What's that odd woolly monster doing in the new Children's Library? We
thought it might be a giant bookworm hungry for books to consume, but it's
actually rolled-up straw that goes outside and directs rainwater away from the
When Hewlett-Packard's scientific research library in Palo Alto decided to
downsize a few months ago, it offered us a "large number of books" and
publications. That turned out to be almost 400 boxes of books and
journals, which by extraordinary effort our volunteers brought over to our book
sale and sorted through this past month.
Among the many interesting books are S. H. Kaisler's INTERLISP, the Language and Its Usage, N. J. Cutland's Computability: An Introduction to Recursive Function Theory, and Computability by George Tourlakis. The many proceedings include the Asilomar Conference on Signals, Systems and Computers (SS&C), the International Joint Conference on Neural Networks (IJCNN), and the IEEE International Conference on Image Processing (ICIP).
Some of these items will be displayed on our regular science and computer shelves in the Main and Bargain rooms. Others will be located on the specials tables and shelves where the Main Room checkout line forms. We exhausted all of our space, so journals of lesser interest have been passed along already to a technical university in India. We'd like to acknowledge Hewlett-Packard for providing this donation and the heroic effort of our volunteers in processing it. This is a wonderful community-minded gift that we and our customers really appreciate.
(10/11/06) We're sorry to report that long-time Palo Alto bookstore Megabooks has closed its doors. Located on University Avenue for many years, the store held its final sale in mid-September and then donated 384 boxes of books to our booksale, as well as some furniture and supplies. It took a dozen of our volunteers to carry all the books off. Our thanks to Megabooks and also to Faith Bell of Bell's Books for her assistance.
Our Annual Meeting on Thursday, October 19 will include a mini-booksale inspired
by the many countries that Los Angeles Times reporter Richard Paddock, the evening's
speaker, has covered. Richard served overseas in almost 50 countries, including Russia, Indonesia, and Iraq.
He covered such events as the killing of civilians by U.S. troops in Iraq, the
Bali nightclub bombing, the resurgence of headhunting in Borneo, and the Indian
Richard also explored remote parts of Asia and the South Pacific and wrote unusual feature stories, such as the use of giant stone money on the Micronesian island of Yap. He will talk about the life of a foreign correspondent, the dangers of working as an American journalist overseas, and how the United States is viewed from abroad.
The annual meeting will also feature the yearly election of our board members and officers. The nominees for 2007-2008 board seats are Rudy Batties, John Burt, Gretchen Emmons, Jeff Levinsky, Gerry Masteller, Enid Pearson, Gloria Reade, Steve Staiger, and Ellen Wyman. The nominees for next year's officers are Betsy Allyn as President, Martha Schmidt as Vice President, Margarita Quihuis as Secretary, Jeff Levinsky as Treasurer, and John Burt as Assistant Treasurer.
The meeting includes refreshments, is free to the public, and begins at 7:30 pm at the Palo Alto Arts Center Auditorium at 1313 Newell Road.
On September 28, Palo Alto's Library Advisory Commission reviewed the library
collection policies and expenditures to consider what improvements to propose for an
upcoming library ballot measure. Palo Alto currently enjoys one of the largest
collections and collection budgets in California among cities of our size.
Palo Altans also check out among the most items per capita in the
state, for a total circulation of 1.3 million in the
2005-2006 fiscal year. This was approximately the same as the previous year and
close to our all-time record, even though the Children's Library closed in
December 2005 for a two-year renovation and expansion and the loan period
lengthened in July 2005 from three to four weeks, which generally lowers circulation.
During 2005-2006, the Mitchell Park branch checked out 525,105 items, up 8% from the previous year. Combined, the Main Library and the nearby Children's Library circulated 613,271 items, declining 7% from the prior year perhaps because of the longer loan period and closure. The smaller Downtown Library checked out 49,962 items, up 19% from the year before, while the College Terrace Library circulated 89,146 items, down by 7%. In addition, 3,063 e-books were checked out over the Internet.
The library staff observed that if the quality is maintained a smaller collection can serve as well as a larger one. As an example, Mitchell Park's collection of 79,165 items generated almost as many checkouts this past year as Main's and Children's combined but is only about half the size.
Books remain popular, accounting for about 60% of overall circulation, with DVDs and videos representing another 24%. Music CDs, books on CD, and other items make up the remainder.
Library Director Diane Jennings noted that duplication in the collection isn't that different from cities with just one library, which also acquire multiple copies of high-demand titles. The main impact of Palo Alto's multiple branches on collections is the purchase of extra copies of magazines, newspapers, and popular children's and teen paperback series.
The staff suggested a number of ways to improve the collection, but Commission members expressed concerns about costs, benefits, and how to apportion extra funds among branches. The commissioners selected four top recommendations from among the options presented by staff: spend over $1 million to enlarge Mitchell Park's collection to 150,000 items if the building is expanded or replaced, provide $4,000 more each year to improve the variety of e-books, spend $3,300 annually to support a children's collection at Main after the Children's Library reopens, and buy $31,600 of additional materials a year for the College Terrace and Downtown branches. Library staff will come back with more information on some of the other proposed options.
The Commission will hold three more meetings on its proposed library upgrades, which also include replacing or expanding the Mitchell Park library and extending hours at most branches. The public is invited to attend the meetings, which are always held at 7 pm at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave, or to email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. The remaining meetings and topics are:
October 12 - new library technology
October 26 - capital expenditures and staffing
November 16 - final review before presentation to City Council
After a nationwide search, Palo Alto librarian Diane Jennings was named in
September as the City's new library director. Diane has served twice as Palo
Alto's interim library director, first in 2002-2004 and then again this year,
and also for many years as the familiar head of the Main Library.
Diane has an undergraduate degree from Duke University, a masters in library science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and another masters in Political Science with an emphasis on Public Administration from Virginia Tech. She began working for the Palo Alto City Library in 1986 when she and her husband came west for his doctoral studies at Stanford.
We congratulate Diane on her new (but familiar) position and wish her the best of success.
Recent Foreword newsletter profile Palo Alto Weekly article
Palo Alto's multi-million dollar renovation and expansion of the Children's Library is making great strides.
As the picture shows,
the cement floor has now been
poured, so it's much easier to walk around inside the building. The checkout area
and staff areas on the west side of the building have been framed in, as have the
nearby loading dock and the area for librarians in the new wing.
(9/6/06) Make history this fall by joining the largest book club Palo Alto has ever
seen: Palo Alto Reads … Funny in Farsi. Everyone is invited to read
the same great book at
the same time -
in Farsi: A Memoir of
Growing Up Iranian in America by Palo Alto
resident, Firoozeh Dumas.
Dumas was born in Abadan, Iran and moved to Whittier, California at the age of seven. After a two-year stay, she and her family moved back to Iran and lived in Ahvaz and Tehran. Two years later, they moved back to Whittier, then to Newport Beach. Firoozeh then attended U.C. Berkeley where she met and married a Frenchman.
Palo Alto Reads will kick off Tuesday, October 10 at 7:30 pm with An Evening With Firoozeh Dumas at Palo Alto High School’s Haymarket Theater. The event is presented by the Palo Alto City Library, the Friends of the Palo Alto Library, the Palo Alto Unified School District and the Palo Alto High PTSA. Kepler’s Books will sell copies at the event.
The Library will subsequently host a month-long series of free public events around themes in the book:
October 15 - Teen/Parent book discussion on Funny in Farsi. Persian treats and tea served. 3:30 pm, Mitchell Park Library.
October 19 - Friends of the Palo Alto Library Annual Meeting with guest speaker Richard C. Paddock, an LA Times journalist who had two recent Baghdad assignments. 7:30 pm, Palo Alto Art Center Auditorium.
October 20 - A Persian Excursion celebrating Middle Eastern cultures with poetry, dance and music. Persian refreshments served. 7:30 pm, Main Library.
October 24 - Book Discussion Group - Funny in Farsi. Bring your lunch. Persian treats and tea. Noon, Downtown Library.
October 25 - After School Special: Tales from the Arabian Nights for grades K-5. 3:30 pm, Main Library.
November 1 - Starlight Special: Roya Ansari presents Iran—Ancient Land, Civilization, People and Culture for ages 4 & up. 7:00 pm, Mitchell Park Library.
November 4 - The Future of US/Iran Relations with Reza Aslan, NPR commentator and author of No God But God: the Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam. 7:00 pm, Cubberley Theater.
November 8 - Book Discussion Group: Funny in Farsi. Persian treats and tea served. 7:30 pm, College Terrace Library.
You can read comments on the book and add your own at the Palo Alto Reads Blog and find more information at the Palo Alto Reads website. Our thanks to the generous donors who contributed to this project.
Hidden under the floor of the remodeled Children's Library will be forty pipes, each
going forty stories underground and coming back up. On warm
days, water will be pumped down into the pipes, where it will be cooled by
the deep groundwater below and then brought back up to the surface.
There, it will enter heat exchangers that cool the air inside the library
and keep everyone comfortable.
According to City Project Engineer Debra Jacobs, this "ground source heat pump system" can reduce cooling costs by 25% to 30%, plus it is quieter, simpler, and more compact than other cooling methods. Space was a special concern because the historic building had no suitable location for conventional equipment. The same system will also help heat the building on cold days, since the underground water generally stays at about 55 degrees regardless of the season.
The Children's Library is scheduled to reopen in 2007. In the meantime, see lots of other photographs of the latest activity. Photo credit: Barbara Silberling.
(9/6/06) At our Annual Meeting on October 19 (see Palo Alto Reads article in this issue), the yearly election of board members and officers will take place. The nominees for 2007-2008 board seats are Rudy Batties, John Burt, Gretchen Emmons, Jeff Levinsky, Gerry Masteller, Enid Pearson, Gloria Reade, Steve Staiger, and Ellen Wyman. The nominees for next year's officers are Betsy Allyn as President, Martha Schmidt as Vice President, Margarita Quihuis as Secretary, Jeff Levinsky as Treasurer, and John Burt as Assistant Treasurer.
(9/6/06) The City has announced that the cost of physical remodeling the Main Library may be about $225,000 instead of the projected $130,000. The funds will pay to replace the large circulation desk by a small reference desk, relocate check-in activities into the rear of the building, and create a periodical reading area behind the present video section. The remodeling is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Find what you want on the Internet faster by taking the new "Search Like
a Pro" class at the Main Library. Sessions of the free
one-hour class will be held at 10 am on September 20, November 15, and
December 6. When you register
or via forms available at the libraries, please indicate what you want to
learn more about.
You can also learn how to use the library's electronic catalog at a free class on either October 4 and 18, also from 10 to 11 am at the Main Library.
The Library Advisory Commission is adding extra meetings to work on its
proposed library upgrades, which currently include a new or expanded
Mitchell Park library, longer hours at most branches, and an expanded
collection. The public is invited to attend the meetings, which are always
held at 7 pm at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave, or to email comments to
email@example.com. The upcoming meetings and
September 14 - partnerships between the library and Palo Alto schools
September 28 - library collection improvements
October 12 - new library technology
October 26 - the costs of the proposal
November 16 - final review before presentation to City Council
The City Council currently envisions that the public will be asked to vote on the proposals in June of 2008. Because many of the improvements entail ongoing operating expenses that a construction bond cannot pay for, a recent City document instead projected using a library parcel tax to raise an estimated annual cost of $3.8 million, which works out to approximately $196 per parcel owner. By contrast, the library/community center bond measure known as Measure D that failed in 2002 would have cost the median homeowner $80 a year. Part of the difference comes from switching to a parcel tax, which generally taxes expensive properties the same as less-expensive ones, rather than using a construction bond, which taxes each property based on its value.
(9/6/06) Recent visitors to our Main Room sale may have noticed that the two entrance ramps had huge pieces of the surfaces chipped away. Although just a few years old, the surface material was unable to take the heavy load of countless cartloads of donated books hauled into the room and disintegrated into dust. This month, you'll find both ramps looking new and pristine, thanks to a recent major resurfacing. No bets on how long the new surface lasts - some of those donations are very heavy!
Those who can never find time to read all the interesting books out there may
happy to hear that fewer books were published in the United States during 2005
than the preceding year. According to
from bibliographic information provider
Bowker, 172,000 new titles and editions came out last year, down
18,000 from the year before.
It's not that simple, however. Across the Atlantic, publishers in Great Britain put out 206,000 new titles in 2005, an astonishing 45,000 more than in 2004. So the total number of new English-language titles actually rose.
Worse, 2004 was a record year for U.S. publishers, so 2005's lowered output is still the second-best ever. You'll never catch up!
We want to thank all 155 volunteers who have helped out with the
booksale and other Friends activities during the past fiscal year (July 2005
through June 2006). Contributing some 23,886 hour in total, the
volunteers pushed boxes
of books around, sorted, priced, shelved, cashiered, assisted customers, cleaned up, publicized,
tallied, and organized everything
from our bookkeeping to parties. Thanks to all these volunteers, we
kept our overhead extremely low, with management and fundraising expenses well under 1%!
This past month, our regular volunteers were swamped by all the incoming book donations. Luckily many local kids taking a Living Skills course in which they contribute 15 hours a month to local nonprofits came to help us out. These students have worked hard, accomplishing much more than asked, and many put in more than the 15 hours. You may see them around the sale staffing the extra book tables outside the Main Room and receiving book donations that come in during the sale.
Here's a two-month advanced notice for October, when members of the
Friends of the Palo Alto Library will be admitted early to the Main Room
sale. On Saturday, October 14, life members will get in at 9 am and can
purchase up to 50 books during that hour. At 10 am, the rest of our
members will be admitted and everyone can buy the usual 12 books at a time.
At 11 am, the public will be admitted and the limit on 12 books at a time will
expire at noon.
The tickets given out that month will be for the 10 am line, since most people who come early are members of the Friends. Each member will get just one ticket, although members at the $25 through $250 levels get to bring in their families.
Regular membership in the Friends is only $15 ($10 for students and seniors, $25 for families) and is tax-deductible. Members also receive a discount coupon for the sale, discounts at Books Inc. at the Stanford Shopping Center, and eligibility for the Stanford Federal Credit Union. If you're not a member, avoid delay at the October sale by joining online right now.
Palo Alto will vote in June 2008 on an enlarged Mitchell Park library, longer hours at smaller branches,
and other improvements, according to current city plans.
As discussed by the Library Advisory Commission on July 27, the Mitchell Park library will remain at the east end of the park, although perhaps relocated slightly to facilitate dropoffs and automobile traffic. The new or expanded building might house 120,000 to 150,000 books and other items, up significantly from the present 79,000. Quiet and small-group study areas may be added, as will a flexible program room, while areas serving children and teens will likely be enlarged. The building might also include a small café and booksale area.
The City Council recently funded a $200,000 architectural study of the Mitchell Park library site, with results expected later this year.
Upgrades at the Main Library are also being considered, including adding quiet and group study areas and a humidity-controlled room for the historical collection.
As currently proposed, the Mitchell Park branch will stay open four more hours a week, matching the 62 hours that the Main Library presently offers. The Children’s Library will gain two hours a week, while the College Terrace and Downtown libraries will both add Sunday hours and remain open until 8 pm on two weekdays, for a gain of 11 hours each.
The city is also examining library efficiency, with the City Auditor expected to issue a report by spring of 2007 while the library staff work on their own recommendations. The City Council has additionally directed library staff to propose how to use a consultant to help Palo Alto use technology to provide greater access to other resources, such as the vast Link+ university/public library collection or possibly other consortia.
With the exception of the auditor’s report, the plan is expected to come before the City Council by this December to decide what to put on the ballot. To learn more or provide input, we recommend you read the latest version of the plan, attend the next Library Advisory Commission meeting on August 24 at 7 pm at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave, or email the commission at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous coverage.
(8/9/06) The City of Palo Alto is projecting that most baby boomers who live here now won't want to move away, meaning that the city's population will get older over time. To plan for this, the City is proactively asking boomers what services they'll want more of, including libraries ... something we just happen to be particularly partial to. If you were born between 1946 and 1964, you can take the City's survey online or via forms available at the libraries.
(8/9/06) Congratulations to Chris LaRoche for suggesting EdJoo and Kate as the names of the two books in our logo. Chris wins a $25 gift certificate for Hobee's Restaurant, whom we thank for their generous support of our sale.
(7/5/06) Our booksale has been going gangbusters in the last months. For the fiscal year ending June 2006, the sale grossed more than $231,400, which is 20% higher than the previous year. Over $22,000 of books sold in just June alone, or more than in an entire year a decade ago. That puts us 20% ahead of the previous year, even though we have the same hours and floor space. Thanks go to everyone for making this a record year, including customers, donors, volunteers, members, library staff, and the City.
(7/5/06) The Palo Alto City Council voted on June 12 to commission a study of different scenarios
for replacing or enlarging the Mitchell Park Library. At least four
options will be explored: replacing the library building, replacing just the
adjacent Community Center but adding more space to the library as well,
replacing both buildings, and putting a new library in the parking lot on
the south before removing the old library. The study will determine
how big the library needs to be and provide estimated construction costs.
Because the city's Public Works Department will be heavily involved with the study, it requested that some other project on its schedule be delayed. As a result, mechanical improvements to the College Terrace Library will be deferred.
The Mitchell Park library study is part of an overall effort to improve Palo Alto libraries, with funding contingent on a ballot measure slated for June 2008. The overall plan had been expected to go to the City Council in September, but the Council deferred that until December to allow the Mitchell Park study's results to be included. See a range of opinions about the library proposals in our recent Foreword newsletter and our previous coverage.
(7/5/06) Happy 75th Birthday to Althea Andersen, our assistant booksale manager. Althea is a retired library director and a longtime volunteer at our booksale. When she's not selling ephemera outside the Main Room or pricing books on the Sports, Transportation, "Old Books," and "Curious Books" shelves, she hauls donated books around in her pickup truck. That inspired her cake decoration at the surprise birthday party our booksale volunteers held for her. Photo credit: Ed Rice.
(7/5/06) We're glad to see our group covered in the July 5 Palo Alto Weekly issue noting
Palo Alto's cadre of Friends organizations. The article, unfortunately, had
some significant factual
errors. For example, it states that our endowment
fund is $1.3 million. Actually, the fund is less than $0.3 million and
represents just about one year of operations.
The article also states, "City leaders don't know why they don't receive more of [our] donations." We have actually given over $1,000,000 in recent years to the Palo Alto Library and actively fund numerous programs, large and small. We have also discussed with library officials possible funding for new initiatives, including the Link+ interlibrary loan system and expanded collections, which was the most requested item by Palo Alto residents in the recent city-wide library survey.
The article goes on to state that we "withdrew funds" from a homework helper program because we didn't like the way "it was run". The article does explain that the city hadn't been using our past funds as promised to provide actual homework assistance, but rather to manage the sign-up list for computer use. Unreported was that we nevertheless offered to continue the $20,000 in annual funding but simply asked that the library consult with the school district to help locate a qualified tutor, since the tutor was intended primarily to serve children from the neighboring middle school. Based on that one additional request, the library director rejected the money and the library tutoring program ceased.
Finally, the article does not mention the conscientious effort we expend to ensure that the money we give to the libraries goes to benefit all the branches and Palo Alto's library patrons. Grant-making organizations know that responsible giving and accountability are vital to good philanthropy. It would be irresponsible for us to not exercise care in disbursing the funds we receive from the generosity and combined efforts of our donors, members, customers, and some 140 volunteers.
(7/5/06) If you enjoyed reading Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, you might just like Yevgeny Yevtushenko's Don't Die before You're Dead. So says the library's new NoveList online service, which takes any novel you enter and leads you to others similar in subject matter, time period, genre, author, style, and so forth. In this case, both novels are about a cast of characters struggling during a time of grim Russian revolutionary politics. NoveList contains information on over 135,000 fiction titles with mini-reviews of many, plus has lists of books by genre as an alternative to searching. Perhaps you'll find your next favorite summer read this way. Try it right now or go to the library's Resources Online page, scroll down to the Literature & Reading section, and click on NoveList. You'll need your library card to gain access.
(7/5/06) Library Director Paula Simpson is leaving Palo Alto to move to Seattle with her new husband. There will be a public party for her at the Downtown Library on Friday, July 7 at 3-5 pm, with the refreshments funded by the Friends of the Palo Alto Library. Meanwhile, the city has hired search firm Library Associates of Beverley Hills to find a successor. It should come as no surprise to Palo Altans that their job notice stated that the position is for a "highly visible" organization.
(7/5/06) Another new resource helps you find magazines and newspapers across the library's print and online collections. So when you come across a reference to an old article, this service will help you track down quickly if the library has the full text and where. Often, you'll be able to read the article immediately online. This service references some 7,621 periodicals, ranging from AAAS Report to Zoobooks. To use this service, have your library card ready, go to library's Resources Online page, and click on E-Journal.
(7/5/06) Work continues on the expansion and renovation of the Children's Library, shown here from the front between a storage container and a dumpster to haul away debris. The library is expected to reopen in under two years. Photo credit: Barbara Silberling.
(7/5/06) You may know Piazza Supermarket as the grocery store just to the north of our booksale, where you can get coffee or something from their deli counter. They are also a great supporter of our sale, providing us with grocery bags for customers' purchases, especially for the Sunday bag sale at the Bargain Room. More than once, they've even helped us out in the middle of a sale when we found ourselves running out of bags.
(6/7/06) Here's a peek at the Children's Library as of this Monday, June 5. The outer wall on the west side and the attached porch have been removed to prepare for the extension that will be built on this end. A larger wing will be added on the other side. The Magic Garden area is fenced off in the background. The entire renovation and expansion of the library is expected to take two years to complete.
Palo Alto offers access to over 10,000 magazines and newspapers online
including Consumer Reports, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the
Wall Street Journal. This staggering collection includes many millions
of articles from previous and often current issues, either as full-text or
abstracts. Not only are these articles fully searchable in just
seconds, but you can access them at any hour from home, school, or office
with your Palo Alto library card and avoid paying the typical online
subscription fee that these publications charge.
Here's a quick taste of how easily you can search Consumer Reports online for a product review:
1) Go to the library's Online Resources page and click on the top left entry entitled "General Reference Center".
2) Type in your library card number.
3) Type in the product name you are looking for in the top box and "Consumer Reports" in the bottommost box. You may also want to select the option for searching the entire article contents.
4) Click on the Search button and select among the articles that come up.
For example, a search on "Prius" using the above steps takes you to an article comparing it with other like cars in the February 2006 issue, along with 82 other citations.
(6/7/06) The library is holding two summer reading programs this year. Children
up through the fifth grade can join
Paws, Claws, Scales and Tales by setting a goal for the number of books read or listened to during the
summer. Various branches will also host a series of
Wacky Wednesday events for kids each week at 3:30 pm.
Sixth through twelfth graders can set their summer reading goal in the teen program called Creature Feature.
The signup period for both programs is June 15 through July 31. Click on the appropriate program name above for information on how to enroll. Upon reaching their reading goals, participants receive a certificate, a free paperback book, a coupon for a free pizza at Round Table, and other surprises. Teens are eligible for a drawing for an Apple iPod Shuffle. Prizes will be awarded August 1 through August 20. These programs are sponsored by local merchants and the Friends of the Palo Alto Library.
(6/7/06) The U.S. used book market topped $2.2 billion in 2004, according to the Book Industry Study Group. Their recently-released report cites the Internet as helping sell over 111 million used books in 2004. Still, this represents only 8.4% of total consumer spending on books, suggesting there is considerable room for growth.
(6/7/06) Free one-hour classes are again being held on how to use the library's online catalog, including how to search for books, place holds, and review your account. The sessions are held every second week beginning with Wednesday, June 14 at 10 am at the Main Library. You'll need just basic computer skills and to pre-enroll at 329-2436 (at prompt, please press 2), by email, or online. More information.
(5/20/06) On Monday, May 15, City Council members discussed the evolving
library plan, a
minority report, community input
(see sidebar), and concerns from the public, especially about the cost and size
of the project. The Council decided to focus the proposal more on the upgrading of Mitchell Park Library and
away from controversial aspects such as a substantial increase in
operating hours and diminished scope of the four other libraries in the city.
According to the City Manager, the Council conceptually approved the following
key concepts in the draft recommendations:
• Maintain all current library locations
• Expand and/or improve access to services and collections and seek technological and other efficiencies
• Upgrade Mitchell Park library services from branch library resource levels without downgrading Main Library.
Further, the Council said that the City's general fund should not be expected to fund service level improvements or capital costs. Instead, additional funding will need to come from a parcel tax or other tax measure.
The Council also gave this guidance to the LAC:
• Determine methods to reduce library operating costs.
• Determine size requirements for Mitchell Park Library.
• Determine facilities growth requirements (if any) at other libraries.
• Explicitly describe service levels at Main/Newell and maintain service for adults, teens and children.
• Maintain collections for 4th and 5th graders at Children's Library.
• Identify strategies and funding for increasing collections.
• Provide more analysis of strategies related to City/School partnerships.
• Prepare preliminary cost models/projections/estimates for capital and staffing needs.
• Develop scaled versions of the recommendations, with costs.
• Outline consequences to the libraries if new funding is not approved.
The Council directed the LAC to return to the Council with the final report by September 11, 2006.
Recent Palo Alto Weekly articles on the Council decision and north vs. south Palo Alto. Previous coverage.
(5/10/06) We have over 100 wonderful books to auction off this Sunday at 2 pm. Many of these are first editions, antiquarian items, or inscribed by the author. You'll be able to preview all auction books from 10:30 am on Sunday until 1:30 pm in room K5, which is right next to our Children's Room in K6. The auction will be held in room K5 as well. See the full list of books, which explains how you may bid by email if you can't attend the auction.
(5/10/06) Palo Altans use their libraries more than people in other comparably-sized cities in California. According to a just-released State Librarian report, Palo Alto ranks first among 26 cities with populations of 50,000 to 70,000 in items circulated per capita during 2004-2005. Palo Alto ranked second in library visits per capita only to Cerritos, which recently expanded its library. Palo Alto also runs a close second in books per capita, being edged out by Palos Verdes. Even with the Children's Library closed, things look good for our standings in 2005-2006 as well, since the library reports that circulation is up at all branches for the first months of this year.
At three community meetings held so far across Palo Alto, dozens of
residents have asked questions and voiced opinions about the Library
Advisory Commission's newly proposed
long-term library plan.
The draft plan contemplates constructing a new combination "full-service" library and community center with underground parking at Mitchell Park, replacing the present buildings but not extending into the park. Several meeting participants spoke in favor of the proposed new building while others called for preserving the present library or just expanding it. The new facility would be smaller than the 71,500 square foot Mitchell Park project proposed in 2002 as part of Measure D. That measure, which would have also substantially expanded the Children's Library and freed up funds to improve the Art Center, received 61.5% of the vote, falling shy of the 2/3 margin needed for passage.
The Commission's new plan goes further than Measure D by proposing significant expansion of library hours, community outreach, technology services, and staff training. Cost estimates are not yet available, in part because the Commission is first hoping to gauge support at the conceptual level. However, some attendees expressed concern about the high cost and concern over getting 2/3 of voters to approve it. Library construction costs have also risen considerably faster than inflation since 2002.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the plan is that it would "scale back collections and services" at other branches to narrow their focus. For example, the Children's Library would focus less on grades 4 and 5, the College Terrace and Downtown branches would lose reference and other materials, and the Main Library would concentrate more on research. Consistent with their diminished scope, the Main Library would be renamed the Newell or E. D. Stone Branch, and the Downtown Library would become the Forest Branch. A number of attendees perceived these changes as diminishing the four North Palo Alto libraries, and commissioners expressed some openness to reworking these parts of the plan.
Some residents questioned whether a new Mitchell Park library would prove expensive to operate and precipitate closing or shrinking other branches, something the Commission, City Manager, and library staff have recommended in previous years. Commissioners responded that they felt the plan strengthened the branches, but acknowledged they had not recommended that the City Council work in a guarantee of branch continuity.
To learn more, read the draft plan online. You can also attend the Wednesday, May 10 meeting at Main Library, upcoming Library Advisory Commission Thursday meetings on May 14 and May 28 at City Hall, or the Monday May 18 City Council meeting that will discuss the draft plan, also at City Hall. All four meetings begin at 7 pm. You can also email comments to the commission or to the City Council.
(5/10/06) Here's what our book group will be reading over the coming year, as chosen
at their meeting last month. The group
meets from 7:30 to 9 pm on the second Thursday of every month at the Lucie Stern
Community Center Fireside Room at 1305 Middlefield Road. Click on any
title to read more it:
|Date||Title and Author|
|May 11, 2006||Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett|
|June 8||The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson|
|July 13||Close Range by Annie Prioux|
|August 10||The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich|
|September 14||Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See|
|October 12||The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa|
|November 9||Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy|
|December 14||Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe|
|January 11, 2007||Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks|
|February 8||The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr|
|March 8||Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Greer|
|April 12||Choose the next eleven books|
Using radio tags to help automate the Palo Alto Library does not appear to be cost-effective,
according to data in a recently-completed $45,000
The idea was to put a tiny radio device, known as RFID or Radio Frequency
Identification tags, in every book, DVD, and other library item. This would simplify checkout,
as the radio tags would automatically communicate with the checkout machine rather than your having to scan each book.
The radio tags would also serve as security devices by triggering an alert
if taken from the library without being checked out. Most importantly,
the radio tags would save 1,805 to 3,610 staff hours per year
when used with equipment that automatically checks returned items back in and then sorts them onto carts for reshelving.
Check-in is typically handled now by Palo Alto library staff who earn $15 per hour (including benefits) and by volunteers, so the annual savings would be at most $54,150. However, the estimated annual maintenance costs for the RFID tags and associated equipment is at least $153,000. Hence, switching to RFID tags would likely create a deficit each year instead of generating savings. It would thus be impossible to recoup the $1,223,000 or higher initial investment required for the tags, equipment, and installation. There would also be no actual savings to fund other library operations.
These findings mirror a 2004 article in Library Journal, which notes that RFID is "seductive" but found that, "No published studies yet exist presenting quantifiable evidence that RFID provides greater gains than expenditures."
Palo Alto's study evaluated putting resorting equipment into each Palo Alto library branch, although that is probably impractical at the smaller ones. It also priced out trucking books to a shared rented facility, sorting them there, and then shipping them back to each branch. The latter option turns out to be more expensive, especially as an error in the report understated the annual rent by $176,000.
The ACLU and other organizations have raised concerns that RFID tags on library books permit a determined third-party to discover which titles you check out. One such scenario would use radio equipment to detect the tags in your home and then match those up against the books once returned to the library. The study discounts these privacy concerns, noting that RFID tags can be read from "typically no greater than two feet," but this applies only to tag readers used by libraries themselves, and not to equipment intended to violate privacy.
The Palo Alto City Council funded the study, which was conducted by RMG Consultants of Chicago. The Council also set aside $600,000 for RFID implementation, which remains available for future projects.
Palo Alto's Police Building Blue Ribbon Task Force voted unanimously on
April 19 to drop the Downtown Library as a possible location for a new police station.
Community members and the Friends of the Palo Alto Library had raised many concerns about tearing down the branch. The existing library building has many mature trees, pleasant courtyards, and a design praised by members of the city's own Architectural Review Board.
In both 1999 and 2000, the City also considered replacing the Downtown Library by a police station, but eventually focused on other sites after community outcry. See Palo Alto Weekly article and our coverage below.
On April 6, Palo Alto's Police Building Blue Ribbon Task Force
opted to consider three additional sites for a new police station rather
than pursuing only the controversial Downtown Library and California Avenue
parking lot locations.
If a new police station were to go on the Downtown Library site, three possible locations for the library itself were presented by City staff. One is to move the library to the historic Roth Building on Homer Avenue, but a separate effort is already well on its way to raise millions to put the Palo Alto History Museum in that building. The building is too small to accommodate both the library and the museum. Furthermore, the site has no parking, the main floor may not be strong enough for the weight of library bookshelves, and the floor consists of numerous small rooms instead of a large open area suitable for a library.
Another possible location for the Downtown Library would be within the new police station, but the Friends of the Palo Alto Library raised concerns that this would just lead to further library encroachment from a growing Police Department. The present Downtown Library has already lost two community rooms and will soon lose its reference room and one of its four wings due to city offices that have moved in.
The third possible location for the Downtown Library would be in the remodeled existing police station across the street, but this also has the same encroachment risk. Another problem with all three scenarios is that the attractive existing library, patios, and trees would be destroyed.
Invited speakers from the University South Neighborhood Association and the Palo Alto History Museum explained some of the difficulties relocating the Downtown Library would create. In addition, of the seventeen members of the public who addressed the meeting, thirteen spoke in favor of retaining the present Downtown Library. The Task Force's upcoming schedule was uncertain, and it may postpone the public meeting scheduled currently for May 10 or 11. See Palo Alto Weekly article, editorial, and our earlier coverage.
At its previous meeting, Palo Alto's Police Building Blue Ribbon Task Force
voted to consider the present Downtown Library site and parking lots behind
California Avenue as two possible sites for a new police station
headquarters. During previous site studies, the library location had
been dropped from consideration by the City Council due to citizen outcry.
If the library site were the final choice, the present building and
surrounding patios would be razed.
The Task Force has not yet addressed whether there would be a replacement library, where it would be, or what would happen during construction, which no doubt would take several years. The Friends of the Palo Alto Library intends to raise these and other concerns with the Task Force. The Task Force meets next on Thursday, April 6, at 7 pm at the Cubberley Community Center in Room H5 (not far from our booksale). Palo Alto Weekly article. Task Force information. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Four meetings will be held in early May to gather public feedback on the
Library Advisory Commission's long-term library plan. The commission
was asked in December 2004 to develop a new plan for Palo Alto's libraries.
A draft of their plan will then be presented to the City Council in mid-May
and the final version will be ready in June.
The 48-page draft plan proposes to retain all of Palo Alto's five branches, expand the collection and hours, and build a new library in place of the present cramped Mitchell Park branch. The College Terrace and Downtown branches will be open seven days a week. Mitchell Park will become the largest branch and gain more resources, while the Children's Library will restrict its collection to serve only children through third grade. A sixth "virtual branch" will encompass all online resources.
The City Council recently targeted June 2008 for a possible ballot measure to fund these improvements.
Please attend one of the four community meetings to learn more about the recommendations and provide your input:
Thursday, May 4, 7 pm at Mitchell Park Library
Saturday, May 6, 2 pm at Downtown Library
Monday, May 8, 7 pm at College Terrace Library
Wednesday, May 10, 7 pm at Main Library
Light refreshments will be provided by the Friends of the Palo Alto Library. If you can't attend any of these meetings, you may wish to come to or watch on cable the April 27 and May 11 meetings of the Library Advisory Commission at 7 pm at City Hall. You can also email in comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, see the Palo Alto Weekly articles of May 3, 2006, April 12, 2006, and March 24, 2006.
(4/5/06) If you mention the Friends of the Palo Alto Library when you buy books at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park, the store will donate 5% of your purchase price to our organization. We appreciate this generous support from Kepler's.
(4/5/06) Major upgrade work on the College Terrace Library's electrical system will close the branch on Saturday, April 8. The Friends of the Palo Alto Library 9 Library Project is paying for $48,000 of these improvements through a Cable Co-op Legacy Grant. Although this is the second time that this electrical work has closed the branch on a Friends of the Library sale day, this is merely a coincidence and not a plan to coerce College Terrace residents to go to the sale! At least, that's our official position. More information.
(4/5/06) There is one more upcoming session of the library class on how to use the library computer catalog system. You'll learn how to find books and other items, place a hold, and review your account. You will need to already know a little about using a computer. The class will be held on Wednesday, April 19, at 10 am at the Main Library and space is limited, so you must pre-register online or call 329-2435 and press 2.
With the release of additional data from the recent city-wide
library survey, some interesting insights have emerged.
Here are a few:
Overall, 87% of Palo Altans surveyed said they were somewhat or very satisfied with the present libraries. The happiest residents are those between 18 to 29 years old, of whom all 100% were either somewhat (25.2%) or very (74.8%) satisfied. The least happy were over 64, of whom 27.4% were somewhat satisfied and 54.9% were very satisfied with the library.
New residents in Palo Alto tended to be more satisfied with the library. For instance, only 3.7% of those who have been here fewer than 3 years were dissatisfied, compared to 15.5% of those who have lived her over 20 years.
23% of those with a graduate or professional degree felt the library no longer met their needs, but only 10% of those without college degrees agreed.
Of all who were asked why they were dissatisfied with the library, 30.6% who used the Main Library said facilities were outdated or too cramped versus 27.7% of Mitchell Park users. When split by gender, 33% of women cited these facility problems compared to 23% of men.
Among the most requested improvements were more children's programs. Not surprisingly, this was judged important by 85.8% of those with children versus 48.9% of those without children. Similarly, more programs for teens were important to 81.1% of those with children versus 54.1% of those with none.
(4/5/06) For a number of years, the Gardiner Public Library in Gardiner, Maine has been asking celebrities to name their favorite books. Here is just a sampling of the list:
Howard Cosell: The Red and the Black by Marie Henri Beyle Stendhal
Billie Jean King: Days of Grace by Arthur Ashe
Yo-Yo Ma: Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Nelson Mandela: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Maureen Stapleton: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Mike Wallace: The Man Who Stayed Behind by Sidney Rittenberg and Amanda Bennett
The library released recently the results of a $35,000 study of Palo Altans'
view of the city's library system. 600 randomly-chosen residents were asked how
they used the library, what new services they'd like to see, and their views on
the importance of a central library versus branches. When asked which opinion
of libraries they most agreed with:
18% felt that the Palo Alto city library facilities are outdated and their collections and services no longer meet needs,
56% believed that although Palo Alto residents for the most part are adequately served by their city library, there is some room for improvement,
17% felt that Palo Alto is well served by the current library and no changes are required, and
8% couldn't choose or didn't respond.
Additional details are now available from the extensive Palo Alto library survey recently completed by the Godbe research firm. These include a 94 page detailed report that interprets the survey results. Overall, "87 percent were satisfied with the library (56% 'very satisfied' and 31% 'somewhat satisfied')." There was a clear preference for keeping the current distributed [library] system, according to the report. It includes insights into which segments of the community responded more strongly about certain library issues, finding that "a significantly greater percentage of those with graduate or professional degrees (23.2%) replied that the facilities no longer meet their needs than those with some college education or below (14.4%)."
The study was commissioned by the city's Library Advisory Commission as part of its process to create recommendations for library improvements and conducted by the Godbe Research firm. More information:
Survey results: All documents • Preliminary Results • Detailed Report • Presentation from Survey Firm • Similar Survey
News Articles: Palo Alto Weekly (2/7/06) • San Jose Mercury (2/10/06) • San Jose Mercury editorial (2/8/06)
(3/8/06) As you may recall, the library staff has switched to calling those who use
the library "customers," prompting recent letters to local papers
criticizing this as too business-like and impersonal. To see how
popular the name change is with actual library users, last month we asked
people to vote on what they prefer to be called. As the table on the
shows, a majority opted to be called "patrons," with "user" being a strong
(3/8/06) On Monday, March 6, the City Council unanimously approved the construction contracts for the Children's Library, launching a two-year project to renovate and expand the 66-year old structure. We'd like to thank all our members, donors, volunteers, and booksale customers who helped make our $567,150 contribution to the project possible. The two other major funders are the City of Palo Alto and the Palo Alto Library Foundation. More about the project. Palo Alto Weekly article.
The library's reference staff has created these helpful online
Recommended Consumer Protection Resources (covers scams, fraud, identify theft, etc.)
Recommended Online and Library Medical and Health Resources
Recommended Online Sites for New Parents
To view these tipsheets, you'll need Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you don't have this program already, you can get it for free by clicking on .
(3/8/06) The library is offering a free one-hour class on March 22, April 5, and April 19 (all Wednesdays) on how to use its computer catalog system. You'll learn how to find books and other items, place a hold, and review your account. You will need to already know a little about using a computer. The classes will be held at 10 am at the Main Library and space is limited, so you must pre-register online or call 329-2435 and press 2.
(3/8/06) Artists don't always see books as just for reading. Using old, unwanted books, Berkeley artist Jim Rosenau has created some humorous furniture and sculptures, while Czech artist Matej Kren has built an incredible tower from thousands of titles as part of a museum exhibit on the beauty of books.
(3/8/06) You can learn more about the upcoming library proposals at the next meeting of the Library Advisory Commission on Thursday, March 23 at 7 pm at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Avenue. The proposals will continue to be worked on over the next months, with a final presentation to the City Council scheduled for June 26.
Elementary school families are invited to attend five author events in honor of
National Library Week:
Monday, April 3: Nixon School at 3:00 pm (especially for Nixon and Escondido families) Betsy Franco, Palo Alto author of over 50 books for children and young adults, including the popular Mathematickles.
Tuesday, April 4: Hoover School at 2:30 pm (especially for Hoover and Palo Verde early dismissal families) Cynthia Chin-Lee, Palo Alto author of picture books including Amelia to Zora and A Is for Asia.
Tuesday, April 4: Juana Briones at 3:00 pm (especially for Juana Briones, Barron Park and Ohlone families) Jane Wattenberg, author and illustrator of high-energy, hilarious picture books such as Henny-Penny and Never Cry WOOF!
Wednesday, April 5: Addison at 1:30 pm (especially for Addison, Walter Hays and Duveneck families) Anne Isaacs, award-winning author of the entertaining original tall tale, Swamp Angel, in addition to poetry books and novels for children.
Thursday, April 6: Fairmeadow at 3:00 pm (especially for Fairmeadow, El Carmelo and Palo Verde late dismissal families) Tim Myers, storyteller and picture book author of Tanuki’s Gift and Basho and the River Stones.
The authors will be available to sign books. There will be only a small number of books for sale at the events, so please pre-order books through your school (at all elementary schools except for Hoover). Pre-orders and sales will be through Linden Tree Children’s Recordings and Books.
(2/8/06) Amazingly, the heavy downpour during our January sale did not stop people from coming and finding the many great bargains we had. Instead, the sale raised an incredible $21,801, which is 9% above our previous record back in August 2005. In fact, January's sale brought in as much as we used to receive in an entire year back in the mid 1990s. Thanks go to all of our customers, volunteers, and donors for a fantastic sale.
(2/8/06) 122 more titles have been added to Palo Alto's collection of online books, bringing the total to over 800 books, plus 800 more in audio format. You download these books and then read or listen to them from your home, office, school, or portable computer. For instance, if you are going on a trip and bringing a laptop computer, you can download several books onto your laptop to take with you. One advantage of online books is that you never need worry about returning them, because they automatically "expire" on the due date. You also can't lose or damage them. The online collection includes many fiction titles, study aids, and books on business, travel, biography, health and fitness, computers, technology, and self-improvement.
(2/8/06) The booksale takes an enormous effort to run, and we want to thank the 140 or so volunteers who help sort, price, shelve, and sell the quarter million or so books we handle each year. In 2005, our booksale and other volunteers worked an amazing 26,557 hours, sometimes during early mornings on their way to work or late into the evening.
A separate annual survey from the City Auditor's office asks Palo Altans about
all municipal services, including the library. The 2005 City of Palo Alto
Citizen Survey results were released this week and show that:
• 80% of Palo Altans rate our overall libraries as good or excellent,
• 75% feel the variety of library materials is good or excellent, and
• 78% rate our neighborhood branch libraries as good or excellent.
These statistics are approximately the same as the year before.
Just 7% of those surveyed rated the neighborhood branch libraries as poor and only 5% said the overall libraries were poor. Other cities in the United States that use the same survey also found generally high praise for libraries. As a result, Palo Alto's high marks for its libraries overall ranked only in the 62nd percentile, meaning that libraries in more than a third of the other cities received higher ratings. However, Palo Alto's ranking moved up significantly from last year, when it was only in the 40th percentile. The variety of our library materials also now ranks in the 62nd percentile, up from the 38th percentile last year.
79% of survey participants used the library or its services at least once a year and 25% visited more than 12 times a year. Non-residents account for 20% of library circulation.
The City Auditor also compared our libraries to how they operated in years past. For example, the libraries are open 19% fewer hours than five years ago, while the library budget has kept up approximately with inflation over that period and the number of staff has stayed the same. Circulation increased by 31% (partly due to a shorter lending period) and library visits increased by 20% over that same five year period. For more information, see the Auditor's Report and the Survey Details.
You can learn more about upcoming library issues and proposals at the following
February 9: Library Advisory Commission Special Meeting to review the library survey results. This and the other Library Advisory Commission meetings below begin at 7 pm at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Avenue.
February 23: Library Advisory Commission Regular Meeting to discuss findings and identify "service model elements" for the upcoming recommendations to the City Council.
March 2: PAGE (Palo Altans for Government Effectiveness) will continue a public discussion of various library models and their tradeoffs at 7 pm at the Garden Court Hotel, 520 Cowper Street. This meeting is a follow-up of one held in early February.
CANCELLED March 9: Library Advisory Commission Special Meeting with a possible panel of other librarians to discuss trends and best practices in public libraries.
(2/8/06) Library Director Paula Simpson will be stepping down in July to move to Seattle with her husband. In the meantime, she'll continue to help the Library Advisory Commission develop their recommendations for Palo Alto's library system. Simpson came to Palo Alto from the Monterey Public Library in 2004. Palo Alto Weekly article.
(1/11/06) The totals are in for 2005: the booksale brought in an amazing $209,611 last year. This is certainly a record and is 26% more than the $166,711 we grossed in 2004. Part of the increase is because we went from two to three rooms and added Sunday hours in mid-2004. A huge thank-you goes to our many customers, donors, volunteers, and supporters who make the sales possible.
(1/11/06) There are always some free items that you're welcome to at our sale. These include empty cardboard boxes outside the north entrance to the Main room, three-ring binders just inside that door, many free hardbound fiction and library postcards at the Main room exit door, and encyclopedias (ask) at the Bargain Room. Take as many of these items as you wish.
(1/11/06) Thank you for all the suggestions that poured into our contest last month. Joseph Lewis of Berkeley won a $25 gift certificate from Hobee's Restaurant for suggesting a very plausible change in our hours that we hope to put in effect. Tanya Kucek of Palo Alto will receive a free bag of Bargain Room books for her ideas about how we could arrange our sections better. We're always eager to hear your suggestions for ways to improve our book sale. Please email them to us at email@example.com or mention them to a volunteer at the sale.
(1/11/06) Palo Alto's Children's Library is now closed and the reconstruction
should start soon. In the meantime, children's services are available at Palo Alto's four other branches.
See more information about the listings below at
Preschool Storytime, Wednesdays, 10 am
Family Storytime, January 26, 3:30 pm (and subsequent Thursdays)
Toddler Storytime, Mondays, 10 and 11 am
Preschool Storytime, Tuesdays, 10 am
Family Stories, January 11, 7 pm
Chinese Stories, January 18, 3:30 pm
Baby Storytime, January 24, 11 am (and subsequent Tuesdays)
Electrical Magic from MOAH, January 25, 3:30 pm
Special Family Storytime, February 8, 7 pm
Toddler Storytime, Fridays, 10 am
Preschool Storytime, Fridays, 11 am
Nature Stories, February 1, 7 pm
(1/11/06) Don't be surprised if the phone rings and someone asks you about libraries. The City of Palo Alto is conducting a random telephone survey to determine how residents use and feel about the libraries. About 600 people will be called at random over the next weeks for an interview lasting about fifteen minutes. The raw results of the survey should be available within a few weeks and will be reported here.
(1/11/06)Here is the 2006 board of directors of the Friends of the Palo Alto Library. Directors are elected by our members to two-year terms at our annual meeting, and also by the board when a vacancy arises. Officers are elected to one year terms.
Gretchen Emmons, President Emeritus
Jeff Levinsky, President
Bob Moss, Treasurer
Bob Otnes, Assistant Treasurer
Marty Paddock, Book Sale Manager
Margarita Quihuis, Secretary
Martha Schmidt, Vice President
Ellen Wyman, President Emeritus