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2007 Library News

See also:
     Current and Previous Newsletters - Library Holiday Hours and Events
     Library and Friends of the Palo Alto Library News for 2012 2011 2010 2008 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001

Support Palo Alto's Libraries While You Shop

(12/5/07) When you shop at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park and Amazon.com, they will provide a percentage of your purchase price to help the Palo Alto Libraries at no cost to you.  At Kepler's, just mention to the cashier that you want to support the Friends of the Palo Alto Library.  For Amazon.com, start shopping for books and everything else by clicking here or on the Amazon link on the top right of any of our web pages at www.friendspaloaltolib.org.  We've raised thousands of dollars to help our libraries through these programs.

Friends Keep Overhead Costs Low

(12/5/07) Thanks to our numerous volunteers, we've kept our fundraising, management, and general expenses to well under 1% for the second year in a row.  By striving to be super-efficient with every donation and dollar we receive, we assure that the generosity of members and donors maximally help library users.  We invite you to make a year-end contribution to help us sponsor adult and children's programs at all five branches of the Palo Alto Library, purchase additional books, DVDs, audio books, and more for the collection, and help in many other ways.  Donations are tax-deductible and can be made online via Network for Good or by mail to Friends of the Palo Alto Library, PO Box 41, Palo Alto, CA 94302.

Library Holiday Schedule

(12/5/07) Palo Alto libraries will be closed on Christmas and the two days preceding it, and also on New Years Day.  Libraries will close early on News Years Eve as well.  The College Terrace and Downtown branches will be closed additional days, as this schedule shows:

Downtown Main Mitchell
Sunday, Dec 23






Monday, Dec 24






Tuesday, Dec 25






Wednesday, Dec 26 Open 10-6



Open 10-9 Open 10-9
Thursday, Dec 27 Open 12-6



Open 12-9 Open 12-6
Friday, Dec 28 Open 10-5



Open 10-6 Open 10-6
Saturday, Dec 29 Open 10-5 Open 11-6 Open 11-6 Open 10-6 Open 10-6
Sunday, Dec 30 Open 1-5



Open 1-5 Open 1-5
Monday, Dec 31 Open 10-6 Open 11-6


Open 10-6 Open 11-6
Tuesday, Jan 1






The holiday closures means you can keep items for longer, as they aren't due back until the branch you checked them out at reopens.  For example, a DVD checked out on December 17 at the College Terrace Branch would normally be due on December 24, but you can keep it until December 29 when that branch is open again.
Even when the libraries are closed, you can still search the online catalog, submit reference desk questions, access many online resources, and get book recommendations.

Library Use Climbs Again

(11/7/07) Palo Alto libraries are more popular than ever.  In the recent 2006-2007 fiscal year, over 1.4 million items were checked out from the four open branches, up approximately 11% from the prior year.
With the Children's Library closed throughout the fiscal year, the other branches in North Palo Alto saw considerable increases in circulation and visits.  The Downtown Library rose the most: 8% more visitors and 35% more items checked out.  The Main Library had 5% more visitors and checked out 29% more items, while the College Terrace branch saw 8% more visitors and 20% higher circulation.  Least affected was the Mitchell Park branch, with just 2% more visits and 15% higher circulation.  Overall visits were down by 3%, due no doubt to having one fewer library open.
Technology continues to impact the library.  Remote catalog searches rose 27% to approximately 1.3 million, or almost one per item checked out.  Patrons placed about 209,000 holds, up 15% from the year before.  Online database logins climbed 24%, while Internet sessions in the library increased by 4%.  Higher Internet usage may explain the 6% drop in reference and where-do-I-find questions from patrons to about 116,000 annually.
The library added over 22,000 items during 2006-07 to its collection.  After weeding older materials out, the collection grew by about 4% to about 271,000 books, DVDs, CDs, and other items as of June 2007.  The Mitchell Park and Main libraries saw their collections grow 5% and 3% respectively, while the collections at the smaller branches shrank slightly.  DVDs, CDs, and other media items represented about 27% of the year's acquisitions.
During the year, the library hosted 580 programs, up 3% from the year before, with 52 attendees each on average.  The number of people volunteering in the libraries rose by 61% to 180, while the total hours they volunteered held steady at about 5,900.
See the full statistics.

November 8 Talk on Technology's Impact on Libraries

(11/7/07) Library technologist, trainer, and author Michael Porter will speak November 8 from 7–9 pm on how public libraries use new digital tools to build communities.  His free presentation, entitled Your Library’s Future Has Changed: Technology, Content and Community, will look at the web sites of innovative libraries that are using social networking tools and creative implementation to provide access to information and create connections in their communities.
Michael Porter is Community Associate for WebJunction, an organization funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to assist libraries and cultural organizations in meeting their objectives through the effective use of web-based technologies. His professional focus is on technology, community, and training. He co-authors the "Internet Spotlight" column in Public Libraries magazine and is writing a book about effective electronic communities.
Porter's talk will be at the City Council chambers at 250 Hamilton Avenue.  It is hosted by the Palo Alto City Library, which is gearing up to develop a library technology plan by early 2008, and sponsored by the Friends of the Palo Alto Library. See Porter's blog.

Palo Alto Reads for 2008

(11/7/07) Join Palo Alto and all Silicon Valley in reading and attending events surrounding Bo Caldwell's bestselling first novel, The Distant Land of My Father.  The Washington Post Book World says, "This is a novel for old China hands, new China hands - and everyone who has ever felt himself in exile from any beloved place or time that can never return."  The many discussions and events will take place throughout February 2008.  Get a head start and check out a copy of the novel from the Palo Alto Library.
This is the sixth year of the Silicon Valley Reads program, which annually selects a book for county-wide discussion.  Silicon Valley Reads websitePalo Alto Reads website.

Annual Meeting on October 18

Nancy Cassidy

(10/9/07) Please attend our annual meeting on Thursday, October 18 at 7 pm at the Palo Alto Art Center Auditorium, located at 1313 Newell Road next to the Main Library.  Our special guest speaker will be Nancy Cassidy, a local singer and songwriter who has delighted audiences of all ages over the past 30 years with her warm and engaging voice and wide variety of songs.  Nancy will talk about how she became interested in her craft and more and more involved with singing, songwriting and performing.
The annual meeting will also feature the yearly election of our board members and officers. The nominees for 2008-2009 board seats are Betsy Allyn, Bob Otnes, Margarita Quihuis, Jim Schmidt, Martha Schmidt, Barbara Silberling, Caroline Spitz, and Tom Wyman.  The nominees for next year's officers are Betsy Allyn as President, Martha Schmidt as Vice President, Margarita Quihuis as Secretary, Enid Pearson as Treasurer, and John Burt as Assistant Treasurer.
The meeting includes refreshments and is free to the public.

Council Simplifies Plans for New Library

(10/9/07) Palo Alto's City Council voted on October 1 to focus on just one proposed configuration for a new Mitchell Park library and community center, thereby reducing architectural costs and simplifying planning.
For the last year, the city has considered various design options for the site, which houses both a 9,500 sq ft. library and an 10,000 sq. ft. community center. One possibility was to build a new library first and replace the community center later. This would have placed the library closer to the park, which is less desirable than having it alongside Middlefield Road.
The council instead opted to replace both structures simultaneously, creating a single 51,000 square foot building with the library portion closer to Middlefield. The facility will also house the library’s technical services department, which processes new and damaged items, moving it from the Downtown Library to free up more space at that branch for the public.
Plans are also being developed to remodel the Main Library and add group study rooms and a small auditorium. The new Mitchell Park library and community center plus the Main and Downtown branch improvements were estimated last year to cost $45 million. The council is considering both a bond measure and seeking donors to raise the funds.
The council heard earlier that evening from a pair of political consultants who have studied the likelihood of passing a bond measure.  Based upon a poll of 600 residents in February and 21 likely voters who served on focus groups in late August, Jessica Reynolds of the Lew Edwards Group and Richard Bernard of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates concluded that support for the project likely falls short of the 2/3 supermajority required for a construction bond.  The poll showed that 62% of voters favored or leaned in favor of the project when given the total cost, pros, and cons, while 51% supported it when told how it might affect their property taxes.  A majority of focus group participants also supported the project.  Their top priority was additional space for collections and youth services, while "completing a series of improvements to all of Palo Alto's branch libraries" ranked highest among a series of 21 choices. Reynolds and Bernard also found that "participants had a significant level of concern about what they perceived as inefficiency, division, and a lack of responsiveness in City government" and stressed that providing detailed information and further engaging the public over a 12 to 18 month period could increase support.
Complicating the issue are new city public safety (police) building and Palo Alto Unified School District ballot measures also likely in 2008. The consultants recommended that the city consider putting the library/community center measure on a separate ballot from the public safety building.
Watch an online video of the Council discussion and read the Palo Alto Daily and Palo Alto Weekly coverage.

Library Audit Presented to Council

(10/9/07) Palo Alto City Auditor Sharon Erickson's report on the libraries was praised at the September 10 City Council meeting and Library Director Diane Jennings said her staff expressed agreement with most of the recommendations.  For example, Cornelia van Aken, Palo Alto's new Assistant Library Director, will be looking at the auditor's proposal to try rescheduling staff to provide more open hours for the public.  The library has already implemented other recommendations to improve cash handling and is working on ways to reduce the number of checked-out items that aren't returned.
Jennings pointed out that the recently-completed Children's Library and planned improvements at the College Terrace branch were steps toward meeting the audit's finding that facilities needed improvement. Moreover, the proposed ballot measure would address the three other city libraries.  One aim of the audit was to assure voters that all appropriate efficiencies were in place prior to any election.
Erickson noted that her office did not come to a firm conclusion that Palo Alto's libraries were either under- or over-staffed.  Rather, she recommends annual staffing evaluations, as library services are changing dramatically faster than any other city department's.
Watch an online video of the Council discussion and read the audit and library staff response.

Old Books - New Art

(10/9/07) Here's one more use for used books: see how artist Brian Dettmer transforms them into intricate works of artMore examples.  Our thanks to Nancy Welch for this recommendation.

Library Use Climbs

(9/5/07) Library Director Diane Jennings reported in late August that Palo Alto library circulation rose significantly during the 2006-07 fiscal year. Already among the top library users in the state, Palo Altans checked out 1.4 million items, approximately 10% more than in the previous fiscal year. Circulation was up at each of the four open branches, as were the number of visits. With the Children's Library closed for all of the past fiscal year but only part of the prior one, overall library visits dipped by 2.6%, but the rise in total circulation defied expectations.

Friends' Donations Exceed $1.3 Million Over Five Years

(9/5/07) Over the last five years, the Friends of the Palo Alto Library has given more than $1.3 million to improve the Palo Alto Library. This includes over a half million dollars to renovate and expand the Children's Library, approximately $410,000 of new books, DVDs, and CDs, about $100,000 for children's events and the Summer Reading Program, and about $220,000 of new computers, printers, and online resources such as the Rosetta Stone language training and the Historical New York Times. Thanks go to the thousands of donors, members, booksale customers, and volunteers who helped raise this enormous sum for their great generosity and support of our local libraries. In fact, from July 2005 through June 2006, our 150+ volunteers contributed 25,237 hours, up 6% from the previous fiscal year.

Attend Children's Library Grand Reopening on September 29

(9/5/07) After almost two years of reconstruction and expansion, the Children's Library will reopen this month. We invite you to visit the opening day festivities on September 29, which begin at the nearby Main Library at 10 am. There, a procession led by Palo Alto Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto will bring books from Main back to the Children's Library, with an official ribbon cutting at 10:30 am followed by an unveiling of a library mural. David Keane, author of the Joe Sherlock, Kid Detective series will speak at 11 am. Musicians will entertain at 1 pm and 3 pm and refreshments will be served throughout the day.   The effort to improve the Children's Library took almost a decade. A larger expansion of the branch was part of the 2002 Measure D effort that narrowly failed. Subsequently, an anonymous donor offered $350,000 for the project, launching a combined effort of the City of Palo Alto, the Palo Alto Library Foundation, and the Friends of the Palo Alto Library to raise the remainder. Within a year, sufficient funds came in to start the construction process and a final push brought in additional contributions for furniture, fixtures, and equipment. In total, the project cost about $3 million. See many more pictures of the branch's reconstruction.

The interior of the new wing of the Children's Library.  The library reopens on September 29.

New Library Plans Unveiled

(9/5/07) A city-hired design firm recently displayed conceptual designs for improving the Mitchell Park, Main, and Downtown libraries to several city commissions.  The most substantial development would be at Mitchell Park, when the proposals call for replacing the present branch with a new facility up to four times larger.  The adjacent Community Center might be replaced as well, resulting in a two-story 51,000 square feet building on the present library/community center area that would not encroach into the park and have no underground parking.
Representatives from Group 4, the design firm that also developed the library plans for Measure D in 2002, emphasized how the Mitchell Park design would preserve a major oak tree and wrap a courtyard around it.  The new facility would meet stringent energy-efficiency standards and make major use of natural light and views of the adjacent park and trees.
Group 4's proposed improvements for the Main Library including adding air conditioning, moving the book return area, updating interior furnishings, creating four glassed-in group study rooms under the eaves adjacent to the patios, and building a meeting room for up to 100 people on the rear lawn that faces the Art Center.  One challenge is ensuring that the 5,500 square foot addition containing the meeting room fits in well aesthetically with the existing building, which was designed by world-famous architect Edward Durrell Stone.
Group 4 had two proposals for the Downtown Library.  One assumes that the technical services staff remains at the branch and expands to meet extra demands on the overall library system, thereby shrinking the public areas and eliminating public access to one patio.  The other proposal moves technical services to the Mitchell Park Library, freeing up space for a large meeting room at Downtown.  In either case, the building's lighting would be improved and the interior redesigned to bring the collection closer to the entrance, but the exterior would not be changed.
Depending upon which options are chosen, the improvements were previously estimated to cost between $25 and $45 million, necessitating a bond measure.  The Mitchell Park Community Center replacement accounted for about $10 million of the earlier estimate, and the City Council is expected to decide whether to include that portion after hearing from Group 4 on September 17.  The Council will also review the recent library audit findings on September 10.  If the bond measure goes onto the June 2008 ballot, final decisions about the library and community center project must be made by February, including whether to have a single measure that also funds a new public safety building.
Recognizing that a recent survey showed fewer than the requisite 2/3 of likely voters support these projects, the City recently hired a communication specialist to hold focus groups and develop strategies to inform the public of the need.  See recent articles from the Palo Alto Weekly and Palo Alto Daily News.

Members-Early Sale in November

(9/5/07) This year's special early admission for members of the Friends will be at our November 10 booksale. This annual event lets lifetime members in to our Main Room at 9 am and other members in at 10 am. Non-members then can enter the Main Room at the usual 11 am. There will be more information in our November issue. Please note that members only get in early once a year.

September 27 Talk on Green Living

(9/5/07) Attend a free talk by environmental writer Jennifer Roberts on September 27 on practical ways to incorporate environmentally-sound principles into buildings and everyday living.  The presentation will be at the Main Library at 1213 Newell Road from 7 to 8 pm and is sponsored by the library, the Friends of the Palo Alto Library, Books Inc., and the City of Palo Alto Recycling Program.

Main Room Continues Special Summer 20% Sunday Discount

NEW (8/8/07) Not only can you avoid huge crowds by coming to the sale on Sundays, but you also get an automatic 20% discount on Sundays in our Main Room if your purchase $5 or more.  This special sale discount will continue throughout the summer.

Friends Give $163,000 to Library

(8/8/07) Thanks to our many booksale customers, donors, volunteers, and members, we're giving $163,000 to the library this year for new books, DVDs, e-books, audio books, electronic databases, author events, children and teenager summer reading programs, performers at children's events, and staff appreciation.  In addition, we're providing new printers and network equipment for the Children's Library and eight new laptops for the College Terrace and Downtown branches as part of our 9 Libraries project, which is funded by a Cable Co-op Legacy Grant.  The laptops are already available for checkout at the College Terrace branch and will be soon at Downtown.
Library Director Diane Jennings says: "The ongoing support of the Friends has been tremendous.  Through our partnership and shared goal of improving the Library, we’ve been able to enhance our service in many ways.  The Friends not only provide funding to enrich the collection, but also support innovative pilot programs.  I am very appreciative of the hard work many Friends volunteers put in to raise money for the Library."  Read the full press release.

Stanford Bookstore Donates New Books

(7/11/07) The Stanford University Bookstore in downtown Palo Alto closed recently and donated thousands of brand new books to our booksale.  These include volumes on computers, technology, both advanced and popular science, and literature.  Look for all these new items in our usual sections rather than in a special area.  We'd like to thank the Stanford Bookstore for their enormous generosity and support of our sale.

Library Hold Policy Changes

(7/11/07) Palo Altans place a few hundred thousand holds on books and other library items a year, but approximately one in six never get picked up.  This delays getting the item to other borrowers and adds work for library staff.  As of July 1, the library is now charging $1 for each hold you don't pick up within one week.  You can now also have up to ten holds at a time.  See press release.

City Auditor Recommends 32 Library Improvements

(7/11/07) Palo Alto's City Auditor Sharon Erickson, released a 51-page report last week on how to improve the Palo Alto Library.  Among her 32 recommendations were to reduce crowding, improve lighting, replace outdated furniture and shelving, be open more hours by rescheduling existing employees, have a list of substitutes who can fill in during absences, and circulate items between branches on weekends.  Other recommendations were to establish and track objectives for many library operations, simplify various procedures and job titles, make more effort to collect overdue fines, reexamine how the library prevents theft, use more volunteers, and consolidate many part-time positions.
Library Director Diane Jennings agreed with most of the recommendations in a response and gave timeframes for implementing many of them.  City Council discussion of the audit was to have occurred this past Monday but was postponed until September 10.  Read the full audit and response, a Palo Alto Daily News editorial, and a Palo Alto Weekly editorial.

New Online Investment Information and Classes

(7/11/07) The library now offers a free online information on stocks, bonds, funds, industries, and the economy from Standard and Poor's.  Called NetAdvantage, it provides unbiased analysis on specific securities and more general topics and can be accessed from your home and office, as well at the office.  The online materials includes the full text of Standard and Poor's publications such as Outlook, Industry Survey, and Stock Reports.  Just click here to try it out right now.
The library is hosting two free one-hour classes to show you how to use NetAdvantage at the Main Library at 1213 Newell Road and to answer questions.  Reserve your spot for either the August 8 10 am or August 22 6:30 pm sessions by emailing libraryreference@cityofpaloalto.org.

Book Group Chooses Next Year of Reading

(6/6/07) Here's what the Friends of the Palo Alto Library book group will be reading over the coming year.  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 learn more it:

Date   Title and Author
June 14, 2007   The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
July 12   Blindness by Jose Saramago
August 9   On Beauty by Zadie Smith
September 13   The Angel of Galilea by Laura Restrepo
October 11   The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
November 8   Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
December 13   The Final Solution by Michael Chabon
January 10, 2008   Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
February 14   Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario
March 13   Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
April 10   Choose the next eleven books

So Much to Read

(6/6/07) Are you up for reading 800 books a day?  That's how many new titles and editions were released each day of 2006, according to preliminary data from R.R. Bowker, compiler of Books in Print.  It totals 291,920 books for the entire year, which is up more than 3% from 2005 and close to the all-time high of 295,523 new titles published in 2004.
Year-to-year changes in specific categories sometime indicate trends in reading tastes or at least suggest areas publishers think are hot.  For instance, 10% fewer juvenile and cooking titles were released in 2006 than in 2005.  Computer books were down by 11%, while 17% more adult fiction titles were released than in 2005, biographies were up 15%, and business titles rose 12%.  More information.

Exciting Summer Reading Programs for Youth

(6/6/07) The library is again holding two summer reading programs this year.  Children up through the fifth grade can join Get A Clue @ Your Library.  At the start, you set a goal for how many books you'll read over the summer.  Once you get to your goal, you receive a certificate, a free paperback book, a coupon for a free pizza at Round Table, and other surprises.  You can also attend a series of Wacky Wednesday summer events each week at 3:30 pm.
Sixth through twelfth graders can set a similar summer reading goal in the YNK @ Your Library teen program.  Reaching that goal not only gives you a certificate, free paperback book, coupon for a free Round Table pizza, and other surprises, but also makes you eligible to win a $100 iTunes gift certificate and other cool prizes such as ice cream coupons and movie passes.  You'll also want to attend five evening events, including a presentation by Dr. Uwe Bergmann of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.
Sign up for these programs from June 14 through July 31 at any Palo Alto branch library or online.  Prizes will be awarded August 1 through August 27.  The programs are sponsored by local merchants and the Friends of the Palo Alto Library.

Prints and Videos Aplenty

(5/8/07) People donate more than just books to our sale.  This month, look for dozens of beautiful framed prints being displayed outside the Main Room.  You can purchase these at the ephemera area, which returns this month as well.  Inside all three sale rooms are many hundreds of videos of films and documentaries, most of which are priced at $2 or less.

Rules Change for Between-Sales

(5/8/07) After the May sale, we will no longer allow visitors into the book room between sales.  We had previously permitted visitors to browse and purchase books at double price up to one week before each sale during limited hours, but we are ending that to assure the best selection for attendees of the regular once-a-month sales.  We apologize for the inconvenience to those who cannot come to Cubberley for the regular sales.

Free Books Cart

(5/8/07) As you rush out of the Main Room with your purchases, be sure to take one of the free books on the cart by the door.  This month, the free books include The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw, Dr. Bernie Siegal's Love, Medicine, and Miracles, and John Gray's Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.

Use and Learn about eBooks

(5/8/07) Palo Alto offers a large collection of eBooks, which are books that you can check out over the Internet and read on your computer.  You can check out eBooks at any time of day or night and then read them at your leisure.  With eBooks, there's never a late fee or a rush to return them because the books automatically "expire" on your computer when due.
Many titles are available as eBooks, including William Poundstone's How Would You Move Mount Fuji? and Stephen Leavitt's Freakonomics.  The library also offers eAudio books and music recordings that you check out over the Internet and listen to.
If you're not familiar with using these materials, attend a one-hour free demonstration that will walk you through all the steps on either June 6 at 10 am or June 20 at 6:30 pm at the Main Library at 1213 Newell Road.  To reserve a space, email libraryreference@cityofpaloalto.org, indicate which session you wish to attend, and provide your return email address.

Library Closed May 25 and 28

(5/8/07) All Palo Alto's libraries will be closed on Friday May 25 for staff development and on Monday, May 28 for Memorial Day.  Even when the libraries are closed, you can still search the online catalog, submit reference desk questions, access many online resources, and get book recommendations.

Library Bond Measure Progress

(5/8/07) On May 7, Palo Alto's City Council approved a $1,280,400 library design and construction cost estimation contract as the next step towards a possible June 2008 ballot measure.  The contract will have the Group 4 architectural firm develop further conceptual designs for a new Mitchell Park Library and possibly an attached new Community Center.  After public and governmental review, the Council will then decide in late summer whether to continue with the Community Center portion or pursue just the new library building.  Group 4 will then develop more detailed plans, estimate construction costs, and update an environmental review.
The Group 4 contract also includes planning a 1,800 to 5,300 square foot addition to the Main Library for a meeting space and group study area and how the Downtown Library could utilize reclaimed areas for the public should administrative staff move out.
Funds for this project came from capital improvement monies intended to improve the present Mitchell Park Library building.  See the City Manager's report, the contract with Group 4, and our previous coverage of the library ballot measure.

Benefit Show on May 5 for Sister City's Children's Library

(4/28/07) Support the Children's Library in Palo, Leyte, Philippines by enjoying an evening of show tunes at the "The Best of Broadway" on Saturday, May 5, 7:00pm at the Palo Alto Art Center, 1313 Newell Road.  General admission is a $15.00 donation per person. Sponsorships are $50 and include two admissions.  Refreshments are included.  The event is presented by Palo Alto Neighbors Abroad.
Call Ruth Carleton at (650) 326-8885 for reservations.  Your name will be placed on a list and you will be checked in at the door.  No tickets will be sent out.  Make checks payable to Neighbors Abroad and send to 2350 Ross Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303.

Palo Alto Among Top California Libraries

(4/12/07) Even with one branch temporarily closed for construction, Palo Alto libraries remain the busiest among comparably-sized California communities.  According to a draft of the annual State Librarian report, during 2005-2006 Palo Alto circulated more items per capita than any of the state's other 74 library systems serving populations of 25,000 to 100,000. 
Among the same libraries, only Cerritos outranked Palo Alto in annual visits per capita, the other major metric of library usage.  Cerritos outspends Palo Alto on a per capita basis, both overall and on library materials, according to the report.

Volunteers Make the Booksale Possible

(4/12/07) About 150 active volunteers ran our booksale, publicity, membership, and other operations during 2006.  Together, they contributed 24,144 hours, which is the equivalent of a full-time crew of 12 people.  Everyone you meet at the booksale is a volunteer, donating their time to sort and put books on the shelves, assist customers, staff the checkout tables, and much more.  As one of our longtime volunteers says, "it's more fun than even reading the books!"  If you're interested in volunteering, see more information.

Marty Paddock Says Thanks

(4/12/07) Marty Paddock, our Book Sale Manager, says it was a real highlight of her day to receive the get-well card signed by hundreds of customers and volunteers last month, plus she appreciates the many birthday cards and Easter cards people have sent her.  We all wish her a speedy recovery.

Downtown Library Blossoms

(4/12/07) This is a great time of year to visit the courtyards of the Downtown Library, with azaleas and flowering trees in bloom.  There are outdoors chairs and tables to sit in and wireless access to the Internet.

Free National Library Week Events

(4/12/07) The library is sponsoring four free events to celebrate National Library Week, which is April 14 to 21:
Green Thumb Stories and Crafts for little gardeners-to-be ages 3 and up Saturday,
April 14
2 pm Mitchell Park Library
Get Jazzed with Karen Ehrhardt, for ages 4 and up Wednesday,
April 18
3:30 pm Main Library
Amigos Music & Poetry for the whole family Friday, April 20 7 pm Main Library
Saturday Night Teen Poetry Slam Saturday, April 21 7 pm Mitchell Park Library

One Library Project Moves Forward; Another Unclear

(4/12/07) The City Council voted unanimously on Monday, April 9 to continue to seek voter approval to fund a new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center, upgrades the Main and Downtown branches, and a new police headquarters.  However, no decision was taken on a related parcel tax proposal to operate the expanded libraries and improve service.
One difficulty all these efforts face is achieving the 67% supermajority required for passage.  A recent City-conducted poll showed that none of the proposals currently drew that much support, but that a library construction bond measure was just a few percentage points shy.  Several Council members stated that the police station project should take precedence but there is wide acknowledgement that combining the library and police projects might increase support for the latter.
The Council also aims to put these issues on the June 2008 ballot, although the polling firm advised that deferring until the November 2008 election would afford additional time for public education.  See the articles in the Palo Alto Weekly and Palo Alto Daily News and our previous coverage.

Get-Well Card for Marty Paddock

(3/7/07) Today, our thoughts are with Marty Paddock, our Book Sale Manager. Marty has been on medical sabbatical since December, and we all hope that she'll be back with us before long. She has been the heart and soul of our book sales since she took over as manager in 2000. We encourage everyone to let Marty know how much we care by signing her get-well card at the Main Room entrance during this weekend's sale.

Almost 2/3 Support Library Ballot Measure

(3/7/07) A poll taken last week of 600 Palo Altans finds 69% feel our libraries need at least some additional funding, but support for specific proposals fell just short of the 2/3 supermajority needed to pass a library ballot measure.
65% of those polled favored a $45 million proposal to build a new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center and to upgrade the Main and Downtown branches.  After hearing what this would cost on a per household basis along with likely pro and con ballot arguments, 62% then supported the measure.  David Metz, senior vice-president of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, & Associates, which conducted the poll, explained that a successful bond measure generally garners at least 70% support during polling and then loses a few points by election time.  He noted that 65% of Palo Alto voters in fact favored a $60 million library measure in an October 2001 poll but then only 62% voted for the $49 million Measure D the following year.
A second rule of thumb Metz offered is that at least 40% of those polled must express a definite intent to support a measure for it to later succeed.  For the present $45 million proposal, 34% of voters were in the definite yes category.  On the other hand, Metz emphasized that intense efforts to inform voters of the needs of the library system could raise support above the 2/3 threshold.
Several other possibilities received lower levels of support in last week's poll.  59% of voters would likely vote for a $35 million proposal that still improved all three library branches but not the Mitchell Park Community Center while only 43% favored just building a new Mitchell Park library at $25 million.  Paradoxically, when instead asked how much taxes they'd individually be willing to pay, voters preferred the least expensive proposal by 11% percentage points.  One explanation is that voters want to help all four facilities, but at the lower cost.
59% of voters polled supported a $95 million bond measure that provide the maximal library benefits plus a new public safety building to replace the police station presently adjoining City Hall.  50% of voters favored a $50 million public safety ballot measure by itself after hearing the per household cost and the pro and con arguments.  This suggests that the library proposals are slightly more popular than the public safety building, with support for the combination somewhere in between.
The poll also asked if voters would pay a $99 annual parcel tax to expand the library collection, increase library hours by 12%, add programs for children, teens, and parents, and improve maintenance.  53% of voters supported this tax, which would also require a 2/3 majority to pass.
When asked about specific enhancements for the library, the collection and resources for children rated highest, as they did in the library survey of 2006.  Specifically, 54% of those polled said that expanding children's reading areas in the library and space for books and other items to accommodate a larger collection were very or extremely important.  49% felt it was very or extremely important to upgrade the Main Library, with the similar statistic for the Mitchell Park and the Downtown branches at 48% and 43% respectively.  The poll's margin of error is 4%.
Metz recommended that the city consider postponing the ballot measures until November 2008 to provide more time to educate voters about the library and public safety needs.  The City Council will next discuss this issue on April 3.  See the articles in the Palo Alto Weekly and Palo Alto Daily News, the poll details and presentation to the Council, and our previous coverage.

Free Genealogy Class on March 28

(3/7/07) Learn how to use the new genealogy online resources in the Palo Alto Library in a free hour-long course on Wednesday, March 28 at the Main Library at 1213 Newell Road.  You'll be able to look up your family and ancestors in over four billion online records in genealogical databases to find birth, death, marriage, census, immigration, and other records.  You may even find new relatives to add to your family tree.  The class will also discuss special genealogical resources that exist within Palo Alto.  Go to more information to RVSP.

Main Library Closures in March

(3/7/07) The Main Library will be closed Thursday, March 8 through Sunday, March 11 and again later this month for remodeling.  The Downtown, College Terrace, and Mitchell Park libraries will be open during this time, and of course so will our weekend booksale!  The remodel will shrink the circulation desks to expand room for books and other materials, add a new magazine area, and bring the restrooms up to current accessibility standards.  More information.

Forum on New Library Plans Postponed

(3/6/07) The forum co-sponsored by the Friends of the Palo Alto Library, the City of Palo Alto, and PAN (Palo Alto Neighborhoods), originally scheduled for April 5, has been indefinitely postponed.

Shopping Center Easier to Walk to

(2/7/07) You'll be happy to know that a gate has been put into the new fence that separates the Cubberley Community Center from the Charleston Shopping Center just to the north of us.  The gate lets you walk conveniently from the booksale over to the shopping center for breakfast, lunch, coffee, or dessert.  Neighbors accustomed to walking in the area requested the gate's installation after the fence went up.

New Guide to Main Book Room

(2/7/07) You'll find new green subject guides posted in our Main book room to explain where all 97 sections are throughout the room.  We updated the directory recently for the latest topics and locations.  You can also print out your own copy of the directory to carry with you.

Wonderful LPs in Bargain Room

(2/7/07) Check out the many LPs on the west wall of the Bargain Room this month.  You'll find many complete opera records and albums dating from the 1950s.  The covers alone make wonderful gifts or decorations.  LPs are priced at $1 per disk until 12:30 on Saturdays, and after that for 50 cents each.  On Sundays, you can also fill an entire grocery bag full of records for $5.

Free Legal Expertise at your Fingertips

(2/7/07) About 120 Nolo Press legal and business self-help titles are available via the Palo Alto Library as eBooks, which means you can check them out and read them instantly using your Palo Alto Library card.  Just go to the library's eBook resources page.  You can print entire forms, letters, and contractual language directly from the eBooks or copy them into your own documents.
Among the popular Nolo Press titles are:
bulletWork Less, Live More: The New Way to Retire Early
bulletLegal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business
bulletEverybody's Guide to Small Claims Court in California
bulletSocial Security, Medicare & Government Pensions: Get the Most Out of Your Retirement and Medical Benefits
bulletHow to Form Your Own California Corporation
bulletDeduct It! Lower Your Small Business Taxes

Council Makes Libraries Again a Top Priority

(2/7/07) Palo Alto's City Council recently made library improvements one of its top priorities for 2007, as in 2006.  The other priorities for this year are sustainable budgets, climate protection, emergency and disaster preparation, and a new public safety building.  See articles in the Palo Alto Weekly and Palo Alto Daily News.

Fiction Now Alphabetized by Author!

(1/10/07) Thanks to a lot of extra work by our volunteers, all of our Main Room fiction sections are now sorted by author.  The main trade paperback section by the western wall now has the A's in the corner, beginning with Chinua Achebe's Anthills of the Savannah, right through to end of the alphabet with Banan Yoshimoto's Amrita.  Other fiction sections are Mystery, Science Fiction, Hardback, Historical, 2005, 2006, and winners of the National Book Award, Nobel Prize for Literature, Pulitzer Prize, and Man Booker Prize.  We hope sorting by author makes it much easier for you to find specific works and want to thank all the volunteers who helped out.

Fence Alert

(1/10/07) Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
    Robert Frost, The Mending Wall
We're sorry to report that a new fence now separates the Cubberley Community Center from the Charleston Shopping Center, where Piazza's and Pete's Coffee are located.  This means that you'll need to go out to Middlefield Road to get from our booksale room to the shopping center.  Others have already complained about the fence, and a gate is planned for the middle of it.  In the meantime, we wanted everyone to know about the problem in advance and regret any inconvenience it creates.  See the Palo Alto Weekly article.

Library Offers Extensive Free Genealogy Materials

(1/10/07) You're just seconds away from researching your ancestors and relatives in the massive Heritage Quest genealogy resource, which the library recently obtained.  Just go to the library online resources webpage, click on the "Heritage Quest" link, and enter your library card number.  You can search for people through various United States census records from the very first in 1790 up through 1930, which is the most recent available for public viewing.  For example, a search on the surname "Pelosi" finds a Louis Pelosi in Milwaukee in 1860 who was the "director of the theater" at age 34.  Heritage Quest lets you search through many other genealogical databases as well.
The library also now offers the Ancestry.com genealogy resource, although you must use it from computers at the branches.  Ancestry.com contains approximately two billion names from the U.S. census records and thousands of books, government records, and genealogies.  An annual membership in Ancestry.com costs $155 or more, so using it for free at the library is a great bargain.

Palo Altans Like Their Libraries

(1/10/07) The City Auditor's office asks Palo Altans annually about municipal services, including the library.  The 2005-2006 City of Palo Alto Citizen Survey results were released recently and show that:
• 78% of Palo Altans rate our overall libraries as good or excellent,
• 71% feel the variety of library materials is good or excellent, and
• 73% rate our neighborhood branch libraries as good or excellent.
Just 9% of those surveyed rated the neighborhood branch libraries as poor and only 5% said the overall libraries were poor.  These statistics are approximately the same as in previous years.

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 overall libraries ranked only in the 60th percentile.  However, these rankings are volatile, as Palo Alto ranked in only the 40th percentile just two years ago.  The variety of our library materials also now ranks in the 43rd percentile, up from the 38th percentile two years ago.

The survey found that 76% of survey participants used the library or its services at least once a year and 32% visited more than 12 times a year.  Non-residents account for 20% of library circulation.

2007 Officers and Board Members

(1/10/07) The Friends of the Palo Alto Library has new officers and board members for 2007 based on the election held at last October's Annual Meeting.  Our new president is Martha Schmidt, who steps up from vice president since Betsy Allyn won't be able to serve as president for personal reasons.  Martha is a retired librarian who has served as the City of Santa Clara's interim library director.  She's well-known to many of our booksale customers as a cashier on Saturday morning and she has also helped sort incoming book donations.
Our new vice president is Betsy Allyn, Margarita Quihuis will continue as secretary, and Jeff Levinsky will be treasurer.  John Burt, an avid booksale volunteer currently in charge of the Non-Fiction and Movies/TV sections, is rejoining the Friends' board this year and serving as assistant treasurer.
Enid Pearson, who served on the Palo Alto City Council in the 1960s and 1970s, is also joining the Friends board.  The other 2007 Friends board members are Wendy Akers-Ghose, Rudy Batties, Gretchen Emmons, Gerry Masteller, Bob Otnes, Marty Paddock, Gloria Reade, Jim Schmidt, Barbara Silberling, Steve Staiger, Ellen Wyman, and Tom Wyman.

Polling to Shape Library Proposal

(1/10/07) By a 9-0 vote, Palo Alto City Council members decided in December to use an outside polling firm to help gauge public interest in various library improvements, including a new Mitchell Park library and community center.  The same polling effort is also likely to ask about the proposed new public safety building / police station.  The first poll will occur early this year, perhaps in February or March.  A second poll is anticipated to hone the ballot language, with the ballot measures expected to appear on the June 2008 ballot.
Some council members expressed concern about the approximately $40,000 needed for polling, while others felt it was vital to determine how to attain the necessary 2/3 majority. 
You can learn more by reading the Palo Alto Daily News and Palo Alto Weekly articles and our previous coverage.

Main Library Remodeling Underway

(1/10/07) The Main Library is slated to stay open during most of a three-month remodeling effort, which began this week.  The project will shrink the circulation desk to provide more display of books and media items, create a new area in the rear for current periodicals, and make the public restrooms more accessible.  The remodeling was approved in early 2005, with additional funding allocated in 2006.  See previous coverage.

Children's Library Progress

(1/10/07) See our month-by-month picture record of the Children's Library renovation and expansion.  The branch is currently scheduled to reopen in September 2007.  Photo credit: Ray Jadwin.

Friends of the Palo Alto Library (FOPAL) is a non-profit 501(c)3 public benefit corporation, dedicated to helping Palo Alto's Public Libraries.  Contact us at info@friendspaloaltolib.org or PO Box 41, Palo Alto, CA 94302-0041.  Privacy Policy

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