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2008 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 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001

Libraries Close for Holiday Season

(12/10/08) Palo Alto's Main, Mitchell Park, and Children's libraries will be closed on December 24-26 and January 1 for the holiday season, and will close early on December 31 at 6 pm.  Meanwhile, the Downtown and College Terrace libraries will be closed during all nine days of December 24 through January 1.  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.

 
Take the Library Satisfaction Survey

(12/10/08) Let the Palo Alto library know what you think of its services and possible offerings by taking the quick online survey.  You can skip over portions that don't apply to you.

 
Library Gets New Laptops and Looks at Technology

(12/10/08) Fourteen brand-new laptops are arriving for patrons to use in the Main and Mitchell Park libraries this month, replacing models purchased back in 2005 that were checked out on average more than 2,200 times.  The new laptops offer faster processing and slightly wider screens.  The laptops help when other computers for the public are all in use and allow patrons to work throughout the library buildings and patios.  The new laptops, plus the older ones and others at the College Terrace and Downtown libraries, are provided by the Cable Co-op Legacy Grant made in 2003 to the Friends of the Palo Alto Library.
 
The library is also developing a technology plan for the next two to three years in conjunction with consultant Lucien Kress of Kress Consulting.  He is currently collecting suggestions and ideas from library staff and administration, city information technology employees, and the city at large.  At a December 3 community forum attended by about a dozen members of the public and library staff, suggestions included:
 
bulletProvide space, technology, and facilitation to community groups working on projects.
bulletProvide image scanners for patron use.
bulletProvide more laptop-friendly seating (with power and Internet connections).
bulletRotate collections between branches (especially DVDs and CDs).
bulletExpedite LINK+ so you can get a book from any Bay Area library within 24 hours. (LINK+ is a free inter-library loan program that Palo Alto will be joining shortly)
bulletEquip meeting rooms with computers and multimedia equipment such as projectors and interactive whiteboards.
bulletShow LINK+ offerings automatically in catalog searches.
 
Other ideas from library staff and advisors include allowing patrons to submit reference questions via texting, a next-generation catalog combining features of Google and Amazon, and a "floating collection" that leaves items at the branch they're returned to.  Read more and submit comments at Kress's blog for the technology plan.

 
Give the Gift that Costs Nothing

(12/10/08) One last reminder during this shopping season: at both Kepler's Books in Menlo Park and Amazon.com, a percentage of your purchase price can 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, always start your shopping session by clicking here or on the Amazon link on the top right of any of our web pages at www.friendspaloaltolib.org.  Virtually all purchases you make at Amazon are eligible, not just books.  Over the years, we've raised thousands of dollars to help our libraries thanks to shoppers at Amazon and Kepler's.

 
Library Events Calendar Online

(12/10/08) Palo Alto's libraries offer hundreds of events every year for children and adults.  Now you can review them all quickly in a new online event calendar.  The calendar also helps you make reservations for events requiring sign-up and offers alerts of upcoming events as they are announced.

 
November 22 Memorial for Marty Paddock, Booksale Manager

(11/5/08) The family of Marty Paddock invites the community to a celebration of her life on Saturday, November 22 at 2 pm in the Lucie Stern Community Center at 1305 Middlefield Road. Marty was manager of the Friends of the Palo Alto Library booksale from 2000 to 2006 and passed away on October 1 (more information below).

 
Library Bond Measure N Wins

(11/5/08) Library bond Measure N garnered 69.5% of votes in yesterday's election, surpassing the required 2/3 margin to pass.  With the victory, the city will raise $76 million to build a new 50,000 square foot Mitchell Park Library and Community Center, remodel and extend the Main Library, and renovate the Downtown Library.  The projects are estimated to take six years to complete.
 
The Yes on N campaign raised approximately $120,000, including a $5,000 donation from the Friends of the Palo Alto Library, while opponents never officially registered as a campaign and reportedly spent only small sums.
 
Back in 2002, library bond Measure D lost when only 61.5% of Palo Altans supported it.  That $49 million effort sought to build a larger library and community center at Mitchell Park and to renovate and expand the Children's Library, but did not include the smaller branches.  Opponents of that measure charged it could raise operating costs and lead to closure of the Downtown and College Terrace libraries.  The 2008 City Council instead embraced those smaller branches by including $4 million for the Downtown Library in the bond measure and funding improvements for the College Terrace branch in advance.  As a result, much of the criticism of this year's bond measure came from those who wanted fewer branches or just one library in the city.
 
See Palo Alto Weekly article and election results.

 
Free Genealogy Class on November 19

(11/5/08) Find out more about your ancestors and long-lost relatives on Wednesday, November 19 at the Main Library at 1213 Newell Road.  Librarians will show you how to use Heritage Quest and Ancestry.com, two vast online genealogical databases.  While Ancestry.com can only be used for free at a library, your Palo Alto library card lets you access Heritage Quest from anywhere over the Internet without cost.  The free class will also cover the Palo Alto Historical Association's collection of local photographs and news articles and runs from 10:30 am until noon.  To register, click here and then on the course description in the calendar listing for November 19.

 
New Booksale Hours and Rules

(10/8/08) Starting this month, the Bargain Room will open at 11 am on Sundays. That gives you two extra hours when all prices in the room are half-off, or to save even more by stuffing grocery bags full of books, videos, records, and games for $5 a bag. Our two other rooms will still open at 1 pm on Sunday and all rooms close at 4 pm.
 
With these extra Sunday hours for the Bargain Room, there will no longer be 50% discounts on Saturday afternoons.
 
Our new outdoor sale of $1 books begins at 9 am on Saturday, two hours before the adjacent Main Room itself opens. The outdoor sale will will be open until 4 pm and again from 1 to 4 pm on Sunday.
 
One other change: to make shopping fairer for all our customers, please buy just 12 items at a time in the Children's Room during its first hour on Saturday (from 10 am to 11 am ). Our cashiers are happy to help you store your purchases outside if you wish to buy more.

 
Marty Paddock, Recent Friends Booksale Manager, Passes Away

(10/8/08) It is with sadness that we extend our sympathies to the relatives and friends of Marty Paddock, manager of the Friends of the Palo Alto Library booksale from 2000 to 2006, who passed away on October 1, 2008 at home with her family.  Under her leadership, our booksales more than doubled to well over $200,000 a year and the entire operation moved from Terman into our present location in the Cubberley Community Center.  With tremendous energy and enthusiasm, Marty managed to make each month's sale a success no matter what obstacles appeared.  Her presence will be greatly missed by all of our customers, volunteers, donors, and members.
 
In Marty's honor, we now call the Main Room at Cubberley "Marty's Room." There are also brass plaques commemorating her service for Palo Alto's library community on benches and patio chairs at Palo Alto's Main Library.  A memorial service for Marty will be held in the coming weeks; please see our web site for more information when that becomes available.

 
Progress on Audit Recommendations

(10/8/08) Library Director Diane Jennings reported to the City Council on Monday, October 5 as to the status of 32 recommendations to improve the library made last year by the City Auditor.  18 of the recommendations have been completed, resulting in a unified scheduling and tracking system for employees, 68 magazine subscriptions that will not be renewed due to low usage, fingerprinting of all adult volunteers, better cash handling, and resumption of sending collection letters, among others.  Based on the auditor's recommendations to establish performance targets, the library sought to increase volunteer hours 10% in 2007-08 over the prior year but achieved 2%.  However, the library exceeded its goals of increasing Operation Homebound recipients and volunteers by 20% and now delivers materials to the Palo Alto Nursing Center and the Palo Alto Commons as well.
 
Jennings pointed out that by January 2009, patrons will be able to pay overdue fines by credit card online, as the auditor urged.  The city's budget staff, however, turned down for 2008-09 the recommendation to begin weekend transfers of materials between branches, which would expedite filling patron holds.
 
Surveys of Palo Altans have shown interest in longer library hours.  During the temporary closure of the College Terrace branch beginning in 2009, Jennings noted that freed-up staff may be able to lengthen the Mitchell Park Library's hours to match those at Main.  In addition, information collected from the new employee scheduling and tracking system will let the library answer next year the auditor's questions of whether existing staff could be redeployed to provide more open hours of operations altogether and if overtime can be reduced or eliminated.
 
Some of the audit's recommendations relate to the upcoming bond measure N.  At the auditor's request, the library determined that the new library at Mitchell Park will require one to three new staff positions, although automation and radio tagging of items might reduce that.  If the measure fails, the auditor suggested that the library receive additional funds to handle minor repairs and routine replacement of furniture and shelving, which the library says will require $24,000 in 2009-10.
 
For more information, see the 2007 audit, the library's recent report and detailed update on meeting the auditor's recommendations, the library's final report on automating book returns and radio tagging of items in the library, and a related Palo Alto Daily News story.

 
Palo Alto Library Bond Measure "N" Goes to Voters

(10/8/08)

On November 4, Palo Alto voters will decide the fate of library bond measure N, a $76 million effort to replace one library and update two others.  Here's the project in a nutshell:
 
Downtown Library Main Library Mitchell Park Library and Community Center
Square Footage No change Increases to 29,647 sq. ft. Increases to 51,255 sq. ft.
Collection Size No change Decreases slightly Increases to 150,000
Patron Seats

No change

No change Increases to 150
Meeting Areas New room for 80 New room for 100 and 4 group study rooms Large multi-purpose room, program room for 60, 3 group study rooms, 4 classrooms, computer room, and game room
Public Computers (excluding laptops) No change No change Increases to 40
Parking No change Increases to 88 spaces Increases to 138 spaces
Possible Completion Date 2010 2014 2012
Cost $4 million $18 million $50 million 
Bond Tax Impact

$200.42 annually for the average single family residence ($28.74 per $100,000 of assessed value)

Other Costs

$750,000 to $1.1 million annually in higher operating expenses; about $4.3 million one-time for furniture, fixtures, equipment


Artist's view of the proposed combined Mitchell Park
Library and Community Center
 

We thank our readers for submitting some questions about the proposal.  One asks, "What is the main motivation for the Bond issue?" The main motivation is to replace the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center by a combined facility about two-and-a-half times larger.  This accounts for 2/3 of the bond funds.
 
Another question was whether the approximately $976 per square foot for completing the design on and constructing the new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center is reasonable, given that local residences costs much less to construct?  The answer is that it's best to compare Measure N against other local library projects, which have similar design and construction requirements.  For example, a 2007 ballot measure to build a new 116,000 square foot Sunnyvale Library projected costs under $930 per square foot.  Since the Mitchell Park building, if approved, will start a year or more later and be less than half the size, Palo Alto's higher price is partly explained by inflation and fewer economies of scale.  Inflation is also a factor for why Palo Alto's cost is higher than the $772 per square foot for full design and construction of the 53,000 square foot Seven Trees Library and Community Center in San Jose, which broke ground this year.
 
Learn more by reviewing the official bond documents, SmartVoter's summary, the web sites of supporters and opponents, our quick views of the proposed designs, recent poll results, the city's project website and discussion of the ballot measure, previous coverage on our news pages, and various articles and forums at Palo Alto Online.

 
Election Politics at October 23 Annual Meeting

(9/10/08) Dr. Jonathan Herzog of the Stanford History Department and the Hoover Institute will discuss "Red State, Blue State: The Mysterious Twentieth-Century Shift in America's Political Map" at the Friends of the Palo Alto Library annual meeting on October 23.  Herzog recently wrote The Hammer and the Cross, a book examining how and why American leaders employed religion as a weapon in the early Cold War.  He is also the son of a library director.
 
We'll be holding our own elections at the meeting as well.  Our Nominating Committee's slate for 2009 officers is Betsy Allyn (President), Martha Schmidt (Vice President), Margarita Quihuis (Secretary), and Enid Pearson (Treasurer).  Half of the Friend's board is elected each year and the committee has nominated Gretchen Emmons, Gerry Masteller, Enid Pearson, Jim Schmidt, Steve Staiger, Ellen Wyman, and Scottie Zimmerrnan for the board seats with 2009-2010 terms.
 
The meeting will begin at 7:30 pm at the Palo Alto Art Center Auditorium at 1313 Newell Ave.  Refreshments will be served and the event is free and open to all.

 
Library Usage Update

(9/10/08) The Palo Alto Public Library reports 2007-08 circulation was over 1.5 million, a 9% rise over the prior year, with the College Terrace and Downtown branches experiencing the greatest growth.  The actual number of items checked out of the Palo Alto library was lower, as the library counts each renewal as one additional circulation, as do many other libraries.
 
Renewals have become much easier in recent years, thanks to email notices of upcoming due dates that link to the library website where you can conveniently renew multiple items at once.  In 2005-06, for each three items originally checked out of Palo Alto libraries, approximately one was renewed.  Moreover, renewals may be increasing much faster than checkouts, if experience at the Ann Arbor Library in Michigan is a guide.  Although that library's 2007-08 circulation was impressively 15% higher than the prior year, most of that was due to a 21% increase in online renewals.  In fact, thanks no doubt to the convenience of online and phone renewals, Ann Arbor users renew each item about 1.5 times on average!  More information.

 
Palo Alto Library Bond Measure "N": Q&A


Artist's view of the proposed Downtown Library upgrades
 

(9/10/08) With just two months until voters decide on the library bond measure, here are some questions and answers:
 
Q: What's the purpose of the bond measure?
A: To provide additional space to expand library collections, add new children's and group program areas, replace outdated lighting, provide modern ventilation and air conditioning systems, ensure seismic safety, and enhance disabled access.
 
Q: Which branches are covered?
A: The Mitchell Park, Main, and Downtown libraries.  The bond measure does not include either the recently-updated Children's Library or the College Terrace Library, which already has funds for a major upcoming renovation.
 
Q: How will the Mitchell Park Library be affected?
A: It and the adjacent Community Center will be replaced by a new combined 51,000 square foot facility, costing $50 million.  The new library will be about four times the size of the current one, alleviating the current crowded conditions and allowing for additional seating, study, and children's areas. The branch's collection capacity will almost double.
 
Q: How will the Downtown Library be affected?
A: Some staff currently in the building will be moved out as part of the $4 million of renovations.   A children's room will be created in an area formerly occupied by staff and a meeting room for 50-60 will be located where the periodicals are presently.  The current plans show reduced shelving for the collection but a new computer area.
 
Q: How will the Main Library be affected?
A: 4,171 square feet will be added to the 50-year old library, primarily for a new program room in the rear on the Art Center side, seating approximately 100 people.  The building will also gain four new group study rooms under the eaves of the patio outcroppings, air conditioning, upgraded lighting, seismic reinforcing, new restrooms, and better access for those with disabilities.  Some other sections of the library will be rearranged as part of the $18 million upgrade.
 
Q: How much will the bond measure cost?
A: Up to $76,000,000. The city also estimates that an additional $4.3 million will be needed for items such as furniture that cannot be paid for by bond funds, plus $1 million more to purchase the new collection items.  Private donations may help with these.
 
Q: How will this affect my taxes?
A: The bond measure will be paid through an increase in property taxes.  The city's best estimate of the highest annual tax rate for the bond is $28.74 per $100,000 of assessed tax valuation.  Based on the County Assessor's 2008-09 report, this means $200.42 per year for the average Palo Alto single family residence.
 
Q: Will it also cost more to run the expanded libraries?
A: The city expects that operating the larger facilities will cost an additional $750,000 to $1.1 million annually.
 
Q: I have more questions - where can I get answers?
A: Please type your questions in below and we'll try to provide answers in our next newsletter.  You need not include your name/email address. 



Q: Where can I learn more?
A: See the official bond documents, our quick views of the proposed designs, information from supporters of the bond measure, recent poll results, an editorial and responses and campaign update in the Palo Alto Weekly, the city's project website and discussion of the ballot measure, and previous coverage below.


Members-Early Sale on December 13

(9/10/08) Members of the Friends of the Palo Alto Library get in early once a year.  This year, it will be at our December 13 sale.  Regular members get into the Main Room one hour early and life members are admitted two hours early.  More information.

 
Library Bond Measure Finalized


Artist's view of the proposed Mitchell Park Library
and Community Center
 

(8/6/08) Palo Alto's City Council approved on Monday, August 4 the following ballot language for the November election:
 

LIBRARY FACILITIES, COLLECTIONS, SAFETY IMPROVEMENT BOND. To provide additional space to expand library collections, add new children's and group program areas, replace outdated lighting, provide modern ventilation and air conditioning systems, ensure seismic safety, and enhance disabled access, shall the City of Palo Alto issue bonds up to $76,000,000 to construct a new energy-efficient Mitchell Park Library and Community Center, expand and renovate Main Library, and renovate Downtown Library, with annual audits and independent citizen oversight?
 
Most of the bond monies will go to replace the existing Mitchell Park library and community center with a combined 51,000 square foot facility.  The new library will be about four times the size of the current one, alleviating the current crowded conditions and allowing for additional seating, study and children's areas.  The branch's collection capacity will almost double.
 
In addition to the $76 million, the city estimates that $4.3 million will be needed for items such as furniture that cannot be paid for by bond funds, plus $1 million more to purchase the new collection items.  Private donations may help with these.  The city also expects that operating the larger facilities will cost an additional $750,000 to $1.1 million annually, which is likely to come from the city's general fund.  The bond measure does not include either the recently-updated Children's Library or the College Terrace Library, which already has funds for a major upcoming renovation. 
 
See information from supporters of the bond measure, recent poll results and a Palo Alto Weekly editorial, the city's project website and discussion of the ballot measure, our quick views of the proposed designs, and previous coverage on our news pages.

 
Friends Donate $225,400 to Library

(8/6/08) Thanks to our generous booksale customers, members, donors, and volunteers, we are contributing $225,400 to the Palo Alto library for the 2008-09 fiscal year.  $190,000 is targeted at improving the library's collections with new books and DVDs, subscriptions to online resources, and by enabling Palo Altans to borrow for free from the vast Link+ system of California and Nevada public and university libraries.  The summer reading programs for children and teens, along with other youth events, will receive $26,900, a 68% increase from the previous year.  The remaining $8,500 will fund library events for adults and staff appreciation.
 
Over the year, we'll give additional funds for new children's and audio books, electronic databases, printer supplies, and the like, thanks to many donors who make targeted contributions and our multi-year $422,000 Cable Co-op Legacy Grant.  Learn more about how you can add new materials to the library, perhaps as a memorial or to honor someone.
 
Particular thanks goes to our more than 160 hard-working volunteers, whose 24,029 hours of effort over the twelve months ending in June 2008 is the equivalent of a full-time staff of twelve!

 
Library Bond Update


Artist's view of the proposed Main Library interior
 

(7/9/08) Palo Alto's City Council voted Monday night to proceed with plans to ask voters for approximately $75 million on the November ballot to improve three Palo Alto libraries.  As part of that effort, the Council opted to use the highest energy efficiency standards for the proposed new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center and to exclude $1.5 million for earlier project costs from the bond measure.
 
A poll in June found that 65% of 600 likely Palo Alto voters supported the proposed measure after hearing both pro and con arguments.  This falls slightly short of the required 2/3 supermajority and the polling firm of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates cautions that support tends to drift downward as an election nears.  However, they found support was slightly higher than in 2007, when the project was estimated to cost just $45 million and the economy was stronger.  The poll's margin of error is +/- 4%.
 
A bond measure in November 2002 to replace the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center and rebuild the Children's Library narrowly failed to reach the 2/3 level with 61.5% voting yes.
 
The recent poll showed considerable support for Palo Alto's five libraries.  58% of those polled had visited the Main Library in the last year, while 53% had used Mitchell Park, 25% Downtown, 24% Children's, and 13% College Terrace.  In fact, the polling found that 10% of the electorate would switch from voting yes to no in November if the Downtown Library improvements were excluded, even though this would save $4 million.
 
Among 24 possible improvements for the library system, the top choice was that all buildings be earthquake-safe, with 78% of likely voters rating this as extremely or very important.  Providing safe places for children, expansion of the collection, facilities for homework help, and accessibility for disabled persons ranked next.  The least popular improvements (as measured by the percentage rating these as extremely or very important) were building a new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center and spaces for community meetings, with only 29% strongly in favor of the latter.
 
City staff will work on the official language for the bond measure in the next weeks for the council to approve by August and a large voter education effort is already underway.  See the poll results, recent articles about the council decision (Palo Alto Weekly and Palo Alto Daily News), the city's project website, our quick views of the proposed designs, and previous coverage below.

 
New Online Resources Train and Entertain

(7/9/08) The Palo Alto Library is replacing many traditional reference materials with free online resources, which generally are available instantaneously 24/7 from home, office, and classroom, consume no valuable library space, don't require separate copies for each branch, and can be updated as needed.  The Friends of the Palo Alto Library has given over $100,000 in recent years to increase the library's online resources, thanks in part to a Cable Co-op Legacy Grant.
 
One such new resource is the LearningExpress Library, which offers beginning, intermediate, and often advanced online instruction for the following popular software programs:
 
   Adobe Acrobat 6.0
   Internet Explorer
   Microsoft Access 2003 and 2007
   Microsoft Excel 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2007
   Microsoft Outlook 98, 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2007
   Microsoft PowerPoint 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2007
   Microsoft Word 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2007
   Windows Vista
 
If you enjoy listening to audio books, the NetLibrary eAudio collection has over 3,000 downloadable titles for your PC and MP3 (but not iPod or Zune) players.  That's one title a day for 12 years of commuting!  The audio books topics include popular fiction and non-fiction, business, government and politics, mystery and suspense, romance, and even foreign language instruction, ranging from Albanian to Vietnamese.
 
The TellMeMore online resource is another way to learn or practice languages.  It provides intensive instruction in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish and actually can help you improve your pronunciation by listening to you through a microphone.
 
Many other online resources are available from the Palo Alto Library, including Nolo Press self-help books, back issues of thousands of magazines and newspapers, homework assistance, local history, and statistical databases.  See the comprehensive list.

 
Library Bond Meetings Tonight and in July


Artist's view of the proposed Downtown Library upgrades
 

(6/11/08) The public has another chance to see plans and ask questions about the proposed library and community center changes at a 7 pm meeting tonight, Wednesday, June 11 at the Downtown Library at 270 Forest Avenue.  The plans include updating the Downtown Library by consolidating and redecorating its public space (see picture on left), moving out some backroom staff, and making part of the library available for holding events.  The project would also remodel and expand the Main Library and replace the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center with a combined facility approximately 2.5 times larger.  Tonight's meeting is sponsored by the University South Neighborhood Association.
 
A poll in early 2007 found that fewer than the necessary 2/3 of likely voters would approve a $45 million library measure.  In the ensuing year, the project's estimated cost has risen to $77 million, plus additional funds are needed to acquire new library materials for the enlarged collection space at Mitchell Park.  The city is mailing out information about the projects and conducting a second scientific poll of residents beginning later this week to assess voter interest.  Results of that poll are expected to be discussed at a City Council meeting on July 7 at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Avenue used to decided within a few weeks the exact content of the ballot measure.  The Council is then expected to discuss the proposed bond measure on July 21 and finalize it on August 4, all in time for the November 2008 ballot.
 
The $77 million projected price tag reflects savings suggested by local construction experts.  As presented to the City Council on May 19, they recommended reducing the $11.7 million budgeted for project development, which includes permits and inspections, thereby shaving costs by $3.4 million after inflation.  See recent articles about the costs (Palo Alto Weekly and Palo Alto Daily News), tonight's meeting, and the informational mailings, the city's project website, and our quick views of the proposed designs.

 
Friends Fund International Newspapers Online

(6/11/08) Enjoy reading what's on newsstands around the world with a new library service that shows you the latest issues of over 650 major international newspapers from Albania to Zimbabwe.  It's almost like having the actual newspaper in your hands, as you can turn each page and zoom in to read any story in that country's language.  Funded by a grant from the Friends of the Palo Alto Library, the Library PressDisplay service includes 97 US newspapers such as the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, and the Washington Post.  Use PressDisplay for free at home or the office at any time by just entering your Palo Alto Library card number.  Note that this service is different from visiting a newspaper's website, in that it does not provide up-to-the-minute news nor English translations.

 
College Terrace Branch Improvements Pushed Back

(6/11/08) Concerns over historic preservation have moved the likely date for seismic, electrical, and other improvements to the College Terrace Library to April or May of 2009.  The work was supposed to begin this year but supports to strengthen the building against earthquakes will likely visually impact the interior, necessitating further review.  Once underway, the project is expected to take at least a year, during which the adjoining childcare facility will operate out of temporary facilities while the library branch will be closed.

 
New Bookcases in Children's Room

(6/11/08) Our Children's Room has new colorful and spacious shelves, thanks to a very kind donation from Books Inc. of Palo Alto.  The bookstore recently moved from the Stanford Shopping Center to Town and Country Village and brought over their extra shelves, which are a wonderful and much-welcomed improvement in the Children's Room.

 
Palo Alto Libraries Lead the Pack

(5/7/08) According to recently-released statistics from the California State Library, Palo Alto's libraries were first in per capita circulation and second in visits among similar-sized cities during 2006-2007.  Each Palo Altan checked out on average 23 items during that 12-month period, more than residents in any other California city of 50,000 to 70,000 population.  In fact, Palo Alto's per capita circulation topped that of Mountain View, Menlo Park, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and almost all others localities in the state.
 
Palo Alto achieves its high usage despite a smaller collection than many other libraries.  We rank just #32 out of 179 California cities and counties in total materials per capita and #37 for books.  Fourteen other library systems spent more than Palo Alto's $96.28 per resident, including Burlingame, Berkeley, and tiny Carmel, which topped the list at $325.87.

 
Join and Save

(5/7/08) Joining the Friends of the Palo Alto Library makes you eligible to bank at the Stanford Federal Credit Union - "Where the Stanford Community Banks!"  For more details, visit www.sfcu.org.  You also receive a 10% discount on purchases at Books Inc.'s brand-new store in Town and Country Village and early admittance at our annual Members-Early sale.  Join online, at the booksale, or at any Palo Alto library.

 
Library Bond Meeting on May 10

(5/7/08) A third community meeting on a proposed $80 million package of changes to Palo Alto's libraries and a community center takes place this Saturday from 10 to 11:30 am at the Mitchell Park Community Center at 3700 Middlefield Road.  Several dozen residents attended two earlier meetings in late April at which city officials, Library Director Diane Jennings, and representatives from the architectural firm Group 4 explained their plan to replace the Mitchell Park library and adjacent community center and upgrade the Main and Downtown buildings.
 
Attendees at the April meetings asked many questions about the proposal.  In response to queries about cost and schedule, project personnel explained that they hope to minimize inconvenience by closing just one facility at a time, but also to rebuild at Mitchell Park quickly to avoid construction cost inflation.  Because the Mitchell Park project is complex, they anticipate improving the Downtown Library first, which is a much smaller effort and might begin by the end of 2009.  During that period, a modular building could house the downtown technical services staff.  The city would raze the Mitchell Park buildings next and build the new 51,000 square foot combined facility with the modular building nearby (possibly at the Cubberley Community Center) providing interim library services to the public.  Once the Mitchell Park project is completed, the modular building would relocate to serve as a temporary facility for the remodeling of the Main Library.  The smaller size of the modular might allow the city to reassign personnel from Main during this final stage and delay hiring the extra staff that the Mitchell Park library will eventually require.  By 2013 or 2014, the entire project would be completed.
 
To address cost concerns, the city has sought input from local construction experts and expects to hear their report at a City Council meeting rescheduled for May 19 at 7 pm at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Avenue.  The city also plans to mail two to four informational pieces to residents and poll to assess support for the bond measure, with the results to be discussed at the June 23 City Council meeting.  See recent articles in the Palo Alto Weekly and Palo Alto Daily News, the city's project website, and our quick views of the proposed designs.

 
Book Group Chooses Next Year of Reading

(5/7/08) 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
May 8, 2008   Saturday by Ian McEwan
June 12   The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan
July 10   Half the Way Home by Adam Hochschild
August 14   Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
September 11   A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
October 9   Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
November 13   Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
December 11   Seeing by Jose Saramago
January 8, 2009   I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb
February 12   The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
March 12   Our Story Begins by Tobias Wolff
April 9   Choose the next eleven books

 
Summer Reading Program Begins June 2

(5/7/08) The Palo Alto Library's summer reading program begins in early June.  Kids of all ages can participate and attend events and parties.  Once you achieve your reading goal, you receive a free book and other awards, and may be eligible for grand prizes.  See more information for kids through 5th grade and teens.  The summer reading program is sponsored by the Friends of the Palo Alto Library.

 
Book Sale Coordinator Needed - Can You Help?

(4/23/08) The Friends is seeking a Book Sale Coordinator to oversee the operations of our monthly book sales at Cubberley, which generate more than $200K annually to support programs and acquisitions in Palo Alto’s libraries.   More.

 
Library Bond Meetings

(4/20/08) In preparation for a likely November 2008 bond measure to raise approximately $80 million for library improvements, the city is holding four public meetings:
 
* Wednesday, April 23 at 7 pm at the Downtown Library,
* Tuesday, April 29 at 7 to 8:30 pm at the Main Library,
* Wednesday, April 30 from 7 to 8:30 pm at the Mitchell Park Community Center, and
* Saturday, May 10 from 10 to 11:30 am at the Mitchell Park Community Center.
 
The improvements consist of replacing the existing Mitchell Park Library and Community Center with a single 51,000 square foot building at the same site, remodeling and somewhat enlarging the Main Library, and reconfiguring and updating the Downtown Library.  See proposed designs.  The city is also producing a nine-minute informational video and will send two to four direct mail pieces to residents.
 
To address cost concerns, the city has sought input from local construction experts and expects to hear their report at a City Council study session on May 5 at 6 pm at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Avenue.  The city also plans to assess voter support for the bond measure via a poll and then review the results at the June 23 City Council meeting.

 
Library Offers Free Technical Books Online

(4/9/08) Your Palo Alto library card now lets you instantly access almost 1,200 books about computers and technology for free.  Available online 24/7, the collection includes many recent titles from publishers such as O’Reilly, Addison-Wesley, Peachpit Press, and Prentice-Hall.  Click here to see a full list and check out any of the books.  Funded in part through an enrichment grant from the Friends of the Palo Alto Library, this online collection from Safari represents an incredible bargain for Palo Alto library users, as Safari charges individuals over $250 for one year of access.

 
Free Access to University Library Materials

(4/9/08) Starting in 2009, you'll be able to check out millions of books from many California and Nevada university libraries for free, thanks to the Link+ program that the Palo Alto Library will join.  Unlike present interlibrary loans, which tend to be slow and cost $7.50 per checkout, you typically receive books through Link+ within a few days and pay nothing.  Click here to search through the amazing collection that Link+ offers, which is way beyond that of any public library.
 
Back in 2004, one of our board members was using Link+ via the Mountain View Library to research World War I and wondered why Palo Alto's library didn't offer the same service.  Various obstacles existed at the time, including technical incompatibilities between Palo Alto's catalog system and the one used by Link+.  Those problems have since been solved and in 2007 we pledged $120,000 to help fund and publicize a two-year Link+ pilot.  Palo Alto's City Council voted on March 17 to accept the gift and provide up to $110,000 more for the pilot.  A fast interlibrary loan system actually saves money by better sharing materials.  In 2005, we estimated it would cost Palo Alto a billion dollars to purchase and house a collection as large as Link+.
 
Link+ also allows you to access the collections of many other public libraries, including San Francisco, Berkeley, San Jose, and Sunnyvale.  This means that if all copies of a popular book or other item are checked out in Palo Alto, you may still be able to get a copy quickly.  If you can't wait to use Link+ until 2009, it is available for free to all California residents at the Mountain View and many other Bay Area libraries.  See brief Palo Alto Weekly article and library's detailed proposal.

 
College Terrace Library Developments

(4/9/08) On April 7, Palo Alto's City Council voted to reclassify the College Terrace Library building as a Category 2 resource on the Palo Alto Historic Inventory, thereby designating it as a "Major Building" of regional importance.  Designed by noted Bay Area architect Charles K. Sumner, the facility was constructed in 1936 for $20,400 of WPA (Works Progress Administration) funds.  While the library portion of the building is relatively unchanged, the other half was originally a community center but then became a daycare facility in the mid-1970s.
 
The city plans next to rehabilitate the building beginning this fall, with the library and childcare facilities closing for one to two years.

With the Category 2 designation and planned rehabilitation, an additional 2,500 square feet could be added to the building.  Rather than do that, the city is likely to sell those expansion rights for use by a developer elsewhere in the city.  In 2005, a similar transfer of development rights of 2,500 square feet for the Children's Library earned $237,500 for the city's general fund and the city hopes to raise a similar amount from selling the College Terrace rights.  See Palo Alto Weekly and Palo Alto Daily News articles.

Someone in Finland: Pay Up!

(4/9/08) It's every library user's nightmare: you forget to return a book and the fines mount.  But what if you want to return a book more than 100 years overdue, as recently happened at a library in Vantaa, a city in south Finland near Helsinki?  The 1902 bound volume contained an old library note listing overdue fines at 10 pennies a week.  No payment was included and the book was apparently checked out at a different library, since the branch it was returned to didn't exist a hundred years ago.  Not surprisingly, the library does not know yet who is responsible.  See Reuters story.

 
Library Bond Heading for November Vote

(3/5/08) Palo Alto's City Council voted 7 to 2 on February 11 to ask voters to support approximately $80 million of proposed library improvements with a bond likely to be on the November 2008 ballot.  The project entails replacing the existing Mitchell Park Library and Community Center with a single 51,000 square foot building at the same site, remodeling and somewhat enlarging the Main Library, and reconfiguring and updating the Downtown Library.  See proposed designs on our website.  Palo Alto's other two branch facilities will not be affected by the bond measure, as the Children's Library was updated last year and major repairs for the College Terrace branch are already being planned.
 
The two councilmembers in the minority also supported the library plans, but were unhappy funding a replacement public safety building via reduced city services and possible new revenues.  The majority felt that voters will not support the public service building and thus other city revenues need to be used.  Neither project received 2/3 support in polling last year, which is the level required for bond passage.  See recent coverage in the Palo Alto Weekly and Palo Alto Daily News.
 
The city is also undertaking an approximately $65,000 outreach campaign to educate the public about the library bond measure, using videos, handouts, online materials, and meetings.  See Palo Alto Weekly article.

 
Free Talk March 12 about Online Teens

(3/5/08) Anastasia Goodstein, author of Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens Are Really Doing Online, will address parents’ concerns about online safety, cyberbullying and other ways technology affects kids at a free event at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, March 12 at Palo Alto High School's Haymarket Theater at 50 Embarcadero Road.  This program is funded by the Friends of the Palo Alto Library and cosponsored by the library, the Palo Alto Unified School District, the Palo Alto Council of PTAs, and the Palo Alto Drug Alcohol Community Collaborative.

 
Apply for a Palo Alto Library Card Online

(3/5/08) Any resident of California is eligible for a Palo Alto library card, which gives you access to great online resources and the largest book collection in California among similar-sized cities.  Start your application today on the library's website.

 
Important Changes at Main Room

(2/6/08) Because of our severe space limitations and compelling issues of health and safety, we will only allow 185 customers into the Main Room at a time.  On Saturday, February 9, customers will be originally admitted in the order of their numbered tickets that are given out from 8 to 11 am.  Once inside, customers may take only 12 books off of shelves, after which they should purchase these and exit via the east door.  They may then join at the end of any remaining line at the north door and reenter in that order.  The limitation of 12 books at a time will continue past noon if a line remains outside.
 
When picking up numbered tickets, please note that you can take one for yourself and one other person.
 
We regret any inconvenience that may be caused by adjusting to these changes.  We hope you will understand it is for everyone's safety.  We'll have extra volunteers to monitor and help and wish to thank everyone for their patience.

 
Library Bond Price Rises, Aims for November Ballot

(2/6/08) Seeking more time to educate the public about library needs, a split City Council decided on Monday, February 4 to shift a potential $80 million Palo Alto library bond measure from a June 2008 date to the November 2008 election.
 
The Council unanimously confirmed that the bond would still cover replacing the existing Mitchell Park Library and Community Center with a single 51,000 square foot building at the same site, remodeling and somewhat enlarging the Main Library, and reconfiguring and updating the Downtown Library.  See proposed designs on our website.  Palo Alto's other two branch facilities will not be affected by the bond measure, as the Children's Library was updated last year and major repairs for the College Terrace branch are already being planned.
 
One reason councilmembers favored the later election date was that polling in early 2007 found that fewer than the necessary 2/3 of voters support the library/community center project.  Since then, the estimated cost of the project has risen from $45 million to approximately $80 million, partly because more costs were included.  Councilmembers discussed possible ways to lower the amount voters would need to approve, such as seeking $4 million from donors for the buildings' furniture, fixtures and equipment, as was done on a smaller scale for the Children's Library.  A more controversial option is to dedicate new city revenue over a number of years to repay some of the library and community center construction costs, which would in turn reduce the available funding for a new public safety building or other city services and be more expensive, according to city staff.  The four councilmembers at the subsequent Finance Committee meeting on February 5 split over whether to recommend a single ballot measure to raise $110 million for both the library/community center and public safety building projects that would require $41 million to come from other new city revenues.
 
The November 2008 date will also give the city more time to run a second poll to understand public reaction to the new cost estimates and funding alternatives.  Opinions on the council varied as to how much in new taxes voters are likely to approve and whether substantial city revenue should be locked into paying for a public safety building without voter approval.  The council is expected to discuss the funding issues more on February 11.
 
See four articles in local papers about the cost increases and ballot issues:
  PA library cost estimates soar to $80 million
  New price of renovations: $80 million
  Funding public-safety building splits committee
  Three libraries forwarded to November ballot

 
Palo Altans Rate Library Highly

(2/6/08) 81% of Palo Altans rate our overall libraries as good or excellent, according to the recently-released 2006-2007 City of Palo Alto Citizen Survey.  This annual survey of opinions about the city, conducted by Palo Alto's City Auditor, also found that 75% of residents feel the variety of library materials is good or excellent and 75% rate our neighborhood branch libraries as good or excellent.  All three of these numbers are up from the previous year.
 
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 54th percentile.  However, these rankings are extremely volatile, since Palo Alto last year ranked higher even though its ratings were lower.
 
33% of survey respondents reported using the library or its services more than 12 times last year, while 79% did so at least once during the year.
 
The study indicates that library usage in Palo Alto is evolving.  Over the last 5 years, circulation has risen 14%, reference questions declined 35%, Internet sessions increased 52%, and online database searches rose by 192%.  In-library volunteers donated over 5,800 hours this past year, 45% more than five years ago.

 
New Ways to Get Information

(2/6/08) Discover new ways to find useful information through library and other resources at free presentations over the next months.  All talks will be held from 10:30 am to noon at the Main Library, 1213 Newell Road.  You can reserve a spot online.  Upcoming topics are:
 
February 13: How to Help Your Child Succeed in School Using Library Tools
 
March 12: The Historic New York Times: Searching a Century of News
 
April 9: Health Matters: Online Tools for Medical Information
 
May 14: Genealogy Resources @ The Library (back by popular demand)
 
June 11: Traveling? Learn the Secrets of Researching Your Destination

 
Books Inc. Moves Palo Alto Store

(2/6/08) Members of the Friends of the Palo Alto Library receive a 10% discount at the bookstore Books Inc., which has just moved from Stanford Shopping Center to a 4000 square-foot store in Town and Country Village at El Camino and Embarcadero.  Books Inc. originally opened at Stanford back in 1957, so they're the oldest general-interest bookstore in Palo Alto!

 
Palo Alto Reads Events in January and February

NEW (1/9/08) Join Palo Alto and all Silicon Valley in reading Bo Caldwell's bestselling first novel, The Distant Land of My Father, and then visit the library's blog and attend the following free local events sponsored by the Friends of the Palo Alto Library:
 
Friday, January 25: Memories of Wartime Shanghai, with Meimei Pan and Connie Young Yu, Main Library, 1213 Newell Road, 7 pm
 
All January: Growing up Asian in America exhibit at the Main Library, 1213 Newell Road
 
February 1: Red Panda Acrobats, Mitchell Park Community Center, 3800 Middlefield Road, 7 pm
 
February 11: The Distant Land of My Father book discussion, Mitchell Park Library, 3800 Middlefield Road, 7 pm
 
February 12: The Distant Land of My Father book discussion, Downtown Library, 270 Forest Avenue, noon
 
February 13: The Distant Land of My Father book discussion, College Terrace Library, 2300 Wellesley Avenue, 7 pm
 
February 17: Firebird Youth Chinese Orchestra, Mitchell Park Community Center, 3800 Middlefield Road, 7 pm
 
February 24: In Conversation with Bo Caldwell, author of The Distant Land of My Father, Palo Alto Art Center, 1313 Newell Road, 3 pm

 
Council to Review New Library Costs

(1/9/08) Palo Alto's City Council plans to discuss new cost estimates for the Mitchell Park, Main, and Downtown library projects at its February 4 meeting at City Hall, although the date is tentative.
 
The proposed projects would replace the existing Mitchell Park Library and Community Center with a single 51,000 square foot building at the same site, remodel and somewhat enlarge the Main Library, and reconfigure and update the Downtown Library.  See proposed designs on our website.  Palo Alto's other two branches are not included in these proposals, as the Children's Library was updated last year and major repairs for the College Terrace branch are already being planned.
 
The city estimated in 2006 that the Downtown, Main, and Mitchell Park projects would cost $45 million and contemplated funding the projects with a 2008 bond measure.  A poll and follow-on study in 2007 suggested that Palo Alto voter support for the project likely falls short of the required 2/3 supermajority but was higher than for a bond to fund a new public safety building.  Subsequently, the Council directed city staff to investigate funding the public safety building without a ballot measure, perhaps by using existing city funds and new revenue sources to pay back a construction loan.  The Council is tentatively scheduled to discuss those options at the same February 4 meeting after a review by the city's Finance Committee on Tuesday, January 15.

 
2008 Officers and Board Members

(1/9/08) The Friends of the Palo Alto Library has new officers and board members for 2008 based on the election held at last October's Annual Meeting. Our president again is Betsy Allyn, well-known to many as a cashier at our booksale.  Martha Schmidt is our vice-president, Margarita Quihuis is secretary, Enid Pearson is treasurer, and John Burt is assistant treasurer.
 
Carolyn Spitz, a retired HP project manager and booksale volunteer, is joining the Friends board. The other Friends board members in 2008 are Rudy Batties, Gretchen Emmons, Jeff Levinsky, Gerry Masteller, Bob Otnes, Jim Schmidt, Barbara Silberling, Steve Staiger, Ellen Wyman, and Tom Wyman.

 
Younger Adults Use Libraries More

(1/9/08) According to a recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, American adults 30 and under use libraries more than older adults, defying expectations that greater computer fluency would lead to lower library usage.  The study found that 62% of 18-30 year-olds visited a library at least once a year, compared to 53% of adults overall and just 32% of those over 72.  Indeed, 61% of Internet users had also visited their library at least once during the year compared to 28% of non-Internet users. 
 
The study looked at other factors that correlate with higher library use.  The authors cite "convenience" as one factor, noting that 58% whose library is within two miles visited at least annually versus only 42% whose libraries were further away.  Educational level matters too, as 68% of college graduates had made at least one library visit over a year, compared to 44% of those with only a high school diploma.
 
Study participants were asked where they go for help in dealing with specific problems.  Just 13% cited libraries, with the Internet the highest at 58% and professional advisors such as doctors and lawyers at 53%.  However, for many without computers, the library is where they access the Internet.

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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