Precisely one year ago, then-City Auditor Sharon Erickson issued an "Audit of Library Operations" that had 32 specific recommendations on how to make the libraries more efficient in terms of operations and thus able to be open more hours without adding more staff.
While many recommendations have been acted upon under Director of Libraries Diane Jennings, others remain. Jennings actually moved early to make staffing efficiencies, downgrading staff levels at College Terrace and Downtown branches to improve scheduling elsewhere.
It's no surprise that Erickson's staff found Palo Alto libraries generally were in the poorest shape of 10 Peninsula community libraries they visited. Besides their general condition they suffer from overcrowding, poor lighting and inadequate meeting space, the audit found. It also is no surprise that the audit concluded operating five branches is more expensive than operating fewer branches.
What was surprising was that the audit found serious deficiencies in staff scheduling, with a profusion of job titles. The audit noted that over the past decade staffing has increased while hours open have decreased — not acceptable — even though 71 percent of respondents to a survey cited having additional hours (especially evenings and weekends) as either important or very important.
But the survey question that showed a heavy preference for five branches was flawed in that there was no comparison of operating costs, staffing inefficiencies and impact on open hours.
With the City Council now officially scheduling a huge library bond election for November, voters need to see a complete, detailed response to the library audit recommendations — and a review of the policy of having five branches, with perhaps a new, more realistic survey — before being asked to underwrite major, multi-decade improvements in library facilities.
Until those operational issues can be addressed convincingly, the Weekly cannot editorially support the November library bond measure.
Editorial: The personal price of plagiarism
It was a sad coincidence that both graduation speakers at Palo Alto High School's June commencement exercises apparently plagiarized parts of their speeches.
It was only because a fellow student happened to discover one of the instances — lifted from a graduation speech at another high school — that the plagiarism came to light, humiliating the speakers and embarrassing the school.
We don't know what, if any, consequences may come down on the young plagiarists. But we hope they and others will ponder implications of what they did — the most serious of which may be deeply personal.
Putting aside embarrassment to the school, which will pass, questions raised by the plagiarisms (1) undermine the credibility of the students' entire academic achievements and (2) reflect on standards of the school, or at least on the "culture of hyper achievement" that seems to prevail in Palo Alto.
Speaking generally, if any student is willing to copy the work of others to garnish his or her graduation speech — one of the greatest honors a school can bestow on a student, reserved for the most outstanding of the outstanding — it can't help but raise questions about the student's earlier performance or in the highly competitive college-application process.
But the real issue runs deeper than what others think. The real issue is what the students think of their own abilities. For students to feel they must crib from others' means they don't feel their work is good enough to measure up to the standard-of-appearance they, their parents, teachers or peers have set.
The result is that they deprive themselves of the deep, abiding sense of satisfaction that comes from knowing "I did it myself!" The sense of creative joy that comes with completing a challenging assignment, a difficult essay, a class presentation or a graduation speech is forever lost to them — even if there is no nagging fear of detection, or even if they are able to shrug off what should be a sense of humiliation with an "everyone does it" rationalization.
That personal loss is the saddest part of plagiarism.