
members receive a membership card in the mail. Other
members may pick up a membership card beginning in August at our
regular monthly book sales. Ask for the cashier who is
handling membership cards in the main book saleroom. If you're
not already a member of the Friends, you can join right now by
Thanks go to Books Inc, Tower Records, and the Stanford Federal
Credit Union for their great generosity to our members.
$422,000 Project to Boost "Library of the Future"
Friends of the Palo Alto Library, in conjunction with all nine
public libraries in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and
Atherton, are improving Internet access at the libraries and
spectacular set of new online resources for free to all who have
or obtain a Palo Alto library card, thanks to a major Cable
Co-op Legacy Grant awarded in 2003. Approximately $343,000
is being used to add new Internet workstations in the library
buildings, upgrade wiring, allow more laptop users to connect to
power and to the Internet within the library, provide loaner
laptops at the Palo Alto Main and Mitchell Park libraries,
purchase new color and black and white printers, offer
Internet and other tutoring at Belle Haven, and establish many
other improvements. Another $79,000 goes to offer
at least two years of Internet-based resources from any computer
at any hour, not just from within a library.
This includes approximately 150 years of the New York Times,
fully searchable, beginning with the very first issue. The
Friends are enormously excited about this opportunity to serve
everyone in our local communities and pleased to have
spearheaded the grant effort. See also a December
12, 2003 Palo Alto Weekly article, our
thank yous, and the Cable
Co-op press release. Here's how most of the funds will be
||Palo Alto Libraries
|| Children's Library
|| College Terrace
||East Palo Alto Library
|| Mitchell Park
||Menlo Park Libraries
|| Menlo Park
|| Belle Haven
numbers are approximate.
Help the Library While Shopping
you buy books, CDs, DVDs, software, toys, and other products from Keplers or Amazon.com,
5% of your purchase price can go to help the Palo Alto Libraries
at no cost to you. Please remember to always use the links at the top of our web site so
that Palo Alto Libraries will get the credit. When you visit the Kepler's store in Menlo Park, tell the cashier you want your
purchase to benefit the Friends of the Palo Alto Library and we
get 10%. It takes just a moment
to help our libraries in these ways.
Downtown Library Chooses Mascot
(11/10/04) The election to choose a mascot for the Downtown Library is over, and a
winner has emerged. The new mascot will be Professor Chimpson of the
National Banana Party, who ran on a pro-literacy campaign.
Temporary Closure Update
(11/10/04) The temporary closure of the Downtown Library on Thursdays has ended (it
will be closed on Thursday the 11th anyway for Veterans Day).
Meanwhile, the College Terrace branch will remain closed on Tuesdays
Reserve Computer Time at the Library Starting November 22
(11/10/04) A major change for the public computers in the Palo Alto Library starts this
month. Currently, you sign up to use the computers on a paper list and
then are responsible for reminding the person before you when it's your
turn. With the new system, you'll reserve your time slot via a
computer. The session of the person before you will end automatically
when your session is ready to start. Lots of other libraries already
use this approach, including all those in San Mateo County. They've found it
makes life easier for library users by enforcing fair time slots
and allowing reservations in advance.
Creative Uses for Books
(11/10/04) If you're like many of our members and booksale customers, you may find
yourself with (ahem) too many books on your hands at times. Not to
An MIT project recently demonstrated how you, with a little bit of creativity and
glue, can turn all those books into reading lamps, picture frames,
benches, bookcases, clocks, umbrella stands, nightstands, and rocking
chairs. See the
of how they did it. IKEA, beware!
City Council Examines Library Alternatives
Lots of people attended the City Council library study session on Monday, November 8 to hear about many future possible directions for our library. Library Director Paula Simpson presented six options
report: continue with the present system, add funding, add branches, close smaller branches, affiliate with the county library system, and close the majority of branches but build a new central library. City Council members asked
many questions and provided feedback, with the consensus being to avoid plans requiring new
taxes and to retain the present branches. City staff will address Council concerns and make a specific proposal for a Council vote on December 13.
Jose Mercury and
Weekly accounts of the Council's reactions. Read earlier articles in the
Palo Alto Weekly,
Palo Alto Daily News
(page 1), and
San Jose Mercury News regarding the controversial central library
Singers Entertain at Annual Meeting
(11/10/04) The "Friends of the Palo Alto Library Singers" held their premier performance at
the October 27 annual meeting, cheering the crowd with a rendition of
"In Our Library" (to the tune of "Wouldn’t It Be Loverly" from My Fair Lady):
All I want is a place to read,
Lots of books for my every need,
With helpful staff indeed;
All these, are in our library.
Lots of videos for me to see,
Books on tape and now CD,
Newspapers and magazines;
All these, are in our library!
Oh, just, think of all the wonders that our branches store,
Filled with books from A to Z, plus, the Internet and more.
Storytime for each little one,
Summer reading lets teens have fun,
Fam’ly programs next to none;
All these, are in our library.
Archives filled with our history,
Going back for a century, plus
Modern data instantly;
All these, are in our library!
Folks in other towns may smile at us but we don’t fear,
We have higher circulation and annual visits here.
(spoken) Per capita.
All of this is close to me,
At our five branch library,
Keep them going glowingly
And join .. the Friends .. of the Library.
You will be
Palo Alto Libraries Are #1
(11/10/04) Not only do we Palo Altans love our libraries, we use them a lot too!
Among California libraries serving 60,000 to 100,000 people, Palo Alto ranked
first during 2002-2003 in the number of times the average resident visited a
library (15 times on average). That's almost three times as often as the statewide average of
about 5.7 visits per capita.
We also ranked first among the group by
circulating 20.5 items annually per resident, which again is about
three times as many as the state average of 7.3. Palo Alto children earned
the top slot too by checking out 60.7 items a year on average, whereas the state
norm is just 19.
Incidentally, we also 4 books in our library per capita,
coming in second to Newport Beach, which had 4.3. Perhaps Palo Altans just
like longer books? Source:
Library Statistics 2004.
Combined San Jose Library Discussed at Annual Meeting
(10/27/04) At our annual meeting tonight, Professor Jim Schmidt described the extraordinary new Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. library in San Jose, which is the nation's first combined city/university library. It serves both as San Jose's main public library and as the central library for San Jose State University. Schmidt helped plan and inaugurate the library, is a professor of Library and Information Sciences at San Jose State, and served there as University Librarian for many years.
His talk, entitled Gown & Town: How to Build a SuperLibrary, began right after our annual election at the Palo Alto Arts Center Auditorium at 1313 Newell Road. The meeting was free to the public.
At the meeting, Althea Andersen, Gretchen Emmons, Gerry Masteller, Bob Moss, Gloria Reade, Steve Staiger, and Ellen Wyman
were reelected to serve as board members through December 2006. Two new directors
were elected to similar terms: Rudy Batties, a Palo Alto resident since 1981 who holds a Stanford MBA and works in strategic marketing for technology companies, and Jim Schmidt.
The following board officers were elected for 2005: Jeff Levinsky, President; Wendy Akers-Ghose, Vice-President; Martha Schmidt, Secretary; Bob Moss, Treasurer; and Bob Otnes, Assistant Treasurer.
Two-Day Sale Broke Record; Sunday Hours Continue
(10/6/04) Last month's Saturday plus Sunday sale broke all past records, earning
over $15,200, so we're going to continue with Sunday sales for at least the
rest of this year. All three of
our rooms will be open this Sunday, October 10 from 1 pm to 4 pm.
Bargain room prices are the same on Sunday as they are after 2 pm on Saturdays, namely 25 cents for
all paperbacks, 50 cents for all hardcovers, and $5 for a full grocery bag of books.
If you know someone who can't attend on Saturdays, please let them know
Ticket Line Gets Easier
(10/3/04) A customer recently suggested that we help our ticket holders know where to
stand in the line for the opening
of the main room on Saturdays. So in September, we posted numbers on the wall that you can compare
to the number on your
ticket, which seemed to have worked well. We'll continue that,
so please look for the signs when you join the line.
Coffee and Tea Now Served in Main Library
(10/6/04) The Friends of the Palo Alto Library is happy to sponsor coffee and
tea service in the Main Library as an experiment in providing more creature
comforts to library users. The new machine was installed just last month
and is across from the announcement bulletin board, near the south end of the checkout
Children's Library Expansion May
The expansion of the Children's Library got a boost from a proposal to
add an additional 610 square feet on the side that faces the Lucie Stern
theater (the left side as you approach the library from the street).
The estimated cost of this addition is $300,000, to be paid by funds from
the City of Palo Alto, the Palo Alto Library Foundation, and us. The
expansion should provide more room for the collection and for services and
will be built at the same time as the new wing on the other side of the
original library. The new
construction is expected to begin in 2005 and to take two years.
See the recent
Palo Alto Weekly article.
Palo Alto Library History Explored
(10/3/04) Tom Wyman spoke
today about the creation of our library system and the challenges it faced over time
at the Lucie Stern Community Center at 1305
Middlefield Road. His talk, entitled Our Libraries -- Then and Now,
was well attended by the public. Tom serves on the Library Advisory
Commissioner and is the author of Palo Alto and Its Libraries: A Long-Time Love Affair.
He described some of the struggles dating back for a century to find space and
funding for our library and showed photos of the Carnegie
Library, which once stood on the corner of Bryant and Hamilton
but was demolished in 1967.
Kepler's Helps Palo Alto Libraries
(9/8/04) We'd like to thank Kepler's Books for their support of Palo Alto
libraries. Beginning on September 19, mention the "Friends
of the Palo Alto Library" when purchasing at Kepler's and 10% of
your purchase price will go to help the library. 5% of
your online purchases from Kepler's also goes to help the library
when you click here or on the word Kepler's on our web site.
Kepler's has designated September 19 as a special Library
Benefit day for the Friends.
By the way, Kepler's opened in
1955 and is the largest independent bookstore in our area.
They're located at 1010 El Camino Real in Menlo Park. Read about
Celebrate the Children's Library Birthday on September 15
(9/8/04) Palo Alto's unique
Children's Library celebrates its 64th birthday on September
15. Attend a wonderful party at 7 pm, with a Beatles sing-along,
activities, and a birthday cake. As the song goes, "Who could ask for
more?" This event is sponsored by the Friends of the Palo Alto
College Terrace Library Forum on September 23
(9/8/04) Help shape the future of our libraries at a community forum on September 23 from 7:30 to 9 pm at the
College Terrace branch.
This will be the final such forum this year, so if you haven't had a chance
to attend one, please do so. Library Director Paula Simpson will lead a discussion about cooperative programs, new and different services, civic involvement, and the vision for Palo Alto's library of the future. "In today's complex society, the library needs to be nimble and responsive to changing information needs, and deeply involved in community life," says
Paula. Refreshments will be served. For additional information, please contact
Paula at 329-2403 or
The forum is sponsored by the Library Advisory Commission.
Bargains, Bargains, On the Wall
(9/8/04) When you rush up to the cashiers in the main booksale room, be sure to
look at the special books for sale on the shelves opposite them.
You'll find autographed books, rare first editions, and other remarkable
finds. One book on the shelf this month is Writings and Drawings
by Bob Dylan, a 315+ page compendium of song lyrics and his own
illustrations. This is a first edition and sells for $20. You'll
also find a charming 1899 illustrated version of Joel Chandler
Harris's Uncle Remus for $15. What a great gift for a
child: a book from two centuries ago!
Main Library Homework Help Begins September 8
(9/8/04) Palo Alto students in grades six to eight can get free afterschool tutoring
and refreshments on Wednesdays at the Main Library, beginning September 8. This is a new
service, launched by a grant to the Friends of the Palo Alto
Library from the Palo Alto Weekly's Holiday Fund and with additional funds
supplied by the Friends. Two experienced homework helpers will be
available from 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm to help with language arts, math, science,
social studies, and health homework. The experimental service will run
through June of 2005. For more information, contact Laurie Hastings,
Teen Services Librarian, at the Main Library at 329-2664 or by
more about library teen services in the
Palo Alto Weekly article.
Our Volunteers Have More Fun
(9/8/04) Lots of people came to our Friends volunteer party on Labor Day to
celebrate how much fun it is to help our libraries (see some
Among them was Ed Rice, who has assisted customers at the booksale for about
three years. Ed says he enjoys the contact with customers of all ages
and especially loves to see people buy books for their kids, perhaps ones
that they themselves enjoyed when they were young. Another partygoer was
Suzanne Little, who has been helping sort incoming books, which lets her
"see the great variety of books coming in, plus meet and talk to all the
other volunteers." Suzanne now helps price and organize the main sale
room History and Political Science sections. Her biggest surprise
there: English history books are very popular, in Palo Alto of all places.
If you are interested in volunteering at the booksale or for
other activities of the Friends, please e-mail us at
email@example.com. There are always a lot of
fun projects going on, wonderful people to work with, and you'll be helping
to improve our libraries too.
Stanford Federal Credit Union Becomes Corporate Member
(8/11/04) We're very proud to announce a new member of the
Friends at the $1,000 corporate level: the Stanford Federal
Credit Union. The credit union, a nonprofit organization with
40,000 members, normally offers accounts and loans just to
people affiliated with Stanford and certain employers. However,
all members of the Friends of the Palo Alto Library are now
eligible to join the credit union as well. For more information
or to join the credit union, please contact them at (650)
723-2509 or via their website.
Commission Unanimously Recommends Downtown Library Saturday Hourss
(8/11/04) When the City Council allocated $35,000 on June 28 to
the library, with restoration of Saturday hours at the Downtown
branch in mind, they asked the Library Advisory Commission to
review the issue and make a recommendation back to the Council.
The Commission met on July 22 and discussed the issue at length,
including how much the Saturday service would cost (the Council
Budget Committee was told just $17,800 last year). All seven
commissioners then voted to recommend back to the Council that
the monies be used to cover the Saturday hours. The formal
recommendation will be drafted and voted on at the next
Commission meeting on September 30 at 7:30 pm and then sent on
to the City Council. We are very appreciative of the
commissioners for their support on this issue, and are eager to
have the Downtown Library reopen soon for Saturday customers.
wondered what it takes to run our huge booksale and many other
efforts on behalf of the libraries? For the twelve months
beginning July 2003, our 137 volunteers put in a total of
approximately 16,039 hours. That's the equivalent of about
eight full-time workers, and shows how much the Palo Alto
community truly cares about its libraries. These hard-working volunteers and our gracious donors keep our management and fundraising expenses to a minimum, and well below the 35% limit that the Better Business Bureau recommends for non-profits. Be sure to treat our
volunteers nicely as you rush by them at the sale. If you would like to
join this energetic group and help Palo Alto's libraries and our community,
check out our volunteer
Library Computers Are a Hit
for Internet access are extremely popular. During the library's
2002-2003 fiscal year, there were 98,480 separate sessions on
these computers, each typically lasting 30 minutes. In other
words, the library provided about 49,240 hours of free Internet
time to the public, which was up about 20% from the previous
year, and doesn't include wireless access for laptops. Kinko's
in Palo Alto charges $12 an hour for basic Internet computer
usage; at that rate, the free library service generated benefits
to the public alone worth $590,880, or more than 10% of the
entire library operating budget! The Friends of the Palo Alto
recently provided the library with extensive funds for more
computers, printers, and other equipment and wiring to help even
more people use the Internet at the library, thanks to a Cable
Co-op Legacy Grant.
Commission Unanimously Supports Downtown Library
(7/23/04) Good news! Palo Alto's Library Advisory Commission voted
unanimously on July 22 to use the $35,000 offered by the City
Council to restore Saturday hours at the Downtown Library. The
commission also discussed whether the branch should be
open from 11 am to 6 pm as before, or whether even more
customers could be served by shifting hours earlier to overlap
better with the Farmer’s Market, which runs from 8 am to noon.
The commission next needs to prepare and send its formal
recommendation to the Council. The Council will then vote on the
matter again. But since the Council already expressed its
preference that the $35,000 be used for Saturday hours at the
Downtown Library, we’re hopeful that the branch's doors will
open again on Saturdays within a few months. We'd like to thank the
Commission and Council members for their extraordinary support of the library
and hope to soon see the Downtown Library open again for Saturday users.
See a recent
Palo Alto Weekly article (which has a few errors) and
previous coverage by us.
So Many Books, Thanks to Incredible Donors!
(7/9/04) Our volunteers report that they've been happily working extra long hours to sort, price, and shelve all the new donations flowing in. So, if our staff seems a bit groggy and confused this time, you now know why. The good news is that all these books are on the shelves, ready for the sale.
Many people donate a single bag or box of books at a time at one of the Palo Alto library branches. Meanwhile, over 1,000 separate individuals and families have brought materials to donate in the last 12 months directly to our book room. All of these supporters of the library are real heroes, cleaning out their overstuffed shelves and looming stacks of books to create new readers and help fund the library.
Enjoy Reading with our Book Group
(7/9/04) The lively Friends
of the Palo Alto Library book group has been meeting for many years now to
discuss and enjoy a wide variety of contemporary books and occasional
classics too. Each month,
about a dozen people meet at 7:30 pm on the second Thursday of each month in the cheery
Fireside Room at the Lucie Stern Community Center to discuss a book chosen
by the group. Marilyn Williams, a retired social worker who attends almost every
month, says, "we are very welcoming to anyone new." Marilyn
has been part of the group for about 15 years and remembers back when it met
at the YWCA. She points out that it's much more fun to read a book
when you then get together with others to discuss it. She also finds
herself reading and enjoying books that she would never have encountered
herself, and appreciates how the other members help her discover new ways to
appreciate a book. In coming months, the book group will be discussing
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (August 12),
Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie (September 9), and
The Book of Salt by Monique Truong (December 9). See the
full list of books and
Online Book Sorting Contest Has a Winner
(7/9/04) Congratulations to all who entered our July online book
sorting contest, which ended at 5 pm on Friday, July 9. We're pleased to announce that the winner is
Don Godinez, who picked the same categories for four of the five books as our own
expert book sorter and booksale manager, Marty Paddock.
Because four other entrants scored as highly, we picked the
winner from among them by a drawing. Don receives not only our commendation but also a free
bag of books of his choice from our bargain room. Marty's
recommended answers to the contest were:
1. The Constant Gardener (by John Le Carré) goes under Mystery and Thriller, as that's where we put spy novels.
2. Trustee from the Tool Room (by Nevil Shute) belongs under Fiction.
3. Amazing Grace (by Jonathan Kozol, not the other less
well-known ones) belongs under Sociology, which is in the same sorting box as Archeology and Anthropology.
4. Paris Trout (by Pete Dexter) gets sorted into Fiction.
5. Jumbo Shrimp (by Jon Agee) belongs in Humor.
Saturday Library Hours May be Restored Downtown
The Friends of the Palo Alto Library, the
University South Neighborhood Association, and
many local residents wrote letters and spoke out
in support of restoring Saturday hours for the
Downtown Library at the June 28 City Council
meeting. The Downtown Library is the only
branch in Palo Alto without any weekend hours,
and since it also closes at 6 pm on the four
weekdays when it is open, many working people
and fulltime students can never use it. Until
June 2003, the branch was open on Saturdays and
Mondays as well, but it then lost both days
while other branches lost only one day or less
or even gained hours. In adopting the budget on
June 28, the Council allocated an extra $35,000
and asked the Library Advisory Commission and
the library staff to consider using this to
restore the Saturday hours. The Commission is
scheduled to discuss the issue during its July
22 meeting and make a recommendation back to the
Council by October. We'd like to thank the
Council for their extraordinary support of the
library and hope to soon see the Downtown
Library open again for Saturday users. See
Palo Alto Daily News article and
Palo Alto Weekly article.
Community Forum Brings Lots of Ideas for Library
(5/5/04) Last week's forum on
"Taking Palo Alto's Library to the Next Level" brought together
Palo Alto's new Library Director Paula Simpson and more than 60 people from all over our community. After
describing her background, Paula asked the group for suggestions as
to how to improve the libraries. This being Palo Alto, she got lots of ideas,
Keep lots of branches .. or have even more!
Expand evening hours
Expand morning hours
Expand weekend hours
Have more convenient places to plug in laptops to get
Internet access and power
Continue having a friendly staff
Join Link+ to facilitate the exchange of books with other
Bay Area libraries
Unify searches so that you can check the library, Google,
Amazon, and online library resources all at once
Join collectives, such as the Santa Clara County Library
Offer more resources to teens and young adults
Coordinate with school libraries to handle kids working on
homework during afternoons
Have more books-on-tape at the Main Library
Put out tax forms, with a sign saying not to ask the
librarians for assistance
Return to having tax forms available for copying
Get more space for the collections or be more efficient in
Let more people know about all the available resources
Expand the Downtown Library, both in size and hours
Have the Friends of the Palo Alto Library host more public
Have more online periodicals and journals
Coordinate better with the schools
Promote books that relate to Art Center and school
Become a model for how libraries can cooperate with schools
Share facilities with the schools, such as having the public
be able to use the Gunn library at night
Keep communicating with the schools
Have more computers and reference materials at the Downtown
Collaborate with others to get less-expensive online
Have little TVs with headsets so customers can watch or
Paula then asked how the libraries could fund these
improvements, which garnered:
Get City Council members to visit the libraries, so they'll
be more supportive
Have the City Council choose whether to have neighborhood or
centralized resources, so the libraries needn't debate this
Have neighborhood libraries attract more children, so as to
increase community support
Have a column in the Palo Alto Weekly that discusses new library
Tap companies in the Stanford Industrial Park for financial
support and other resources
Use more volunteers in the library
Have a new bond measure
Hire a grant writer
Encourage more corporate philanthropy
Find solutions to criticisms of Measure D before asking for
a new bond
Have a library-only bond measure
Include operating costs in new bond/tax measures
Emphasize the importance of libraries prior to the bond
Encourage the state to lower the threshold for bond passage
Ask wealthy donors to help out more
With so many active library supporters at the meeting, it was a
very productive and energizing event. We'd like to thank
all the community members who attended as well as Paula, her staff, and the Friends' Events, Membership, and
Publicity committees for all their efforts to make it happen.
Alto Weekly article.
A Great Night for our Libraries
City Council meeting on Monday, March 1 was a wonderful night
for Palo Alto's libraries. The Council voted to appoint
Paula Simpson as Palo Alto's new Library
Director, a position vacant since Mary Jo Levy retired in
2002. Paula, who is currently the Library Director of the Monterey Public
Library, will be starting in her new post on March 22. The
Council also voted to approve our lease for two rooms in the
Cubberley K wing, which will enable us to expand our monthly
booksale operation. Another Council action approved the
contract between the Friends, the Palo Alto Library Foundation,
and the City for the $2.1 million addition and repairs to the Children's
Library, with construction scheduled to begin in 2005.
Finally, the Foundation and the Friends announced the official
dedication of the fireplace and hearth of the renovated
Children's Library in the name of Katy Obringer, long-time
Children's librarian. We thank the City Council and
congratulate Paula and Katy and all the many volunteers and
donors who worked so hard to make these marvelous events
Paula Simpson's Remarks to City Council
her appointment on March 1, new Palo Alto Library Director Paula
Simpson made the following remarks to the City Council:
Mayor and members of the City Council,
What an honor it is to stand here tonight as your new Director
of Libraries for the City of Palo Alto. I am so excited
about this opportunity - to be part of the library team, and to
become an active member of your community.
Contrary to what some
might say about the demise of public libraries, what with the
Internet and cafe bookstores and such, I believe libraries today
are more important than ever. Libraries open the door to
books and learning for all. They connect their communities
with the knowledge and cultures of the world.
Your libraries are
strong and vital ones, and I look forward to helping lead them
to the next level. And I'm really glad you confirmed my
appointment, since I've already submitted my letter of
resignation, and the movers are coming on Thursday! Thank
you once again, and I look forward to working with you.
City Survey and Auditor Looks at Libraries
Alto's City Auditor recently published the results of a 1,200
person survey that rates various city services. 81% of the
survey respondents who expressed an opinion on the Palo Alto
libraries felt that they were either excellent or good.
Similarly, 77% thought that the variety of library material was either excellent or good and 73% said that of the branch
libraries. These are not, however, exceptional
scores. The first two questions have also been asked in
many other U.S. cities, and Palo Alto's ratings are slightly
below the national averages.
The survey also found that 31% of Palo Altans
used the libraries or their services more than 12 times during
The City Auditor compared Palo Alto's
library costs and activities to those of neighboring cities,
finding that Palo Alto spends more per
capita on its libraries than our immediate neighbors, but less
than Burlingame and Berkeley. Library visits in Palo Alto
have risen by 20% over the last five years to 905,248 for
2002-2003 while per capita expenditures have risen 15%, total
hours open have declined slightly, and reference questions asked have dropped
by 19% down to 88,759 per year. Family program
attendance at libraries has surged by 36% from five years ago,
with 33,625 people attending some 517 separate library events offered during
the 2002-2003 year. We're very pleased that the Friends of
the Palo Alto Library sponsors many of these events, using
funds raised from memberships, donations, and our booksales.
New Library Director Nominated
Simpson, currently the Library Director of the Monterey Public
Library, has been nominated to become Palo Alto's new Library
Director, a position vacant since Mary Jo Levy retired in
2002. If the City Council votes in
early March to appoint
Paula, she could begin to serve as early as March
22. Paula earned a master's degree in library science from the University of
Minnesota and has worked in libraries in Oregon, Indiana, and Illinois. We're
all looking forward to meeting Paula and welcoming her to Palo Alto.
city press release.
Congress Grants $100,000 to Children's Library Project
federal legislation signed into law on January 23 provides $100,000 for
renovations and restoration of the Palo Alto Children’s Library. Last year, Congress awarded
$90,000 in funds to the project. The design for the renovated and expanded library will commence in the
next few months, with construction anticipated to begin in early 2005. See
Alto City Government Press Release and more about the Children's
Children's Library Expansion and Repair project is excited to
have met its 2003 goal of raising $1.1 million.
Starting with an anonymous donation of $150,000 to the Friends
of the Palo Alto Library in early 2003, and a pledge of $200,000
more in matching funds, the Friends, the Palo Alto Library
Foundation, the Library Advisory Commission, and the City of
Palo Alto raised the remaining $750,000 from community donations. Meanwhile, the
City of Palo Alto will supply $1.2 million of its own so that
construction can begin in 2005. However, the project now
needs to raise $200,000 for furniture, fixtures, and equipment for the expanded and remodeled library.
Your donation can help this
San Jose Mercury article, pictures
of the expansion, pictures of the September 14 kickoff
party, and an early Palo Alto
2003 Library and
Friends of the Library News