Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 25, 2013

Why no applicants for library commission?

Council concludes panel is 'viable' but reduces membership to five

by Chris Kenrick

Why didn't anybody apply for a recent vacancy on Palo Alto's Library Advisory Commission?

The dearth of applicants for the advisory panel to the City Council — despite recruitment efforts from July to October — led to a council inquiry on the "viability" of the commission.

The council concluded this week that the commission indeed serves a useful purpose after hearing so from Library Director Monique le Conge and library commissioners themselves.

But council members voted to reduce the number of commissioners from seven to five — a more "manageable" number, le Conge said, and one they hope will ease recruitment troubles in the future.

With library use steady and residents consistently rating libraries as one of their most-valued city services, the lack of applicants for the commission following the July 2012 resignation of Noel Bakhtian remained something of a mystery.

Councilman Larry Klein in October asked for a discussion of the viability of the commission.

"I hope the length of the meetings isn't why we're seeing so many vacancies," council Klein said this week, referring to the four-hour meetings that have been held roughly every month.

"The LAC has way more vacancies than any of our other commissions, almost by a factor of two. It's a disturbing number."

The board's need for new members is about to be exacerbated, with three more commissioners' terms set to expire Jan. 31.

Le Conge said she values the advice of library commissioners, who also regularly stay in touch with two other library interest groups in town, Friends of the Palo Alto Library and the Palo Alto Library Foundation.

In their own response, library commissioners said they perceive that they are "providing a valuable and rewarding service to the city," lending perspectives on long-term outlook for programs, services and use of space; technology, finance and marketing expertise and advocacy for libraries.

"We have a lot to discuss, especially with new facilities coming on line," library commissioner Bob Moss told the council Tuesday.

Councilwoman Nancy Shepherd said she expects a "vigorous debate" over library staffing in 2014, when the new Mitchell Park Library is opened and people will seek longer hours for the College Terrace Library, which currently operates just four days a week.

Besides Moss, current library commissioners, according to the city's website, are Toluope Akinola, Leonardo Hochberg, Eileen Landauer, Theivanai Palaniappan and Mary Beth Train. The terms of Akinola, Moss and Palaniappan expire Jan. 31.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.

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