That resistance comes from longstanding members of the Friends of the Palo Alto Libraries, a citizens' group that over the years has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to support library operations through its community book sales.
It surfaced at a community meeting Tuesday night to discuss design concepts for the library rejuvenation planned for the Main Library and already underway at the Downtown Library branch and an entirely rebuilt Mitchell Park Library and Community Center.
The issue is whether extra space should be created for patrons using digital devices.
The catch is that the architects and library officials are also suggesting either leveling off or reducing the number of "real" books, and thus sacrificing some shelf space in the redesign.
Interim library Director Ned Himmel said use of e-books in the library system has climbed 30 percent in the past year — but that impressive-sounding figure is hollow, based on a minuscule .6 percent of overall circulation. He also noted that Amazon.com is now selling more e-books than hard-copy new best-sellers.
He predicted that the digital era will only grow.
It is the proposal to level off or cut back the book collection for the Main Library that rallied the Friends' leadership, who showed up with about 20 supporters Tuesday night to lambaste the idea. Longtime Friends member Ellen Wyman said it would be dishonest in terms of a pledge to expand the collection that was made prior to the library bond vote in 2008.
"If they want to pass another bond in the next eon, they better not do it," she warned about any cutback in the collection.
We agree that the city should adhere to pledges made in 2008, but it's also increasingly clear that readership habits of the younger generation — and many in the older generation — are changing as fast as new technology emerges.
Collection size notwithstanding, building in flexibility to accommodate the gadgetry within the libraries is far better than seeing patrons fade away from our new buildings over time, leaving them predominantly as book warehouses guarded by a few lonely staff members.