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What has happened to the Main Library after school?

Original post made by Bill on Feb 28, 2007

I went in to the Main Library today late this afternoon to take back some books, and the place was a 'zoo'.
Wasn't this supposed to be an after school study environment and one for tutoriing? It was out of control with noise, kids running all over the place chasing one another, playing computer games but from casual wandering amid the chaos, I didn't see much studying done. It is really after-school baby sitting. Is this what we are suppose to redesign the libraries for? Does this happen at Mitchell Park? After this I'll avoid the place after school is out.

Comments (29)

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2007 at 6:46 am

Yes, get them back out in the alleys where they belong.

Posted by MP volunteer, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 1, 2007 at 3:19 pm

Take the situtation you witnessed at the Main Library and take it to the second power. Main Library is 26,000 sq ft. Mitchell Park is 9,478 sq ft. How many schools do we have near Mitchell Park? Let's see... Fairmeadow, Challenger, Hoover, and JLS are all within 10 minutes of walking. The crosstown shuttle can bring in students from Juana Briones, Terman, and a few from Gunn. Librarians and volunteers deem these peak times as a "rush hour" that generally starts around 2-3 pm and ends at 5-6 pm.

Thank goodness there's been a slight lack of rain this season. When it's pouring outside, Mitchell Park Library and the community center can see up to double the number of afterschoolers.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2007 at 4:51 pm

Ok, but is it for fun and games, recreation, or studying? What is the bond issue 'pitch' for the after school activities? Recreation or studying. Main certainly isn't a study hall. Main Library has Paly, Jordan, Addison, Walter Hays, Duveneck and the school at Garland. T he Community Center is three blocks away. I just want to know what is supposed to be going on during those hours: recreation or studying. Let's not get into a Main vs. Mitchell debate.
That is not the issue.

Posted by JLS Parent, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 1, 2007 at 5:04 pm

"The Drop" at the Mitchell Park Community Centre, is an after school homework and recreational hangout. It is of course, right beside the library. Many middle schoolers hang out there and it is supervised and the students have to register. This means that the majority of students in the library should be there for the library services, not just to hang out. What we probably need is a similar hang out place near the Main library, probably in the Community Centre at Lucie Stern and then the students will hang out there rather than the library.

I do presume that elementary students are there with parents and although childrens library is temporarily closed and the childrens books have been moved to the other libraries, the atmosphere is the libraries should remain as they were. Or am I just old-fashioned when I think of whispering in libraries?

Posted by support our libraries, a resident of another community
on Mar 1, 2007 at 6:47 pm

Mitchell Park and Main both promote study and recreation for teens. Public libraries must be open for the community and anyone is welcome to enter. Staff members can only remove individuals from the premises if they pose a safety threat, or distraction to others.

Many teens come to the library for computers and internet access. Staff members have no right to limit computer or internet usage to only school work because the staff must adhere to the American Library Association's Internet Use Policy. Staff members can however break up 'cluster groups' of students that usually gather around a person playing an internet game.

Staff members try to ensure safe and comfortable environments in all libraries given the current state of building infrastructure. Eighty students talking in soft tones or room level voices can sound extremely loud in a confined location. Because of situations like these, it makes it difficult to attain a 'quiet' sound level.

Although Mitchell Park does promote the usage of the adjacent community center and 'the drop' we also allow teens and students to use library spaces as recreational areas.
Palo Alto Libraries Celebrate Updated Teen Zones

Palo Alto, CA -- The teen spaces at Palo Alto 's Main and Mitchell Park Libraries just got a little nicer and a lot more teen-friendly. New furnishings, provided by a grant from the Palo Alto Library Foundation and selected with the advice of the Teen Library Advisory Board, will give students a space to study, browse the teen book and media collections, use computers, read, and relax. To celebrate, the Library will be hosting two grand opening parties with a ribbon-cutting by Mayor Judy Kleinberg and teen representatives.

The newly decorated teen areas will house comfortable, modern seating; study tables; computer stations; sleek displays for manga, teen cds, and dvds; teen magazines, and, of course, the latest books. Library Director Diane Jennings says, "Teens are such an important part of the population the Library serves. We hope the updated teen spaces will make them feel more welcome." Teen Library Advisory Board member Erika is excited: "I like the new teen room and I think it will be really great and better once we get the new furniture. I am also happy that there is a room for teens to hang out."
The goal of city libraries is to address the needs of the public, this includes adults, seinors, juveniles, and teens. Staff members are trying their best to offer the greatest level of service given current conditions. The Library Advisor Commission is exploring the possibility of having designated 'hang out' locations in most library branches. Severall other ideas proposed are study halls, computer labs, and small meeting rooms. Setting specific areas of libraries for separate uses would reduce noise level while allowing an environment for both quiet study and recreation. The library department is excited in implementing these improvements when the financial resources are available.

We're deeply sorry if you did not enjoy today's visit, next time please contact a staff member if an individual is being extremely disruptive.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2007 at 7:16 pm

I can think of no higher use of a library that as a place where children feel comfortable to assemble and interact. Unlike some who bewail the overcrowding of our schools, I would hate to see Palo Alto become a retirement community. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Bill, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2007 at 9:58 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 1, 2007 at 11:01 pm

Walter, well said. This is only the second time I've agreed with you. Keep it up! :) We DO need to encourage kids to assemble in safe places. Libraries are evolving in many ways; one of those ways is as gathering and cultural centers. Our library staff is working hard to accomodate these new trends. We would do well to support their efforts, and be happy that our kids have found a safe place to congregate.

Posted by janet, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2007 at 11:28 pm

Libraries are supposed to be quiet, so people can read.

I don't care how many kids are there, as long as they don't make it impossible for the library to be a library, which they're doing, with the aid of the library staff.

Posted by God, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 2, 2007 at 6:50 am

If we need a place for kids to assemble/interact we should use the community center or some recreation center.

"Library" has a specific function - let us not get this infused in us that we need to evolve our thinking. I expect libraries to be quiet reading places.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 2, 2007 at 10:28 am

Palo Alto is lucky to have our network of libraries for the students to use - but libraries are quiet zones. Sending your child to the library after school for homework, relaxing, quiet reading and studying is wonderful, but it should not be a replacement for adult supervision.

I stopped at Main Library about 4pm Thurday to pick-up a couple books - it was more like a party than a library. There were children running, yelling, throwing things, etc. This behavior is disrespectful to our library staff and the fellow patrons. The libraries should be places which welcome children of all ages - but for library activities, not joke telling, running around, etc. I have a teenager, who enjoys time with his friends, but knows that a library is a place to use your "quiet voice". I'm not sure much studying or reading could occur in that atmosphere.

Posted by k, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 2, 2007 at 12:07 pm

Walter is correct. I respect what Bill says, but I haven't happened to see that at Main, maybe since I go there at different times, or it wasn't enough to make an impression on me. Of course, parents should teach their children how to use libraries and how to behave there.

I come from a background as a high-tech librarian, (not a public librarian), but I am familiar with many public libraries. They continue to be wonderful community and business resources and our children and teens should be welcomed there. The more reading they do, the better. Library computer use is difficult to manage - I didn't encounter that issue in my work. I am not a fan of computer games, either. I am pleased when my teens use a variety of library resources instead of looking at Wikipedia or just Googling a topic.

Work-education-pleasure - these are all good reasons to be at the library. All ages should be welcome. There's a slogan that "libraries change lives."

As for little children, I agree they should be supervised by a parent. The library is not a daycare. I would back up the librarians enforcing reasonable behavior - again, as a corporate librarian, I never had to deal with this issue faced by public librarians. The situation will improve when the children's library reopens. While I don't support a wild, loud atmosphere, I think having a facility/facilities large enough to permit a VARIETY of atmospheres is best. I also don't think it's necessary to have people whispering, though there can be quiet study areas and group study areas, etc.

Our problem is, look at our Palo Alto library facilities -- eek. We haven't kept up with the Joneses and it is affecting us. I don't understand why people here oppose underground parking (see Mountain View Library, see city of Santa Clara Main Library)- why can't we free up space for services and resources. Yes, I know underground parking is costly, but you see it more and more (new Whole Foods on ECR besides the above libraries).

One of my teens uses Main Library occasionally, checks out books, and has worked on a couple of projects there, and I assure you teens really have work to do. They're pretty pressured around here. I am less familiar with Mitchell, except when I've visited it's apparent it is outrageously overcrowded and the staff is working hard.

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 2, 2007 at 5:20 pm

I posted earlier about being at the Main library yesterday - it was not little children throwing things, running, etc. It was either middle or high school kids - the ages that many parents think no longer need supervision...

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 2, 2007 at 5:20 pm

There may be a need for a quiet lounge, but where to put it? I will still trade the ease of adult users for the welcoming of children.

Posted by Kate, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 2, 2007 at 6:23 pm

Re: configuration of libraries - and underground parking. The 'water table'is very high in the Main Library area. It and even the storage area for the Children's Theater at Lucy Stern were hit hard in the 1998 flood. Almost everyone I know who has a basement in the Duveneck, Crescent Park, Christmas Tree Lane, Community Center areas who has a basement has a sump pump. Building any underground area requires pumping in the building stage.. This is why I don't think underground parking for possible condos at Edgewood Plaza is feasible.
I hope there are some informed people who read this and will give some good information

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2007 at 10:27 am

I think everyone would agree that it's important for teens to be welcome at the library and that we provide what they need for studying and reading. However, Bill's original post said, "It was out of control with noise, kids running all over the place chasing one another, playing computer games . . . "

I'm not willing to subsidize a baby-sitting recreational area for kids of any age. Some of the comments in this blog – including those from library employees – will certainly kill any hope of passing a library bond issue, e.g.,

- The newly decorated teen areas will house comfortable, modern seating; study tables; computer stations; sleek displays for manga, teen cds, and dvds; teen magazines, and, of course, the latest books. Library Director Diane Jennings says, "Teens are such an important part of the population the Library serves. We hope the updated teen spaces will make them feel more welcome." (Will we also have updated Boomer spaces, pre-teen spaces, elderly spaces, etc. for other age groups? Why aren't normal library facilities good enough for teens?)

- We also allow teens and students to use library spaces as recreational areas. (Just what kind of recreation will we provide for besides reading and computer use?)

- The Library Advisor Commission is exploring the possibility of having designated 'hang out' locations in most library branches. (Why would taxpayers provide expensive library space for teens to hang out?)

-I can think of no higher use of a library that as a place where children feel comfortable to assemble and interact. (That depends on the purpose of assembling and interacting. If they're working on projects, homework, etc., that's great.)

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2007 at 11:48 am

Pat -

I agree, libraries are a wonderful resource and teens should be welcome there - for library activities. Study, research, reading, working in groups quietly, computer use - including computer games. The important thing is that the other library patrons should be able to perform those same activities. I don't expect kids to whisper, but I also don't expect them to yell, run, throw things or have so many of them gathered around one computer that a person can't walk by.

I also don't think we should find additional physical space for kids to gather after school - what about home or friends houses. Space at your school that is not used after school? The Junior Museum, Lucy Stern? The Cubberly Auditorium?

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2007 at 12:55 pm

Fuddy duddies!
I assume that the library staff will quell any undo disturbances but silence is not in the cards with that many children. Select a book and take it home to read in silence. Don't run the kids out into the alley or to the local crack house or rave.

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 4, 2007 at 1:31 pm

Walter - always amusing to read your comments! I'm not being a fuddy duddy, I just expect library patrons of all ages to be respectful of each other. Haven't heard about any crack houses or raves near the Main Library though...

Posted by Designer, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2007 at 11:37 pm

I have not had the patience nor time to read everyone's comments, but I believe this is another reason Palo Alto needs to have a massive library rebuilding campaign. Libraries are no longer what they used to be for better and/or worse but in my opinion it's encouraging to see the majority of the kids there after school. Newer community libraries are evolving into community centers and we need more than just the new mitchell park library/community center that may never even happen. As for those older folks that prefer quiet places to read, I agree and see separated "quiet reading rooms" to be perfect for those needs. Our city library are old! For a city known for technology (*ahem ahem*) we really ought to update our libraries and allow the future generations of children in Palo Alto take full advantage of what a library should be.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2007 at 6:42 am

Perhaps the Federal and internationalist concerns of the Council might better be directed inward to local problems. A quiet reading room might be a welcome addition to any library, but how?

Posted by we can do better, a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2007 at 5:17 pm

The city decides to fund the Library Department based upon attendance and circulation statistics of all branches. If patronage were to drop, the city would have good reason to decrease the Library Department's budget. When the city is trying to cut $3 million from its own budget, the last thing any Palo Alto City library wants is to have declining circulation and attendance. Since juveniles account for a large majority of circulation, alienating this group could potentially result in funding cuts.

Libraries try to appeal to all age groups including seinors and adults but current infrastructure limitations are responsible for conflicts between the different age groups.

Has anyone seen the organization of the Los Altos County Library? The building itself is separated into different sections: A children's reading room; teen reading room w/no talking; adult fiction and non-fiction areas. The children's area is on the other side of the building, preventing noises from juveniles to filter to the far end of the library. Gunn High School's new library is far superior to any public libraries in Palo Alto. The Gunn Library is complete with numerous meeting rooms (talking areas), an academic center (for tutoring,doing hw,etc), magazine reading corner, twenty large tables, and individual tables w/privacy. The square footage of the Gunn Library is actually about the same as Mitchell Park. While Gunn's library sees around 150 students each day, Mitchell Park can see up to 1,000 people on some days.

With that many people of different age groups in such a confined space there's bound to be major conflicts and complaints. With numerous housing projects occurring in Palo Alto, the current infrastructure problems of all libraries can only worsen.

*Responding to Walter's post above:
How? Beats me...
The space shortage at Mitchell Park has hit a critical point. We've been forced to convert part of the staff break room into a cubicle work area. Some poor soul is now diligently working right next to the toaster over and microwave. Working during the summer is almost impossible. Some may recall how certain branches closed when it temperatures soared last summer. Branches are forced to close when the city has deemed it "current workplace environment is a potential harm to the health and safety of workers."

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2007 at 8:38 pm

Perhaps some noble local company that started in a garage could find a couple of portable classrooms to help out at Mitchell and Main until we sort out the building program. I will toss in the Electrical engineering required as my part. Portables are A/C'd, so perhaps some of the staff could be moved into them and existing staff areas converted to reading rooms. Or we could just plan and whine, the Palo Alto way.

Posted by Library Patron, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 5, 2007 at 8:57 pm

Something occurred to me today as I went to the library. It used to be that I could go to the library, smile to a friendly librarian as I returned a book, asked a question or checked out a book. Today, I picked up my book on hold from a shelf, walked around the shelves, checked at the online catalog and placed a couple of books on hold, checked out at the automatic machine and left, without any interaction whatever with a human. To say that the library is part of the community seems really strange when we don't actually interact with anyone while we are there.

Posted by Designer, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2007 at 2:23 pm

Web Link

Look up their Almaden Library and Community Center project. I think it's a beautiful mix/combination/hybrid of what Mitchell Park could someday have. I've been to the project and it is definitely worth visiting to get a sense of how the spaces work for all of its users.

Posted by Designer, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2007 at 2:24 pm

Go to: projects::community::almaden library/community center

Posted by equal Justice, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 10, 2007 at 9:47 am

What did you expect to find?
Did you think that the library would be filled with studious students who are impervious to the world outside? Did you expect to see that the inhabitants would be immune to the hideous developments made over the last thirty years....the micro and macro are all tied together...the inside a reflection of the out.....things don't miraculously remain the same in are dilapitated libraries....privatization has some truly wonderful results....doesn't it!

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 10, 2007 at 9:59 am

equal Justice,

If the inside is going to be a reflection of social decay, then why build a new library? In fact, just get rid of the current libraries.

I was a borderline 'yes' voter on the library bond - until I just read your screed. If your attitude is reflective of what we will get by taxing ourselves for a new library, why should we do it?

Posted by Anonymous Teen, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 18, 2007 at 5:43 pm

Mitchell Park is definitely far worse than anything you'd ever run into at the Main Library. I think the recent rise in little kiddies at the Main is due to the temporary closing of the Children's Library and temporary "Kid's Section" at the Main Library. They don't really have anywhere else to go.

As far as the loud middle schoolers go, they are basically unavoidable. I've never noticed them as a problem at the Main Library, but they are out of control at Mitchell. It's just irritating that all of the age groups can't recognize that we all need to cooperate and share the place, because it is all of ours.

P.S., I'm sorry about the screaming kids, they bug me too.

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