Posted by Bill, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 8:44 am
I do not think the debate is over at all. A small core of people still will not listen to the opinions of the majority of the community. We can not afford, and do not want, 5 libraries in our town. We want and can afford 1 or 2 modernized libraries.
I like your Lucie Stern analogy. We did not build 5 Lucie Stern Centers - we built 1.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 9:49 am
We need to move on this one. Some compromise should be agreed on. We do not have the resources to keep the status quo. At least two of our libraries should be no more than book drops. In today's modern world, fully functioning shelves of books are not required, just a "hold" system and library catalogue. The internet computers should be more of an internet cafe, with perhaps a system whereby we can "reserve" time online in advance rather than having to wait until a computer is free. (This system should be available at all libraries). Anyone who is advocating for more than this is asking for specialised treatment, more people live further away from a library than live in 1/4 radius of one, and should not expect favoritism.
Posted by Resident, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 11:47 am
The future of branch libraries depends heavily upon the role and value each is assigned by its surrounding community. I believe in the value of all of our branch libraries and want to keep them open. I will not vote in favor of closing any of our branch libraries.
“How many people have found answers to health, career, or financial questions at their public libraries that have changed their lives? Measuring outcomes is very difficult. But these are the stories that resonate with funders and policymakers. What is the value of one life- changing answer or what is the value of a human life?
Last year we identified our goals as appraising library and information services, strengthening the relevance of library and information services, and promoting research and development.
Specifically we decided to focus on four major areas: emergency preparedness, health communication and the role of libraries, adequacy and deficiencies of current library and information resources, part of our statutory responsibility, and information dissemination about the relationship based on scientific research and evidence between school libraries and educational achievement.
Other subject areas are library services for the aging, which is one of our statutory responsibilities, and international library and information science issues, the role of libraries and library-like organizations as distribution centers for HIV-AIDS information for citizens of developing countries.”
Excerpt from Chairman Fitzsimmons’ report at the NCLIS Commission meeting.
The U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS) is a permanent, independent agency of the Federal government charged by Public Law 91-345 to advise the President and Congress on national and international library and information policies, to appraise and assess the adequacies and deficiencies of library and information resources and services, and to develop overall plans for meeting national library and information needs. Broadly speaking, NCLIS is responsible for addressing the information and learning needs of the American people.
Posted by Susan, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 11:59 am
Bond, Schmond. It won't pass.
What the Palo Alto library system needs is another patron like Lucie Stern. Or perhaps five. One for each library branch. It's the only solution.
If we could close a branch without a big public outcry from the neighborhood affected, well, that would be great. We could close that branch. But that is never, ever going to happen in Palo Alto. I'm sure that a majority of PA residents think that fiscal responsibility requires the closing of one or two branches. But as soon as it's in their own neighborhood they kick and scream. So no closings. And a bond issue supporting all five will fail.
Only an angel can sort this out. And, as I said, preferably five.
Posted by Book Ends, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 12:20 pm
I intend to vote against any Bond Measure because we are wasting scares dollars maintaining the branch library system. Those who support our present library system need to demonstrate greater fiscal discipline.
The branch library system is being perpetuated by a weak City Council who are unable to vote against the small minority who continually lobby to maintain both Downtown and College Terrace Libraries.
Posted by Winslow Arbenaugh, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 12:38 pm
Ms. Cormack is accurate in her most astute description of the deplorable state of the Palo Alto library system. Even Palo Alto's city auditor and her staff were shocked at the infrastructure and collactions disparity of our library, compared to our municipal neighbors.
We certainly have a lot of work to do, but our citizens will come through again - as they always have -- when a real need has been shown. A sound grass roots effort to educate our citizenry about the benefits that vital infrastructure brings will enlighten to a point where the vast majority will happily make this investment, because the payoff will be great.
I would like to see more written and said about the benefits that our library brings to community.
Here are a few examples:
Improved school performance, which has a direct impact on our property values
A place for all groups - teens, seniors, neighborhood associations, etc. to meet; this make our community more livable, and environmentally sustainable.
My question to those who argue against spending money on infrastructure: "What will it cost Palo Alto if we DON'T make these investments?" I would like to see those who are coming out against needed upgrades and improvements to answer that question.
In fact, we are talking about an investment in our community, and ourselves. That's what we should, and will, be focusing on from this point forward.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 12:42 pm
A year ago I might have agreed with Alison. I too love libraries and am embarrassed by Palo Alto's. But the idea of spending money on those dilapidated branches really galls me. It is the wrong path, burdening us with too much cost structure.
The Children's library is an example, I'm afraid. We sank millions into what amounts to a fancy reading room, that should really be part of a larger main library. We updated an antique - lovely for that neighborhood, near useless for just about everyone else.
Now, there might be a "secret plan" - build the new Mitchell library, have it be a success, then shut the branches during a financial crunch. Maybe it will work (it did in at least one town I know of) but not with the kind of leadership we've had.
So our family has switched over to Santa Clara County libraries. Spacious, new (compared to ours), well-stocked, plenty of staff, plenty of computers, plenty of everything. It suits our family very well.
So I suggest one of two things - (1) no bond - just let the libraries go their decrepit way, put our money elsewhere, and take advantage fo the fine Santa Clara system (2) arrange with Santa Clara County, which runs one of the top library systems in the nation, to run one or two branches in Palo Alto.
But I'm not interested in voting big funds for the organization that got us where we are today, without a commitment to change how things are structured. No reason to believe it will work. Sorry Alison.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 1:13 pm
What's the cost to our community (real, and potential) of Palo Alto NOT making this investment? How much will that cost every resident?
How about 23 studies in just as many communities - as pointed out about a year ago, in a Weekly op-ed - showing that cities receive from $1.30-$4.00+ in benefits for every dollar invested in libraries, with most cities receiving benefits toward the higher part of the stated range?
I have yet to see a balanced, fiscal cost/benefit argument coming from _anyone_ who has announced their opposition to the library, or any other infrastructure project.
Instead, naysayer opinions seem to only focus on cost, and burdens - not one word about investment. What private or public entrepreneur would measure potential risk that way? Not anyone that I know, and I know a lot of them.
Please provide a fiscal rationale that includes opportunity costs (of not making this investment), or at the very least a sensitivity analysis. This is what any private or social entrepreneur would do, at the very least.
Please show us why the current plan for the library doesn't make sense, from a long-term sustainability and near-long-term fiscal risk perspective, using the above analytical devices.
Please explain from a _balanced_ cost/benefit perspective why this infrastructure build is not a good investment - an investments that would help take to a sustainable fiscal and social future in Palo Alto?
We know that the vast majority of our citizens want to improve the library. We also know that most citizens take public safety for granted.
In fact, if many of the people who - in the last library poll - were _against_ the library bond (they were in the minority) were given balanced information on the alternative costs (opportunity costs) of NOT making this investment, and what NOT making this investment would very well cost them, they might think very differently than they do now.
If this same group was made aware of the deep benefits of the library infrastructure - including a POSITIVE fiscal and social return on their taxpayer investment for libraries - they would very well have second thoughts about how they cast their vote.
If we authentically engage those (in the minority) who are against the library project, and present them with cost AND benefit information, I think many would change their minds.
If we don't pass the library bond, our community will end up paying more than these bonds cost in the near-long-term, by quite a bit. Or, if we give in to a few vocal naysayers (who consistently provide skewed fiscal critiques on community projects), and reduce already leaned-out projects to satisfy their unbalanced critiques, we will find ourselves requiring additional bond measures in the near-long-term to make up the difference - - **with the additional cost of 15% per annum for construction inflation_ to supplement the aforementioned compromised projects - for a project that should have been built right the first time. Is that what we want?
Further, I think it's important that our citizens are given straight talk about what we're facing. If we don't fund the library project we are setting ourselves up for the eventual loss of our much loved and much heralded branch library system. Do we want that to happen? I don't think so; nor do the _vast_ majority of people who voted in recent polls.
We need to make this very prudent, necessary, measured, and juducious investment in our future, whose benefits FAR outweigh its costs.
Posted by enough with the studies, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 2:10 pm
We should have multiple bonds to represent funding for each of the branches/libraries. One bond for Mitchell, another for Main, etc. Those 'few' supporting College Terrace and Downtown would get quashed by the voice of the majority. The rest of us can celebrate and embrace our brand new branches (Main/Mitchell/Children's) while College Terrace and Downtown neighborhoods get their same-old dilapidated branches. We should move forward and leave them (the minority) in the dust.
Posted by Smile, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 2:23 pm
$1.30 for every dollar invested? Wow! 30% ROI is pretty darned good! I'll vote for that any day.
PA has WAY more hours open to the public, cumulatively, than neighboring libraries, and we haven't spent resources on library infrastructure in well over a decade. Why not quote facts, instead of biased snippets?
Posted by Susan, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 4:38 pm
The previous head librarian, hired with much fanfare by the council from Pacifi Grove, told the truth: Consolidate the branches into one or two main libraries. She got mugged by the "friends" of the library.
Palo Alto will not get what it wants by continuing to obsess about quanit and nostalgic branch libraries. It is no longer a horse and buggy world.
I will vote no on library bonds, until conslidation is accomplished. Then, I will be willing to vote on an even bigger bond for a truly great main library.
Posted by Bill, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 4:45 pm
There was an analysis by the previous library director which showed that with 5 libraries, there wasn't enough money allocated yearly to fund them adequately - books, maintenance, staffing.
It is estimated most people can't or won't walk more than 1/2 mile to any destination. If you draw a 1/2 mile circle around each of the 5 libraries, the circles only include 40% of the population. What kind of "neighborhood" system is that?
Posted by sigh, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 4:49 pm
"PA has WAY more hours open to the public, cumulatively, than neighboring libraries"
PA does not have WAY more hours open to the public. PA has more libraries open at the same time. You can't visit two libraries at once. Hence the reason that neighboring cities can provide better services/facilities for less money. Get the picture?
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 5:40 pm
Can we please drive a stake through the heart of those 23 studies? Or at least be honest about what they “prove”? The only thing they say is that LIBRARY PATRONS benefit from using libraries because they get materials cheaper than if they had to buy/rent them. That’s great, because that’s what libraries are for. But they don’t prove that we get a FINANCIAL return on investment when we put money into libraries.
For those requesting a “fiscal cost/benefit argument,” how about an analysis -- from the city, the LAC, the library director or anyone – showing what it costs to keep all the branches open? Our library director doesn’t know the cost to run each branch, nor does our auditor, Sharon Erickson. That’s because the city budget isn’t structured in such a way that anyone can determine how much each branch costs.
Private or public entrepreneurs don’t invest in enterprises that can’t even provide a spreadsheet showing operating costs of each facility.
Re the library survey: “Council members also told the commission to include questions about whether residents would pay more for new library services or upgrades. However, the commission did not listen to the council.” Web Link
Any survey that asks what you want, but doesn’t ask how much you’d be willing to pay for it, is not going to provide actionable results. BTW, 14% of the survey respondents said they never use the library. 63% use the Main Library; 53% use Mitchell Park; 33% use the Children's Library. Only 13% use College Terrace and 24% Downtown.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 6:10 pm
Thanks Pat. It is useful for new readers to explain about the 23 studies, which if you read them prove primarily how poor most "studies" are. That's not to say that libraries aren't great - I think they are - but those studies are a red-herring.
Unfortunately, the sensible course is to starve the branches till they die, otherwise they will suck down the operating budget of any new library we build. In the meantime, Los Altos Library (Santa Clara County) meets our needs very well.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 6:24 pm
Palo Alto also has WAY more library services, provided through its wonderful branches.
About the 23 studies; these studies are *very* conservative in their assumptions, and they show far more than replacement cost advantage. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Last, the 23 studies that show positive ROI for libraries, don't even include the _social_ returns on investment that libraries bring to community.
Libraries correlate with lower crime, more success in high school, happier senior populations, etc. etc. All this has been shown, many times.
We need not listen to those who have small vision; this is Palo Alto, a place where citizens come for the very best schools, where there kids can study after school at the very best libraries; where our senior citizens (soon to be 40% of our population) don't have to drive to the library (just think of the carbon we keep from the atmosphere with our b ranch system), and so on.
Yes, Ms. Cormack is right - we need to push forward; inform our community of the true and many benefits of our branch system, and forge on to pass a bond that will vastly increase the quality of life in Palo Alto, for all - even the naysayers, who will happily use the branch system, even as they do today (this is a fact).
Last, I love the "new" Mike. S/he's got style, and wit, and adds some needed spice to this forum. Welcome, Mike! - - and go easy on the naysayers, as their numbers are dwindling.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 7:58 pm
The overwhelming *weight* of scientific evidence *proves* that Palo Alto libraries need more funding. Anyone who disagrees *fundamentally* misunderstands everything from climate change to the intrinsic perfection of the Palo Alto City Council. If the city government would just *increase* pensions to all workers, the workers could own the *means of production*, and life would be great. None of you have read enough *Kuhn* and *Popper* to even grasp the sublime and incontrovertible perfection of my logic. Comrades, we will have more, better, and more expensive libraries, if we have to forcibly remove every last dollar from NAYSAYERS and strip the evil Fortune 500 companies of all their ill-gotten assets.
Posted by library user, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 8:55 pm
I suggest people visit and "check out" Mountain View library, Menlo Park Library, Cupertino Library, Santa Clara Library, these are ALL beautiful libraries. You will be amazed! Los Altos Library is not beautiful but is highly utilized and successful, with many Palo Alto residents as patrons. Palo Alto needs to get with the times, keep Children's and remodel/expand Main and Mitchell and that's it. The sooner the better.
Posted by Library user #2, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 10:07 pm
The reason that these cities have improved libraries is because they have invested in them. Palo Alto has not invested in its library infrastructure for well over a decade. We have excellent services, and a good collection, but we need to somewhat improve the collection and upgrade failing library infrastructure.
Posted by Library fan, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 1:34 am
One possible reason for not figuring out or publicizing the cost of the smaller branches is that the cost is so LOW. Yes, low. Showing how little they cost would take the air out of the argument to close them.
They are staffed by non-professional librarians so the labor cost is lower than at Main and Mitchell, and they are open only 5 days and no evenings.
Posted by sigh, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 8:43 am
One possible reason for not figuring out or publicizing the cost of the smaller branches is that the cost is so LOW. Yes, low. Showing how little they cost would take the air out of the argument to close them.
Another possible reason is that the cost is so HIGH. Yes, HIGH! Showing how much they cost would take the air out of the argument to keep them open.
Actually, it wouldn't. Those advocating to keep them open have already shown they don't care about the cost of them. They just want more money.
The recent audit on Palo Alto libraries showed that we are spending twice per capita on our libraries. The single reason neighboring cities have better libraries is because they have LESS of them.
Posted by Book Ends, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 10:58 am
Claiming Mitchell Park Library has 1,000 visitors each day is definitely over-reaching. I don't know the number but 1,000 a day has to be an exaggeration. Also, I'm not voting for a Bond measure which re-builds the Community Center to provide a location for Weddings!!!!
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 11:43 am
Regardless how low the cost of keeping branch libraries, the cost is still what is keeping the two larger libraries from being improved. If non professional librarians are employed at branches for the same cost, we could have non professional library assistants at the others keeping them open every evening until 9,00 pm. I know that 6.00 pm closing time is hard as I often have to fit my library time into too short a time slot because the library is closing at 6.00 (which in effect means that at 5.45 you have to start leaving).
Posted by Concerned Resident, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jan 12, 2008 at 11:59 am
I will not support a library bond that continues to insist that Palo Alto does not have the money to pay for books and libraries, but has plenty of money to contribute to the construction of the underpass to nowhere and continues to fund homeless shelters, most of which are filled with individuals who could get a job if they really wanted one. I am not supporting this fiscally irresponsible city anymore. They need to focus on basics, not shelters downtown, before they get one more dime from me.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 12:41 pm
Re library costs:
From an April news story: “A combined Mitchell Park library and community center is expected to cost between $31.5 and $44 million. Estimates for Main Library renovations range from $9.5 to $13.5 million, while the Downtown Library needs about $5 million worth of work, according to a consultant's estimates.”
On page 178 you can see the breakout of the library budget by salaries and benefits, contract services, supplies and materials, etc. “Allocated charges” on that page generally includes the building maintenance and utilities expense. But those are tracked by type of expense and are not easily available by location because of the way the budgets are done.
Page 184: Details of 2007-08 budget by library location: Main Library ($1,769,975), Children’s Library ($701,710), Mitchell Park Library ($1,298,455), College Terrace Library ($257,964), and Downtown Library ($259,232).
Note that the largest expenditures in the budget are salaries (77%) and collections.
Delivering services through 5 branches is more expensive than a single facility system. It requires duplication of effort. For example, page 16 of the Library Audit shows the Santa Clara library only needs 11 employees to staff customer service desks in its 80,000 square foot library. Palo Alto needs 14 employees to staff customer service desks in our total of 51,000 square feet (spread across 5 facilities).
Some questions we should be asking:
- Collections are not budgeted by branch because they serve all the libraries. But if we only had one library, how would the collections change?
- Building maintenance comes from the Public Works budget. The way our budget is structured, we can’t determine costs for each facility.
- What about IT and administrative services? How would costs change if we didn’t have five branches?
- How about opportunity costs? If we closed three branches, what could we do with those properties?
Our city council has proposed spending $70-$80K (of our money) to convince us to vote for the library bond, yet makes it difficult to determine the cost of our current system. Having made a "policy choice," Council may not want residents to further examine options to close branches.
Also see cost of other new libraries compared to the projected cost of the Mitchell Park complex, e.g., “The Almaden Community Center and Library in San Jose that opened this year is a 64,000-square-foot facility, costing $24 million. And the Bascom Avenue Branch is in the design phase, and will be a 40,0000-square-foot facility costing $30 million -- including increased construction costs.”
Posted by Just-Say-NO!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 1:04 pm
The high costs for the projects listed in the post about come to about $65M -- which is actually closer to $130 million when the bond interest is paid off.
This is a lot of money for buildings to house books. The storm drain upgrades were estimated at $55M-$77M in the mid-1990s. These upgrades have never really been considered as necessary, and were not funded. It would be much better to look at incremental upgrades to the buildings in place, as well as performing maintenance that needs to be done.
As to the "consultant's estimates" about all of this work needed -- we have to remember that these consultants were working for the city and not looking at the matter with an eye to information technology and the need for smaller/more Internet-based delivery of services--just running up a big bill and looking good for repeat work.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 1:14 pm
First: Palo Alto citizens have spoken loud and clear; they want the branch system. Clearly, you don't - that's OK, but it doesn't change reality.
Second: Your questions show 1) a very poor understanding of library operations; and, 2) a very incomplete appraisal of the full value that branch library services bring to our community.
Starting here, just a few things that anyone critiquing library services anywhere, should know...there is a lot more where this came from - 23 studies that clearly indicate the benefits brought by public libraries
Economic Benefit Study Released November 29, 2006
Southwestern Ohio's Return from Investment in Public Libraries Nearly 4 to 1
A new study released November 29, 2006 shows that nine public library systems in Butler, Clermont, Hamilton, and Warren counties in Southwest Ohio create an annual economic impact of nearly four times the amount invested in their operations. The report from Levin, Driscoll & Fleeter in Columbus concludes that, using a conservative measure of value the libraries' cumulative expenditure of about $74 million returned a quantifiable direct economic benefit of $238.6 million, or $3.81 for each dollar expended in 2005. The study also recognizes that these libraries add significant value to their users and communities that cannot be assigned a dollar value including, "improved economic prospects and an enhanced quality of life."
Continuing on to your questions - they show no consideration for the real payback that come from benefits that Palo Alans receive from our branch libraries.
Quick note: Diana's example in the link you point to is another one of her unfortunate faux pax. Diana's penchant for looking at municipal systems with tunnel vision often leads to a desperate grasping for examples that don't apply, or outright distortion.
As one example of this, the Almaden County Library is a BRANCH library, as is the Bascom Avenue Library. She mistakenly compares them to the Mitchell Park project. There is a difference between building a robust central Library (Mitchell) , which will be set up to essentially run as Palo Alto's "central core" (for the PA branch system). Why doesn't Diana do her research? And why do so many community naysayers depend on it, with so little effect other than community dissension?
All that said, let's get on to your questions:
1)"- Collections are not budgeted by branch because they serve all the libraries. But if we only had one library, how would the collections change?"
It would not necessarily be that much smaller, because the collection circulates. The branches to not duplicate the main collection, they leverage it. Incidentally, you neglect to mention the benefits that come from this leveraging, like reduced car trips, easier access from walkability, etc. etc.
2) "- Building maintenance comes from the Public Works budget. The way our budget is structured, we can’t determine costs for each facility."
What about the benefits from each facility? Look at the above studies to help yuo figure that out.
3) "- What about IT and administrative services? How would costs change if we didn’t have five branches?"
Very little, as IT is centralized.
4) "- How about opportunity costs? If we closed three branches, what could we do with those properties?""
What would be the opportunity cost of closing the branches, given what we know from the community studies (one quoted above)? Your line of questioning appears to insist on cost structure, but your analysis focuses on only one side of the operation - the cost side.
No corporation in America thinks, or acts like that. If they did, we wouldn't have a private enterprise sector.
Posted by Alison Cormack, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 1:18 pm
I am pleased to see the library discussion off to a good start this year. I encourage those of you who are interested in this subject to attend the meetings of the Library Advisory Commission since this is the best forum for your thoughts to be heard by the City. I would also like to give you the source data for the 1,000 visitors per day at Mitchell Park. It's from the library's annual report to the public for 2005/6 (the 2006/7 one is not yet available). Visitors to Mitchell Park in that time period totaled 360,247 for those twelve months. Since the library is closed for more than five days during the year for holidays, the number of visitors per day is more than 1,000.
Thank you for taking the time to read the article and to share your thoughts on this subject.
“The analysis showed that the libraries’ cumulative expenditure of about $74 million returned an estimated $190 million in direct economic benefits. THESE BENEFITS PRIMARILY REPRESENT THE VALUE OF SERVICES RECEIVED BY LIBRARY PATRONS from the use of library books, films, music, reference material, and electronic databases.”
Benefits are calculated by adding all individual library service benefits -- e.g., books for adults are used by some number of patrons, cost of a book is estimated, multiplied by number of users. The sum of all library services (books, CDs, computer use, etc.) is thus calculated and totaled.
The important point to note is that benefits accrue to LIBRARY USERS – who get free materials and services that they would otherwise have to pay for – not to the investors (taxpayers) who put money into the libraries.
I have absolutely no argument with libraries providing these benefits. That’s what ‘free public libraries’ are for!
I do have a problem with people using these studies to claim “Return from Investment in Public Libraries Nearly 4 to 1” without clarifying exactly what is meant.
BTW, I absolutely agree that “libraries add significant value to their users and communities that cannot be assigned a dollar value.”
But do we need five branches to provide those benefits?
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 3:05 pm
"“The analysis showed that the libraries’ cumulative expenditure of about $74 million returned an estimated $190 million in direct economic benefits. THESE BENEFITS PRIMARILY REPRESENT THE VALUE OF SERVICES RECEIVED BY LIBRARY PATRONS from the use of library books, films, music, reference material, and electronic databases.”"
Thus, I don't understand what your argument against these studies is, based on the cumulative benefits and multiplier effects in the community.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 5:16 pm
free-speech, But isn't your taunting missive an attempt to make light of a good will request that was made in good faith, as a way to further discussion? it seems so. And, you're doing it in the name of libraries? One might call that contradictory, or even "hypocritical" behavior on your part.
Why not voice your concern at an LAC meeting? You might get some traction.
Posted by Numbers-Matter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 6:26 pm
> "“The analysis showed that the libraries’ cumulative expenditure
> of about $74 million returned an estimated $190 million in direct
> economic benefits. THESE BENEFITS PRIMARILY REPRESENT
> THE VALUE OF SERVICES RECEIVED BY LIBRARY PATRONS
> from the use of library books, films, music, reference material,
> and electronic databases.”"
These "studies" are very convoluted, are not peer-reviewed, nor do they deal with economic issues realistically. The general premise of these "studies" is that people don't have to buy things at the library ("it's all free in the library") and there this is a benefit which can be tallied up as a benefit without paying any attention to the cost of providing the benefit. The authors of these "studies" have only managed to create "studies in wealth redistribution", not valid economic studies about real cost vs benefit.
Then, these studies fail to identify the costs of library services relative the the private sector. These studies all predate the extensive evolution of information and information-based services that are moving to Broadband. The cost of any library service is 2-3 times what such services would be in the private sector.
These studies generally fail to take note of the fact that not only are the cost of union-provided services overly expensive, but that sales tax is often lost when then services are not provided by the private sector. Sales taxes are a part of the revenue streams by which cities provide services to the community as a whole, not just the small number of people who might use a particular service, such as public libraries.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 7:26 pm
The idea that everything is free at the library, as quoted above is absurd. Of course it appears to be free because there is no charge at point of service. In fact, libraries are not free. They cost a lot of money to run. This has to be paid for as we know. There is a per household charge for each property tax paid and this money gives us access to a library. This means that we are paying for a service and it seems that we will be asked to pay again by a bond. That will increase the cost of the service.
So, if this service is being paid for already by us and if we are already using it to its full potential, then it seems realistic to provide us with a service. To some, the service means a library in walking distance. I for one do not have a library in walking distance. I really don't mind that at all. I would much rather have a decent library. A decent library is open the hours I want, has a computer available within a short space of time for me to use, a hold system and reminder system when my items are due back, knowledgeable librarians who can help me when I need help, and most important of all, is there when it should be there, not closed because it is too hot. Others may have other priorities. However, since I am paying for this service in my property tax, I do not look at this as a free service. Instead I am looking at this as value for my already paid money.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 8:20 pm
"The general premise of these "studies" is that people don't have to buy things at the library ("it's all free in the library") and there this is a benefit which can be tallied up as a benefit without paying any attention to the cost of providing the benefit. "
But the costs ARE paid attention to - read the studies. Also, they were designed by econometricians and demographers, with very conservative assumptions (read the study protocols).
"The cost of any library service is 2-3 times what such services would be in the private sector."
"These studies generally fail to take note of the fact that not only are the cost of union-provided services overly expensive, but that sales tax is often lost when then services are not provided by the private sector. Sales taxes are a part of the revenue streams by which cities provide services to the community as a whole, not just the small number of people who might use a particular service, such as public libraries."
Posted by Norm, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 9:56 pm
Claiming 1,000 people a day use the Mitchell Park library is rather like Joe Kott our former Transportation Guru claiming, when the Homer Tunnel was first proposed, that 6,000 people a day would use it.
Posted by Louise, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Jan 12, 2008 at 11:57 pm
Thank you, Alison, Anna, Winslow and more, for your constructive advocacy and willingness to put time and energy into moving this community beyond the divided camps of the recent past. Keep your eyes on the prize, patiently construct the big tent coalition that will lead to a winning bond, and don't let the sore loser "one library" crowd who keep claiming that branch library advocates are a minority get you down.
A couple years ago, I decided to go check out all the hype about the Mountain View library as such a paragon of what we could have in Palo Alto if we only caught up to the 21st century. I spent several hours, not only looking at the facilities, but checking out the collections. I tried very hard to be open minded, I really wanted to see what we might be missing, what could make it worthwhile to drive miles and miles instead of visiting one of the Palo Alto libraries.
What I found was impressive physical facilities, a grand staircase and a cool self-checkout option (not available in Palo Alto at the time), comfy chairs, high ceilings etc. The popular novel section looked impressive. But the collection in the teen center was shallow ("lame" said my teenager). And the children's area looked uninviting. And the location made it difficult for the people from the poorer parts of town to get access to library resources.
What clinched it for me, however, was that as I checked the collections on the shelf and in the online catalogue on topics I'm interested in, I kept finding either nothing published after 1985 or that the one worthwhile book was checked out with holds on it already. And when I checked the reference section, Mountain View really came up short in areas I could easily compare to the resources in Palo Alto's Main library -- consumer info, world history, foreign language dictionaries. Worst of all, there was no one to help you should you have any questions.
Just to be clear, I'm not defending Palo Alto's dumpy facilities which obviously were not designed for today's information and storage media. A facilities bond is definitely needed!! But there is NO imperative for one central facility in the 21st century. Let's look at our branch libraries as assets, and remember that many users of our current branches are not able to travel to Main or Mitchell (or, for those of us west of Alma, to take the city shuttle to either facility!). With the ability to request books from any branch online, to be delivered to the library nearest us, our distributed services really work -- and reduce the need for more parking spaces at Main or Mitchell.
As Library User #2 said, "The reason that these (other) cities have improved libraries is because they have invested in them. Palo Alto has not invested in its library infrastructure for well over a decade. We have excellent services, and a good collection, but we need to somewhat improve the collection and upgrade failing library infrastructure."
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 12:56 am
The difference is that Palo Altans have said, over and over and over again, that they want branch libraries. Our citizens LOVE their libraries; they are very supportive of their libraries.
I'm delighted to see that Washington State has a library solution that most Washingtonians like; I feel the same about Palo Alto's branch system. Most Palo Altans - by a large majority - really like our library.
Posted by MV library user, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 9:54 am
"The difference is that Palo Altans have said, over and over and over again..."
Really? I thought this was the result of one survey a long time ago. When were these other surveys done and can I have links to them? Another case of hyperbole?
From reading this forum, the city audit, that is seeking to do what is best for Palo Alto, requests that we Palo Alto Libraries should increase efficiency before seeking funds. The author of this opinion piece simply displays their vested interest and just asks for more money without saying what needs to be acheived. We have less square footage than neighboring cities and pay more for what we have. Seems there's something wrong here.
Posted by LibrariesRock, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 3:16 pm
About branch libraries, consider that Palo Alto is not an isolated city. The real branch libraries for Palo Altans are Mountain View, Menlo Park, Los Altos, etc. Very few people use the Downtown and College Terrace libraries. I suggest that those two small facilities could be turned into reading rooms, staffed by volunteers, and serviced by a bookmobile. The bookmobile could also service seniors wherever they happen to live, as well as preschools, shopping centers, etc. I am concerned about the long-term costs of the two small branches, especially the staffing costs, therefore I will oppose any bond proposal that includes money for Downtown or College Terrace library.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 4:29 pm
Mountain View Circulation - 697,552 items
Palo Alto circulation (*excluding* Children's Lib from January to Sept., 2007) - 1,414,509
Mountain View patron visits - 447,863
Palo Alto patron visits (minus Children's, for same date above) - 862,081 (this number would have been considerably higher had Children's not been closed for 66% of 2006)
It looks like Palo Alto's library system handles more than twice the number of circulated items, and almost twice the patron visits (both numbers would be more if Children's Library was open for a full year, in 2006).
In fact, Palo Alto's library system pulls this off - serving more than twice the patrons, and generating more than twice the circulation, for LESS than double the Mt. View Library cost.
Thus, Palo Alto's operation appears more efficient than Mt. View's. Other comparisons can be made that more than favorably compare our library with most others, EXCEPT for the state of our collection, and our library infrastructure.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 4:48 pm
Library Fan: You forgot to count the money for upgrading branch libraries: “Estimates for Main Library renovations range from $9.5 to $13.5 million, while the Downtown Library needs about $5 million worth of work, according to a consultant's estimates.” That’s not a pittance in my financial vocabulary.
Also, we don’t know how much is spent for utilities, maintenance, etc. for each branch.
Remember that 77% of costs are for headcount. How many employees would we need if we had one central library? To repeat: the Library Audit shows the Santa Clara library only needs 11 employees to staff customer service desks in its 80,000 square foot library. Palo Alto needs 14 employees to staff customer service desks in our total of 51,000 square feet (spread across 5 facilities).
For those posting data, it would be helpful if you provide a source.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 6:39 pm
I'm never embarrassed making an honest error. I am embarrassed by the bad condition that Palo Alto's libraries are in, relative to the passion we have for libraries here, and the very high use that our library has. (you'll note that Mt. View has about 10,000 more citizens, but we use our library just as much - we're proud of stuff like that.)
Embarrassed? I'm *proud* to be a part of helping - just in this little forum - our citizens understand what's great about our library system, and why it need renewal, and what that renewal means to them, our schools, our children, our seniors, our incoming population of commuters (heavy users of our libraries), and so on.
btw, This is where I obtained those numbers; it appears that there is a disconnect between Mt. View's Library Foundation, and the library.
the references were sent to me by a friend in Mt. View who says she envies our branch library system - go figure.
Incidentally, The Mt. View Library (a good library) is open 57 hours per week, at one location.
The Palo Alto library is open 177 hours throughout its branches, not including the 48 hours that Children's is open.
That's a huge point for accessibility.
The cost difference between Mt. View and PA is primarily in staffing, but I'll give you that one point, among many others that remain on the side of those who have good rationale for fixing our library, and maintaining our branch system.
Palo Alto wants to create a pleasing experience for its patrons, as Louise noted the following about the Mt. View Library: "And when I checked the reference section, Mountain View really came up short in areas I could easily compare to the resources in Palo Alto's Main library -- consumer info, world history, foreign language dictionaries. Worst of all, there was no one to help you should you have any questions."
Palo Alto is a special community; we try to differentiate ourselves with more and better community services, better schools, better opportunity for business, etc. etc. That's why we're repairing our library infrastructure, which has been the victim of embarrassing neglect.
Even more incidentally, in case you haven't read the latest poll (which indicate you're somewhat out of step with most Palo Altans), here it is:
Palo Altans CLEARLY want their branches, as repeated by Ms. Cormack, in her excellent GO.
Our Library distinguishes itself by serving patrons in ways that permit convenience, walkability, easy access for the disabled and seniors - including many other benefits.
So far your only point is pure comparative cost, based on incomplete data that *only* looks at *cost*.
What about benefits? Yours is very incomplete financial diligence, as every public or private enterprise spreadsheet I've ever seen does show the benefit side of the ledger.
Frankly, that's something to be embarrassed about, because it doesn't involve unit errors; rather, it indicates a mind set that screams "poverty" when approaching the necessities of life.
This community didn't become the stellar community that it is by thinking poor. We tackle problems; we lead; we're a magnet community - and we're darned proud of that - for our, and our children's sake.
That said, Palo Alto's library multiplier - in terms of community payback for library investment - for Library services is at least TWICE Mt. View's, and probably more, based on the 23 municipal studies on public library ROI, stated above.
Look at the studies, and please do your own study of public library payback to refute the findings of these 23 studies - I'm open to admitting error. I assume you are, as well.
Another thing, no Palo Altan should get caught in the trap of deferring to a poverty striken bean countering philosphy when it comes to vital public services like libraries, public safety, etc. etc.
Why? Because so MUCH of community service, like a public library, is *qualitative* in nature.
Being able to walk to a library with your child on a Saturday morning for a story time reading; being able to saunter over, as a retired senior citizen - on a Tuesday afternoon, to read a newspaper and mingle with neighbors; being able to access library services in almost any part of town, as one runs errands - instead of having to make special trips (lower carbon footprint, anyone? - that's worth $$$); enabling the many workers who drive to our city (we have 10's of thousands; to use a library that's close to their place of employment (more lowering of carbon footprint, btw); the ability to walk to community evenings in the evening, at one's neighborhood library; the ability of one's children to gather and use the library close to school, and home; the ability of branch library staff to help kids get on with the "homework help" system - thereby leveraging our citizen's investment in their schools (not to mention the PA Library's fantastic Teen Library program; how about the availability of small, local art and other exhibits created by local artists, and others;
Try putting a price tag on the above; you can - but Palo Altans won't buy your argument. Why? Because they want to invest in library services that add up to more than the sum of the little parts that some want to blow out of proportion - and to what end? To destroy a library system that is much loved and WANTED by most Palo Altans?
I think you need to reconfigure your demographic research; go talk to the majority of Palo Altans - the 62+% who woted for the last bond. It's going to be higher this time, by at least 7% points.
In all, Palo Alto's library delivers a better library *experience* than most others - especially when considers the above factors. Once we get Mitchell rebuilt, and the rest of the system up to par, we will have a library system that's paying back a positive ROI to the community (for tax dollars expended)
Posted by LibrariesRock, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 7:19 pm
Let's settle the question of branch libraries by putting each library to a vote, on the ballot. Let the voters decide if they really want to spend money on the Downtown or College Terrace libraries. As for accessible hours, the Mountain View library provides more hours per week of access to children's books than Palo Alto's libraries. I'm talking about real hours, not cumulative hours. Check the websites. Oh, and I'd like to issue a challenge to Palo Alto City Council members to visit libraries in our neighboring cities before voting again on any issue related to Palo Alto libraries. Let's see if our city council members can vote for what is best for the community as a whole and not just for a neighborhood. The only way everyone in Palo Alto will be able to walk to a library is if we have 20 libraries -- or a bookmobile. Only a limited number of Palo Altans can actually walk easily to a library.
Posted by sigh, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 7:41 pm
"That said, Palo Alto's library multiplier - in terms of community payback for library investment - for Library services is at least TWICE Mt. View's, and probably more, based on the 23 municipal studies on public library ROI, stated above."
Again with those figures with nothing to back them up. The city audit on PALO ALTO libraries stated that our libraries aren't as good as the neighboring libraries. The city audit on PALO ALTO libraries stated that we are paying TWICE as much for an inferior service. The annual report on MV library shows that it services the SAME number of patrons and the SAME number of circulation as Palo Alto for HALF THE COST. ie. They have at least the same amount of accessibility as Palo Alto libraries.
Come on, you're the ones asking for this money, show us where Palo Alto is getting value for money even now since we're paying twice as much. Show us where Palo Alto will be getting more ROI if it puts more money into it. Where are these studies to show this will be the result for Palo Alto of the requested funds rather than just wasting money that can be better spent elsewhere.
This it the problem. You want money but are unable to justify beyond looking at how bad our libraries are. And, I agree, they are really bad when compared to the neighboring cities. However, the city audit states it clearly: "Increase library efficiency before seeking $$".
If you disagree with what *23* studies have said - namely, that every community studies showed a POSITIVE NET RETURN IN BENEFITS for every tax dollar spent on libraries. PLease refute that with your own data, and study conclusions - preferably repeatable.
The Audit? You might review what our City Council said about the audit, and what THEY think it means. It might also help if you read the audit's conclusions, instead of putting your own spin on those conclusions.
The Audit? Here's the first paragraph in the Library Audit's Executive Summary (highlight mine)
"Palo Alto libraries are in poor condition. During the course of our review we visited 10
nearby libraries. None of the libraries we visited was in as poor a condition as Palo Alto’s
libraries. Significant improvements are needed to bring Palo Alto up to par with other local
communities. THE CITY SHOULD ADDRESS THE SIGNIFICANT LIBRARY FACILITY PROBLEMS INCLUDING OVERCROWDING, POOR LIGHTING, AND INADEQUATE MEETING SPACE."
The Audit? Here's what the audit says about the branches"
"the branch library system is ultimately a community and policy choice. We recommend weekend inter-branch deliveries to smooth Circulation workload, and consolidated scheduling that allows managers to see the overall staffing picture across the branches."
Our community has chosen the branch system, and supports the branch system. YOu may disagree with this, but that doesn't change the reality.
The Audit? Here's what the audit says about achieving efficiencies; they're staff deployment efficiencies that suggest not one thing about closing branches.
"Reconfiguring schedules would improve efficiency of staffing coverage and may allow
the Library to open more hours."
The Mountain View Library is only open only 57 hours, compared to Palo Alto's superb community commitment of 225 hours.
Thus, the PALO ALTO LIBRARY SERVES ITS PUBLIC WITH ***THREE TIMES MORE*** HOURS THAN MT. VIEW - FOR ONLY *TWICE AS MUCH* AS THE MT. VIEW LIBRARY.
Incidentally, this does NOT include all the qualitative BENEFITS that I mentioned in my last post.
Last, I would ask that you try not to put words into the Palo Alto Audit' Office mouth, as evidenced by the obviously incorrect interpretations that you have given to the audit's conclusions, based on the audit's conclusions, themselves.
Palo Altans will pass the upcoming library bond, basec on the preferred plan that City Council approved a few months ago.
Palo Altans are proud of their library; they are dedicated to community excellence; they care about their public institutions; they care about the connections between robust public libraries and its role in maintaining public and private K-12 excellence.
Palo Altan's will back this preference up at the polls, when they support the next library bond with an overwhelming majority, to refurbish and update one of the best library systems in California.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 9:53 pm
"THE CITY SHOULD ADDRESS THE SIGNIFICANT LIBRARY FACILITY PROBLEMS INCLUDING OVERCROWDING, POOR LIGHTING, AND INADEQUATE MEETING SPACE.""
It's important to quote this again, so that there's no misunderstanding about what our library audit said, or how it was understood - i.e. the Auditor's office, the City Council, the Library Advisory Commission, and the majority of Palo Altans want to fix our library facility infrastucture and improve library collections.
The problem with those who agree with the above agreed-on conclusions is that they simply can't stand the thought that their personal preferences for the library aren't the ones that are being acted on.
In all, they're unable to justify their objections in the face of overwhelming economic and social (community preference) evidence to the contrary.
To those who want to close down our branch library system, I say - "Why not join our ranks, and wonder at what one community can do, as it seeks excellence in the provision of educational and informational resources for all. Join us!"
Posted by sigh, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 10:49 pm
"Again with those figures with nothing to back them up."
Nothing to back them up? Start reading."
Have done. There's nothing in there that mentions Palo Alto libraries. There's nothing in there comparing poor performing library districts to their better run neighbors. There's nothing in there to explain how a city can be paying TWICE AS MUCH for a sub-standard library system.
In short, these reports were not written for Palo Alto and do not apply to Palo Alto libraries. Now, provide your information on Palo Alto libraries or show how these reports apply to Palo Alto.
As always, Broccoli, you can't. We've been over this ground a number of times. I sincerely hope you have nothing to do with the actual library campaign.
p.s. "The Mountain View Library is only open only 57 hours, compared to Palo Alto's superb community commitment of 225 hours."
7x24 = 168 hours in the week. There really isn't anything else to say to that.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 11:12 pm
It certainly appears that you haven't read the studies, and what they imply about Library ROI. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
TWENTY THREE STUDIES! Count them. They ALL come to the same conclusion - that public libraries pay back from $1.30 to $4.00+ for every tax dollar expended on library service. This not only applies to Palo Alto's library, but all public libraries. It's been discussed by top econometricians, and peer reviewed. Are you an economist? I thought not.
Let's face it, you'll not inclined to change your mind, but there's no way that your continuing and selective distortions of municipal and polling data, and demands on library supporters to "prove a negative" (a logical impossibility) will go unanswered here.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
btw, Palo Alto's branches are open for a total of 225 hours; thus the difference in staffing costs. Thus the big ADVANTAGE in convenience and social access. That's worth paying for, unless you stay in your room all day - and even then you can use the library's online reference services.
Certainly, we know YOU will not be a part of our library's campaign - unless you get religion, look reality, and the audit, and 23 studies in the face - and join us to help get our library back on track!
Posted by LibrariesRock, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 8:21 am
I love libraries. I've worked in libraries. I grew up in Seattle, which is great library city. I was pretty disappointed in Palo Alto libraries when I moved here, and they've only deteriorated since. I don't care how many hours our substandard libraries are open cumulatively. What I care about is LIBRARY SERVICE and we have poor service now. Fewer facilities to staff means better service at less cost. That's going to be the deciding argument when people go to the polls. As for those 23 studies, so what? They're irrelevant.
Posted by sigh, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 8:24 am
Anna, yet again, you refuse to show how the studies apply to Palo Alto. You just seem to hope no-one will ask and accept your assertion at face value.
Let's apply the studies to Palo Alto and MV. Let's assume MV is getting $1.30 per dollar spent (as per the studies). Now MV libraries serve the same population, have the same number of patrons and circulation but doing it for half the price that we are in Palo Alto. By deduction, Palo Alto libraries, per the studies, are actually LOSING money for each dollar spent.
You really want us to invest in a losing concern?
Give up with the studies or show us where Palo Alto receives twice the benefit of neighboring libraries.
Oh, and of the 148 hours in a week, MV libraries are open for 55 of those hours whereas Palo Alto libraries are only open for 54 or those hours. Wow, MV libraries not only do more with less but are even open longer! There seems to be a pattern here.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 9:59 am
Palo Alto's libraries serve their patrons more than 3x service level of Mt. View, with an efficiency that exceeds Mt. View - and with benefits that Mt View cannot deliver to its citizens. That's a simple fact. Palo Alto's collection is deeper, we're open more hours, we deliver more services, and we're relatively less expensive, given the sheer number of cumulative hours and service levels that we offer; we're more accessible; more environmentally responsible, etc. etc.
PALO ALTO's LIBRARY ROCKS!
Why does anyone pay twice the price for a home, or condo, in Palo Alto? Answer: because they want to; because they perceive real value; because they know this community is special in the way it delivers education, services (like public library service) that *improve and leverage* educational services, because they are determined to give their family the best; because they're a cut above; and so on.
Palo Altans WANT to invest in their branch system.
sigh, there you go again, distorting numbers from the studies. Will there be no end to your denial of the peer-reviewed truth that these 23 studies libraries speak? One minute you say the studies are useless, the next minute you're using the study formulas to prove your poorly constructed logic. PLease, make up your mind.
Palo Alto thus delivers a more efficient library service. That means that Palo Alto receives MORE payback for those services than Mt. View does, because there are more variable benefits that accrue to branch library patrons. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Looks like your argument to close branches is no friend of the environment (reduced carbon load); education (after school programs); seniors (walkability/accessibility); high school success (correlations between number of libraries and K-12 success.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Palo Alto's library delivers better and more comprehensive library services for the money than any other Peninsula Library - hands down. This is part and parcel of the advantage of the branch system
Palo Alto's auditor has recommended that Palo Alto fix its library infrastructure, and has stated that it is a goven that Palo Altans prefer the branch system
More than a few surveys and polls clearly state that Palo Altans want a branch library system, and that they are extraordinarily supportive of the branch system - all the way to a willingness to support a bond that will repair infrastructure and improve collections.
Palo Alto's branch library system improves the quality of education that PAUSD's excellent school system delivers. Residents who spend more money to purchase a home here will support a library system that improves the quality of education that they have paid a premium for.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 10:22 am
A (final?) word about those 23 studies: I, for one, have no doubt they're legit. My argument is that they are being misinterpreted, i.e., “TWENTY THREE STUDIES! Count them. They ALL come to the same conclusion - that public libraries pay back from $1.30 to $4.00+ for every tax dollar expended on library service.”
The key question is, who gets the payback? As I posted earlier, the studies show that libraries provide a quantitative benefit to LIBRARY USERS. Instead of having to buy books, DVDs, etc. patrons get these materials for free. The benefits to the community are qualitative, e.g., a more educated community.
That said, the argument is irrelevant to this discussion, which is about HOW library services are provided to the community – one library or multiple branches – and about the cost of Palo Alto libraries compared to those in other cities.
I’m hugely in favor of libraries. I believe they are a major benefit to the community. I would love to see a great Palo Alto library at Mitchell Park – or anywhere else in the city. What I object to is the lack of fiscal responsibility in decision-making.
Can we really believe that the majority of residents are in favor of keeping all the branches open when they don’t know the cost of that decision? I think Palo Altans are smarter than that.
But let’s assume for a moment that residents want the branches. A responsible city council would say, “We’ve done a financial analysis of the library system (which they have not, nor has the LAC, which to me is a dereliction of duty on the part of an ADVISORY group) and we simply can’t afford to support all the branches.”
As long as the city is making policy decisions without financial analyses, I’m voting against the library bond. IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not voting against libraries! I am voting against the city’s fiscal irresponsibility.
Posted by sigh, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 10:35 am
"Palo Alto's libraries serve their patrons more than 3x service level of Mt. View, with an efficiency that exceeds Mt. View..."
There you go again. Complete hyperbole with no facts.
The quantitative measures of patrons & circulation that you, yourself, quote, show that MV is at least as well served by their library system as Palo Alto. The audit shows that they are in fact better served. Even applying your studies on top of this shows that Palo Alto is losing money when compared to neighboring cities.
If you have any other real facts or figures on Palo Alto and neighboring libraries to prove your point on how well Palo Alto are by served, you'd do well to post them. At present we are just looking with envy at our neighbors.
You can soapbox all you wish and hope no one questions you. Or simply look at how many Palo Altans go to neighboring city libraries and how many residents from neighboring cities come to Palo Alto libraries. Your answer is there.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 10:36 am
pat: " I am not voting against libraries! I am voting against the city’s fiscal irresponsibility."
With respect, you're deceiving yourself. Deny that the benefits listed above emanate from our branch library system.
Polling has concluded that Palo Altan's want branches, and are willing to support that preference via a bond.
The VAST majority of Palo Altans want their library infrastructure repaired, and collections bolstered.
The 23 studies have been peer reviewed and are considered a valid measure of library benefit to COMMUNITY, because there are quantitative and qualitative benefit multipliers that accrue, even to those community members who are NOT library users. I would be happy to discuss this last point, at any time.
Your assumptions about fiscal responsibility are mistaken. Palo Alto - from a fiscal point of view - isi far better managed than any of its Peninsula neighbors. That's shown by our AAA rating, and surplus.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 10:43 am
sigh, your persistent avoidance of the many benefits of Palo Alto's branch libraries, including it's superior and more efficiently run delivery of services is telling. Our audit says that we need to repair library infrastructure - and it is on that basis that comparisons to other communities is made.
Posted by new_member, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 12:57 pm
my experience is that santa clara county lib's holdings are richer than us. But I need to go to their los altos or miltipas branch to pick up. If palo alto lib can be part of santa clara system, we can do search in a single database and pick up at our branch.
As mentioned before, I am new on this topic, so I don't know the history why palo alto has its own lib system and hope someone can give an answer. thanks!
Posted by sigh, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 1:04 pm
Anna, prove a zero? It's actually a request to prove your assertion. You stated, as fact, that the "Palo Alto's library system is the best municipal system on the Peninsula" in the face of all quantitative measures and reports to the contrary.
You now admit that you can't provide a single link to a single independent authoritative report stating that the Palo Alto library system is the best on the peninsular. i.e. You have NOTHING to back up your assertion. There really is a pattern here.
This is all pretty damning to your arguments and credibility. As I mentioned earlier, I sincerely hope you have nothing to do with the actual library campaign.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 2:31 pm
In the face of your assertions that Mt. View's library system is better than Palo Alto's you have been offered substantial evidence to the contrary - including Palo Altan's own, stated, preferences in polls about their preferences for a branch system.
Please prove your assertion about Mountain View.
Customers have been paying a premium for Apple's products for years - just as Palo Alto's residents pay a premium for their branch system. Why is that? the simple answer is because Palo Altans, and Apple customers, value quality.
I'll stick with Apple and Palo Alto. You can muddle through inferior PC platforms and pollute the air as you drive to the Mountain View Library.
I see little reason to continue a debate with anyone who makes large assertions based only on numbers - even when those numbers are found to be wanting - and, as well, dismisses the over and over proven facts about public libraries - i.e. that 23 studies that clearly indicate public libraries pay back from $1.30 to $4.00+ for every tax dollar expended on library service.
Please address this FACT; please also address the library service array provided by Palo Alto, compared with any other municipality in Silicon Valley. That's right in front of your eyes.
Your claims are desperately wanting, which will become apparent enough at the polls.
See you at the new Mitchell Library, along with an occasional encounter at one of our wonderful branches. Ta ta...
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 4:08 pm
Wow! A 4x return on funds invested in libraries! Where do I sign up?
Seriously folks this is a great opportunity for our city. Let's take our entire 140k budget next year and invest it in libraries. When we cash in on our 500k+ return, we can repay the 140k, build even more libraries, and in a few years, with compounding of these kinds of returns, we can give EVERY citizen lifetime retirement at 50 with full health benefits just like our City employees!
Posted by Library fan, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 9:37 pm
Also look at the numbers of people from other towns using our libraries.
I think the library bond would get better press if they showed that they were implementing the recommendations of the library audit. For example, reducing the number of different staff titles was one recommendation.
Opening the doors while staff was doing certain tasks was another recommendation which would increase open hours without increasing cost.etc.
Posted by Bill, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 9:41 pm
The ongoing behavior of Anna (and her many other nom de plumes) on this and many other forums has shown to me that there are a core of ideologues on this issue, and that they seem to be barely concerned about the good of the community and honest and fair discourse. I don't need to be lectured and lied to about how I should invest in public infrastructure. Her postings here have reinforced considerably my intention to vote no on any library bond that does not close satellite libraries. That's the truth, Anna.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 9:52 pm
sigh, what forums? If there are forums, and someone brings up the 23 library studies, you'd better be able to *refute* the results of those studies, instead of merely whining about how "they don't measure anything". You'd also better be able to back up the claim that one cannot deduce similar results from other municipality's public libraries.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
So far on this thread, as in most other library threads, we have the same 5-10 posters (if, indeed, they're different people) coming along with the same old tired arguments.
1) They do a dance of denial about the library valuation studies, yet have no studies of their own. they're not even economists, or demographers, yet they critique the library study protocols. Weak.
2) They claim that Palo Alto doesn't deliver quality library service, but the real experts, the USERS of the library, refute the naysayers claim in every poll that's been taken.
3) They say the city is mismanaged, but the city has a AAA Bond rating, and runs a larger surplus than surrounding municipalities.
4) They say the library audit claims that we should seek efficiencies in the library before spending money, but the audit doesn't say that at all. they also misrepresent the audit in other ways.
5) They say that other municipal libraries deliver better value, yet most residents in those other municipalities don't have things like multiple story times, a Children's Library, ease of access, anywhere near the cumulative open hours of Palo Alto, and so on. The sheer level and depth of our services puts us in a unique position on the Peninsula. Our resident KNOW that it costs more to operate our branches, but they want the branches ANYWAY, as stated over and over in polling.
So, those who object to our excellence, want to bring Palo Alto's library *down* to their bean counting idea of what a library should be. What do they have to show for their efforts? No studies, no polls, numbers presented out of context, no consideration of qualitative benefits, no sense of community multipliers from library service, and so on.
I wonder if they have any idea how significant our library is to the success thousands of PAUSD students. Our citizens want quality; they want to be proud of our library; they are looking ahead, instead of thinking - like so many on this thread - poor.
Poor = paucity - of thought, of spirit, of intention, of hope, of vision, of fair play, of generosity.
Palo Altans don't respond to that kind of thinking. Nor will they be exposed to that kind of thinking in a way that goes unanswered.
Posted by LibrariesRock, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 7:23 am
The last library survey that "proved" that Palo Alto residents want their branches didn't ask people to make any choices based on priorities or fiscal limits. It was an irresponsible survey and proved nothing. Let's give a child a trip to the candy store with no limits and see what he comes out with; then let's give the child a dollar and a trip to the same candy store. Hmmm, different result, I think.
Anna, let's put your reasoning to the test. Let's vote. Let's have Palo Alto residents vote on whether they want to spend money on the two small branches.
As for carbon footprint, I can remember driving all around town looking for books for my kids' social studies reports. One library -- one trip. And of course the library system involves driving books around from branch to branch by library employees.
Total #hours you can visit a library: 62 hours per week (This includes the earliest opening and latest closing across ALL branches)
Total Square footage: 51,435
Spending per capita: $97.01
So, Mountain View's library system is open longer, has more floor space, provides for the same number of patrons and circulation, has better facilities and services and yet does all this at HALF THE PRICE that Palo Alto is paying.
Your posts are the equivalent of a piece of cardboard and felt tip pen. You need to do more than just stand on a street corner and ask for hand outs here. Instead of just begging for money, DO SOME WORK, stand up and lead, offer vision.
Show us where we can get value for money, why we should be paying more and where the benefits are, explain to us why we need to pay TWICE AS MUCH as Mountain View for less library access. That at least would provide you with some credibility and admiration rather than the condescension and pity your requests for hand-outs are receiving.
p.s I'm still waiting for your link to a single independent authoritative report stating that the Palo Alto library system is the best on the peninsular. Or is this going the same way as the rest of the requests to backup anything you've said?
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 10:27 am
Library fan: "The last library survey that "proved" that Palo Alto residents want their branches didn't ask people to make any choices based on priorities or fiscal limits."
The typical Palo Alto naysayer tactic - i.e. "the survey was not designed to my liking, therefore it is invalid". or "they didn't let me design the survey, therefore it is invalid"
No new libraries said: "each school has their own outstanding library."
This is far from the truth. The PAUSD school libraries are challenged, and our public library has become a vital part of the library experience for a large percentage of PAUSD students. Most parents are aware of this, and more will become aware of it.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 12:10 pm
sigh, Palo Alto Library USERS are the real authorities on Palo Alto's library excellence, and the services it provides. 87& say the libraries are very satisfactory.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Just think, FIVE highly accessible library locations (with one, exclusively for kids) - for only twice what it costs Mt. View to deliver comparatively far more shallow services in its lone (one) location. What a great deal! Palo Alto delivers FIVE TIMES the convenience of Mountain View, for only TWICE the cost.
Palo Alto Branch Libraries: Open for a **cumulative total of 225 hours per week***, not including Children's Library (which makes for a cumulative total of almost 300 hours per week).
That means OUTSTANDING ACCESS; MORE PROGRAMS; WALKABILITY; AFTER SCHOOL AVAILABILITY WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE FROM SCHOOL. This is what Palo Altans want.
Mountain View: Open only a pedestrian 64 hours per week, with none of the Palo Alto library's depth of service array. If you don't have the space, locations and people, you simply can't compete in depth.
Palo Alto Branch Libraries: Accessible; walkable; convenient for after-school, senior, and teen programs; help reduce Palo Alto's carbon footprint;
Mountain View Library: Inconvenient; You need a car or public transport to get there - oops! there goes Mt. View's carbon footprint (Saskwatch, anyone?)
Palo Alto Branch Libraries: Many more opportunities for service delivery in the branches - with multiple story times, superb Children's Library collection (best in the region); more librarians devoted to children; more attention paid to the coordination of libraries and schools
Mountain View Library: far smaller service array than Palo Alto - for instance - no children's library, collection not as current, etc. etc
Palo Alto Library: more current collection
Mountain View Library: less current collection (one of the reasons they operate so cheaply)
Mountain View Library: Apparently no interest in measuring patron satisfaction
Palo Alto Branch Library: Permits audits of operation, to improve efficiency
Mountain View Library: No library audit
Palo Alto Library: Always someone there to help at reference
Mountain View Library: Good luck finding a reference librarian.
In sum Palo Alto measures up quite nicely for a branch system. We are more efficient, in fact, than places like Berkeley's branch system, where the cost per capita is roughly $112 per resident.
Yes, Palo Altan's LOVE their libraries; this shows in the circulation and visit numbers.
Palo Alto delivers VALUE, just like PAUSD delivers VALUE. Residents EXPECT to pay more for VALUE.
One of the reasons that PAUSD is so strong is because of all the educational opportunities
provided by our libraries.
Our citizens are now being made aware of the crucially close connection that PAUSD has to our public library and recreation systems, and how the latter two public servcices further leverage the investment that Palo Alan's make in their homes.
Take away the branch libraries, and where are our kids going to do their after school homework, weekend projects, specially sponsored teen activities?
Take away the branches and where are dedicated Palo Alto parents going to go for story times, with every story time I've ever been to oversubscribed.
Posted by sigh, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 12:53 pm
Anna, MV's library system is open longer each week & has more square footage than Palo Alto. How on earth can you claim that Palo Alto's library system offers "THREE TIMES the service levels". Then claim that "Palo Alto delivers FIVE TIMES the convenience of Mountain View". And finally claim that the "Palo Alto library system is the best on the peninsular"?
This is almost like watching a parent cheering on their child's soccer team when they are down 10-nil with 2 minutes to go. Then after the match telling their child "your team was the best team!". Unfortunately, whilst the child may appreciate the sentiment, they understand the reality - I'm not sure that Anna does.
Posted by too bad they're NIMBY, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 1:06 pm
Anna wrote, "The PAUSD school libraries are challenged, and our public library has become a vital part of the library experience for a large percentage of PAUSD students."
Palo Alto's libraries are "challenged". Visit the Mountain View or Santa Clara County libraries to see what an "unchallenged" library ought to -- and can -- look like. Palo Alto parents are aware of this. Many of them drive their children to neighboring cities for their library needs which are unmet by PAUSD and the City of Palo Alto.
Their facilities, books, audio & video collections, and even the summer reading programs are better than PA's. The only thing the Palo Alto libraries have in their favor is location. It's not enough.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 1:18 pm
sigh, Palo Alto's library system is open far longer in cumulative hours than Mt. View. That's the advantage and appeal of a branch system.
The Mountain View Library is only open only 57 hours, compared to Palo Alto's superb community commitment of 225 hours. That's a huge difference.
Thus, the PALO ALTO LIBRARY SERVES ITS PUBLIC WITH ***THREE TIMES MORE*** HOURS and THREE TIME MMORE SERVICES THAN MT. VIEW - FOR ONLY *TWICE AS MUCH* AS THE MT. VIEW LIBRARY. In fact, that even shows Palo Alto as providing more *efficient* service (better than a one-to-one ratio). Palo Alto Library services DELIVER!
How can you even come close to suggesting that Mt. View's one-location library, and one-location service levels even come close to Palo Alto's five-location system?
That's right, Palo Alto's libraries deliver FIVE TIMES more convenience than Mt. View, because we have FIVE locations, compared to Mountain View's paltry one location.
Mountain View's library is OK, but don't even try to compare it with our branch system. It's apples and oranges, in every way you can imagine. AND, Palo Altan's WANT and LIKE our branch system.
I can understand why Palo Alto's library system is the envy of many municipalities; we deliver MORE, for LESS.
Posted by sigh, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 2:10 pm
Hmm, you're right, 255 hours does sound like a lot more. Well, so Thursday morning at 10:00, which Palo Alto library is open. Let me check. Oh, none! Hmm, what about MV - ahh it is open. Wow, those 255 hours sure went by fast! How did we manage to use them all up before MV used up their measly 64? I though Palo Alto libraries were open 36 hours a day!
Get the picture? We can't even manage to run a library system with cumulative hours of 255 so that it matches up a neighboring city that only has 64.
"I can understand why Palo Alto's library system is the envy of many municipalities;"
Again, one simple link to one single report that shows this. Anna, you simply never have anything to back up your assertions.
Posted by Too bad they're NIMBY, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 2:20 pm
"The Mountain View Library is only open only 57 hours, compared to Palo Alto's superb community commitment of 225 hours."
What a silly measure! Do you know how many hours a week there's 'A' library open in Palo Alto (any library will do, as I can only be in one place at a time) vs. how many hours a week there's one open in Mountain View?
(HINT: the number must be less than 168, the total number of hours in a week.)
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 2:21 pm
"Hmm, you're right, 255 hours does sound like a lot more"
It sure is, and the five locations help, too. When two or three of the branches have consecutive story times, and moms and dads and their kids can *walk* to those story times; or when seniors feel like walking over to a branch (downtown is filled with seniors); or when Melissa or Benjamin leave their middle- or high-school class at days end, and are able to *walk* to a safe and studious place, instead of hanging out at the mall. How about all those coordinated programs that can happen between the library and the recreation department at the new Mitchell Park Branch. I can't wait!
255 cumulative hours, with TONS more services - there is no library system that even comes close on the Peninsula, and best of all this is exactly the kind of library that Palo Altans WANT, and that 87% of them are pleased with.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 2:23 pm
Too bad, "! Do you know how many hours a week there's 'A' library open in Palo Alto (any library will do, as I can only be in one place at a time) vs. how many hours a week there's one open in Mountain View?"
You may only be in one place at one time, but there are 62,000+ Palo Altans that are not you. Get it? They enjoy the better services and conveniences that our library present, which far exceed anything else on the Peninsula.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 2:48 pm
“We want our branch libraries; we're proud of them, and we're willing to pay for them.” Who’s “we”? The branch library users? How much are “we” willing to pay? I don’t recall anyone ever asking that question in any poll or survey?
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 3:21 pm
pat, Palo Altans voted with a 62+% majority on the last library bond issue; that's a clear majority in support of supporting our branch system. The next bond issue will exceed that number by at least 10-15%.
Posted by Too bad they're NIMBY, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 4:18 pm
"there is no library system that even comes close on the Peninsula,"
LOL! Is that why the Santa Clara County Library system has been ranked #1 in the U.S. five times already? (This doesn't include last year when it slipped to #2.) Source: Web Link Incidentally, Palo Alto didn't make the top 100 list. Can't imagine why not.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 4:36 pm
I want a book on the American Indian tribe my son has a report on. I, like the rest of his elementary class go straight after school to Mitchell Park. They are out of books on this tribe. I can go to Children's or College Terrace and collect a book which may still be there when I get there, or I could put a hold and request on it and it will be at Mitchell Park two days before the report is due. What do I do? I get in my car and drive there, but oh, it is soccer day and so I wait until the end of soccer practice. Then I get in my car and go there. Oh, it is now closed.
If this is the way an excellent city library system works, then we have one. Is it the way I want my system to work. No thank you very much. Lets have all the books in one place. Lets have the libraries open til at least 8.00 pm. It doesn't make much difference if we have five libraries if they are all closed when I need (yes need) to get there.
Posted by s.colbert, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 5:17 pm
TBTNIMBY, you don't understand. Whatever information you have to the contrary is irrelevant.
We don't need links to tell us what we already know. We know that the Palo Alto library system is the best on the peninsular. And not just by a little bit better, it's at least 3 times better than our nearest rival. Don't believe me? Look at these 23 reports that state that we get $4.00 back for every dollar we spend. Since we spend twice as much as our neighboring cities, we're getting 5 times as much more back than they are. They're suckers!
And, look, our libraries are open at least 40 hours a day every day of the year! You can't get better than that.
We have an absolutely marvelous library system now and with your help, we can make it even better!
Just send your donation of $1,000 or more, remember you get 5x's that back so don't skimp, to:
Posted by LibrariesRock, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 7:22 pm
The Mountain View Library will close in February for a month-long renovation project that will include installation of an automated return system that provides a receipt and immediate checkin of items (using RFID technology); the system will save more than 50% of staff time and handling of returned materials and operate 24/7. The library expects to have more staff available to help find materials and use services. See additional details about the renovation on the library website. And for the person who thinks the Mountain View library doesn't update its collections, most of the materials I check out have 2006 or 2007 dates.
Posted by Too bad they're NIMBY, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2008 at 7:38 pm
"But, you have to drive."
Ah, now we've found some common ground. Thus my monicker, "Too bad they're NIMBY." It's the one disadvantage Mountain View & Los Altos libraries have over Palo Alto - they're not in bikeable range. But waste an hour parking?? I go there weekly, sometimes as infrequently as monthly, and I've never had a problem parking in their lot or on Franklin Street. (What a great street name for a library!)
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2008 at 12:53 am
Palo Alto plans to deploy RFID at Mitchell, to save staff and patron time. Palo Alto is also working on a full-blown technology plan.
Aside from all the taunting here, I really don't see anyone refuting the many benefits that have been listed for Palo Alto's libraries. We really do have a far deeper service array than any other municipal (city) library. That, in spite of our library experiencing serious neglect for more than a decade.
You should go to Mitchell Park sometime after school, or to Children's on a weekend, or to a story time some Saturday morning at one of the branches. You would probably be able to walk, or bike.
I can understand why someone might want just a single library, but why would any community member angle for closing branches when the vast majority of Palo Altans like the branch system?
I think the agenda here, by the naysayers, is to close library branches,, which is essentially why they won't cop to the listed benefits, above. It's a pretty weak argument, overall, and one that will be shown as such - over and over again - to prospective voters.
I want to thank all the naysayers for providing information about how you plan to attack our branch system, and library in general; it will be helpful during the bond campaign.
Posted by Too bad they're NIMBY, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2008 at 9:53 am
"You can check in/out your books FIVE times as fast."
Ahh, but can you check them out on Thursday mornings?
Palo Alto Main branch - no. Mitchell Park – no. Children’s – no. College Terrace – after 11. Downtown – no. Out of 5 choices, only one tiny branch is open at 11:00, and not a single branch is open before then! (Five times the services, bah!)
Is this an unreasonable level of service to be expected? Hardly. You can find an open library in virtually all surrounding cities at 10:00am (and in some cases 9:00am). Try Redwood City (all branches), Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Menlo Park, Los Altos, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Atherton, East Palo Alto, etc. etc.
Palo Alto is the anomaly, offering the fewest Thursday hours.
Oh, wait. We're better than them 'cause if we add up all the afternoon branch hours it totals 30 hours...we could spend our whole Thursday and then some at the library on Thursdays. 5 times faster, no less.
p.s. about the trolls – some of them are very clever and amusing!
Posted by s.colbert, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2008 at 12:28 pm
TBTNIMBY, Thursday morning is a day of rest. Palo Alto librarians are working 255 hours a week already. You want them to work more? I don't begrudge them a couple of hours off on Thursday. They can make up for it between 33 and 37 o'clock on Sunday.
Now, back to more important matters. Raising funds. I've heard of these bond measures and I think they are a fine thing. However, look at what those lefty liberals did with the Children's Library.
"Individual donors, the Friends of the Palo Alto Library, the Palo Alto Library Foundation, the Library Advisory Commission, and the City of Palo Alto combined efforts to raise over $3 million towards the construction and furnishings. "
And they did this without bonds! Next they'll be doing the same thing to all the other branch libraries without requiring ANY bonds! They are trying to remove you and your voice from the picture!
Shame on them. A bond measure would up the amount in my account by close to $40m. That's 52x's what they are getting by trying to raise the money themselves. We can get a lot more money by making those that don't use our branch library system or can't afford the bond, pay for it anyway. Otherwise we're limiting your donations to those interested in keeping our branch system open. What were these people thinking of?
This sort of anti-social behavior cannot be tolerated. You need to send a load and clear message to the city by voting YES on the library bond measure. Or better yet, send double your bond amount, clearly marked to "S. Colbert", to the above account details and bypass the city altogether.
Posted by Too bad they're NIMBY, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2008 at 12:51 pm
s.colbert, you are so convincing. Yes, indeed, a vote for the bond is a vote for Civic Engagement. A bond reaches out to engage everyone. 52x the money vs. selfish independent efforts, wow. Such an opportunity to be personally involved. Thanks for the tip; the check's in the mail.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2008 at 1:24 pm
Of course, no one is begrudging hard working librarian some hours off during the week. But, this is just the point. Because we have so many branches, we have to have librarians on duty all the time at all libraries. If we had fewer libraries, the librarians could work shifts, time to suit themselves almost, and then we could still have libraries open when we the residents can get their at our convenience. Not only is Thursday morning a difficult time to get to the library because they are closed, some evenings after 6.00 are as well. If the libraries are open when someone is say, playing tennis, or going for a class, or open during baseball practice or games, residents can cut down on multiple trips to the same part of town, another way of cutting down the driving.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2008 at 5:12 pm
Frankly, I think we should hire a few more part time librarians to staff Thursday mornings. I hear that may be in the works.
In any case, it's fun to see one's debate opponent reduced to lampooning one's arguments and supporting examples - that's usually the last desperate effort of someone who has lost on all points and is trying to save face as they sink to bottom.
Palo Alto's branch library system is GREAT! That's what 87% of Palo Altans say - and in the end, that's what counts.
Posted by In The Know, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2008 at 5:37 pm
Just to set the record straight, librarians DO work on Thursday mornings. The reason the libraries are all closed during those hours is to provide a time when the entire staff is available for necessary meetings. There is alot that goes on behind the scenes that makes libraries the special place that they are for the users.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2008 at 6:12 pm
Colbert, nice job. You have captured the spirit of library booster-ism perfectly. This is indeed the best of all possible worlds (all evidence to the contrary being strictly irrelevant). Just add money.
Posted by LibrariesRock, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2008 at 6:14 pm
Anna -If 87 percent of Palo Altans think the PA library system is great, then the bond measure should pass handily. I doubt it. In my opinion, the best way to kill the bond measure is to include any money for the two small branches. I guess we'll have to wait and see what the voters say.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2008 at 6:16 pm
It's depressing to see the library survey results consistently misrepresented.
87% of Palo Altans say they are very or somewhat satisfied with the libraries. Is that the same as 87% think the libraries are great? No. In fact 43% of Palo Altans use the libraries less than once a month or never. 28.4% use the libraries once to a few times a month, and 30% use the libraries weekly or more often.
We have no way to know from the survey data whether the heaviest users are satisfied or not. It's an interesting coincidence that 9.4% of Palo Altans use the library more than once a week and 11.4% are somewhat or very dissatisfied. That doesn't mean the heaviest users are the most dissatisfied!
Conversely it is very likely that many non-users are satisfied with the libraries. In fact 15.5% of the satisfied respondents cite the easy-to-use/modern facility!
Just to finish out some numbers, more Palo Altans visit each of Mountain View, Menlo Park, or Stanford libraries than visit College Terrace. Los Altos library is in a dead heat 12.3% vs 12.9% usage with College Terrace. Only 4.2% of Palo Altans visit the library to use the Internet. 24.1% say they visit libraries outside Palo Alto because the location and hours are more convenient. 14.5% say the don't like the Palo Alto libraries because of inconvenient hours.
Bottom line is that it's unfortunate our only choices are endorse the plan that's on the table or nothing at all. It's quite likely the last bond failed because of the economy and because some Mitchell Park neighbors inexplicably fought creating a citywide facility in their backyard. So let the voters decide!
Posted by Anna, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2008 at 9:42 pm
"87% of Palo Altans say they are very or somewhat satisfied with the libraries."
87% - that's the bottom line. And, where did you pull the rest of your analytical spin from - your hat?
Why *wouldn't* Los Altos be in a dead heat with College Terrace? Do you have a map available? Why would Los Altos residents visit College Terrace?
Why *wouldn't* 24% of residents visit other libraries- many libraries flank the borders of our city. What about visits to Palo Alto libraries by citizens who don't live here - from commuters to neighboring municipal residents.
Here, we have another bean-counting branch library hater - one of the vast MINORITY that has managed to help defeat infrastructure bonds in Palo Alto for years. The weird irony here is that this same person is one of the residents who constantly criticizes the condition of Palo Alto's infrastructure. Go figure...
So, what we see in the most extreme naysayers on rebuilding infrastructure (they all operate in the same way) is a weird flavor kind of Palo Alto misanthropy.
We will see about that vote. I hope you're ready for the fight of your life.
Posted by 2 branches 2 many, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2008 at 10:04 pm
"Why would Los Altos residents visit College Terrace?"
Good question. I live close to the College Terrace branch and do most of my borrowing from Los Altos. If College Terrace isn't good enough for the locals -- excepting a few vocal ones next door -- why would it attract outsiders?
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2008 at 11:38 pm
I use College Terrace and would never think of going to Los Altos. It has great service, and I can order any book I want from the system - or inter-library from other cities - and have it delivered to CT. You are missing out on accessing the entire PA system, and traveling all the way to Los Altos? That's rather inefficient behavior.
CT has a magnificent interior demeanor, fantastic children's programming, etc. etc.
Go ask your neighbors in CT and surrounding areas if they want to see CT closed. Make sure you bring something to wipe the eggs off your coat.
Incidentally, CT gets pretty good use from Stanford students and workers, and commuters into the city.
Posted by sigh, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 17, 2008 at 9:56 am
Wait, stop the presses. Anna, your posts are SERIOUS? The cheering parent analogy is correct? I think I need to apologize. But, that surely cannot be the extent of the pro-library push?! You really have nothing? You REALLY can't back up anything? And you were going to ask the Palo Alto district for money with this? I can't stop laughing.
OMG. You do realize that the library bond and the new police building bond are being bundled? You do realize that you're going to need to get all the help you can to have any library bond pass in these circumstances without the whole pro/anti branch argument? What on earth are you doing?
Posted by 2 branches 2 many, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jan 17, 2008 at 10:33 am
"You are missing out on accessing the entire PA system, and traveling all the way to Los Altos?"
Mike, I have access to the entire Santa Clara County Library system, which can run circles around PA's system.
When I want to browse, there's plenty to choose from. When I want something specific, I order over the internet and pick it up. Have you ever browsed the music collections in Los Altos? The rock, classical, jazz, international and children's collections are all excellent. Same goes for audio books. Combine them together and they'd nearly fill the College Terrace branch.
The only time I was a regular at College Terrace was when my kids attended the CTC preschool next door. We'd pop in for kids' books at the end of the day - if it was still open. But even my kids prefer Los Altos.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 17, 2008 at 4:15 pm
"Have you ever browsed the music collections in Los Altos? The rock, classical, jazz, international and children's collections are all excellent. Same goes for audio books. Combine them together and they'd nearly fill the College Terrace branch."
oooooooooooooo, Los Altos collection can fill the teeny-tiny CT branch. Oh, wow, I'm impressed - NOT!
Also, using your 'logic' why shuold Los Altos citizens pay taxes so that you can use their library.
This is the kind of minikin thinking that goes against our libraries, and community. Thank the stars that the residents who think this way are in the TEENY minority here.
Let's get busy and rebuild our great library system, and make it even greater!
Posted by Kathy, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Jan 22, 2008 at 11:09 am
TO those of you who say you're going to vote against the library bond as a vote against the City's fiscal irresponsibility, I ask you: Why would you chop off your face to spite your neighbor's nose? The only way to get a good library in this town is to support this bond. The branches will not disappear because you vote against the bond. And the only way to pass a bond is to let the branches be repaired too.
In Seattle, a bond to build a large main library failed. When they changed the bond (increasing the amount it would cost) to cover all the branches, it passed.
For Palo Altans who want one good library, it might just cost a bit more than we'd like to get it. This is called compromise. Let Downtown and College Terrace keep their libraries. What we will gain at Mitchell Park will be well worth it.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 22, 2008 at 7:04 pm
Kathy, you make a good point that compromise is sometimes necessary and appropriate. But I'm not sold here. Given that there is a ready alternative (Santa Clara County libraries and elsewhere), I would rather just go there than toss money down the hole of branches that serve just a few. A "no" vote (for the second time) might finally stiffen the backbone of our leadership to do what should be done.
Perhaps those who want the branches should compromise - can we close one decrepit branch? Please?
Posted by LibrariesRock, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 22, 2008 at 7:48 pm
The situation in Seattle is quite different from Palo Alto. Their downtown is big and busy, full of traffic, and with little parking. The branches in Seattle have ample parking, so a bond measure that included money for the branches and a new downtown library was a lot more appealing than a bond for the downtown library alone. Now, imagine Seattle with all its libraries closed. People would have to drive across the floating bridges to the east side of the lake to check out books, or drive outside the city limits far to the north or south. By contrast, if Palo Alto libraries were all closed, north PA residents would have a 5-minute drive to the Menlo Park library; west PA residents could easily drive to the Los Altos library, and south PA residents could get to the Mountain View library in about 10 minutes. And all of these libraries are better than Palo Alto libraries. Bottom line is that the REAL branch libraries for Palo Alto are in our neighboring communities. Closing the small, little-used Downtown and College Terrace libraries is the smart thing to do. Then staffing and other resources can be concentrated on the larger, better-used Main and Mitchell Park libraries.
Posted by 2 branches 2 many, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jan 22, 2008 at 11:06 pm
Mike, I have a bike, a backpack and a basket. Although the College Terrace library is within walking distance for me, I consider all of Palo Alto within reach by bike. I'd be happy to have even a single library at Mitchell (the other end of town for me) if only it would compare to the libraries in neighboring communities. So, no, having a single branch (what I think you meant to say) doesn't imply that ALL citizens must drive -- only those who aren't willing/able to get out of their cars.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jan 22, 2008 at 11:37 pm
"I have a bike, a backpack and a basket."
Great, but what about neighborhood seniors, little kids, families with lots of kids, commuters who work here and use our library, etc. Branches serve all those populations, and more - in addition to the many other advantages that have been expressed, prior.
Posted by LibrariesRock, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2008 at 8:35 am
If you're really serious about library services for seniors, little kids, and commuters, then how about providing services to most of them rather than just the few who can walk to your little neighborhood branch. Let's have a roving library that takes the services to the people. The real question for the voters is whether they will pay to support the little branch you love to walk to. Those who will decide the content of the bond issue will have to weigh the choices carefully.
Posted by 2 branches 2 many, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2008 at 8:59 am
Mike, that was in response to your assertion that ALL citizens would have to drive if your little College Terrace branch were to be closed. Not ALL of us feel the need to hop in a car. Admittedly (if you read my post carefully) there are citizens who are unable to get to a library without a vehicle.
LibrariesRock suggests yet another great idea. Mountain View has a book mobile - why can't we?
p.s. I have little kids. Have you never seen a bike with a trailer? There ARE options that exist between having a little local branch and getting in a car. Open your mind to them, and we can find a compromise that serves the community better.
Posted by 2manybranches, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 23, 2008 at 9:12 am
If you read any of the threads related to the library - you will realize that there are MANY people who oppose the branch library system and would prefer one or two substantial libraries instead.
Almost all of the things stated by Mike about the benefits of many branches could be served by a bookmobile delivering to the school libraries. Many more people live within walking distance of a school then the CT and Downtown branches (which are the one we should realistically close).