Posted by Over Taxed, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 5, 2008 at 1:29 pm
Whether one uses libraries or not, it does not seem unreasonable to expect competent administration of our tax dollars, and an ability to make reasonable estimates of the cost of an infrastructure project. And it doesn't seem unreasonable to withhold a vote in favor of spending money on a project until it is demonstrated that this spending can be done without undue waste.
Would Mariam agree to pay 10 times much in taxes if the tax was going to build a library? Would she agree to spend 1000 times as much if the city staff said it's going to build a library. Palo Alto may have an appetite for new libraries if the cost is $50 Million. It likely will have less stomach for the same libraries at $80 Million. And if we get another 60% cost increase before construction starts, most in PA will have accute indigestion.
Mariam implies that the question is whether one likes libraries. It is not. The question is whether the city is spending our money on libraries, streets, sewers, police stations and the like in a cost-effective way. The evidence is that it is not doing so. Vote no on infrastructure projects until the city gets its act together.
Posted by Resident, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 5, 2008 at 1:40 pm
To straighten this out $50 Million might cover the cost of rebuilding the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center but our City Council has chosen to weigh the whole Library Bond Measure down with extensive improvements and renovations to Main and Downtown Libraries too.
They obviously haven't learned the lessons of Measure D the last failed Library bond measure for Mitchell Park Library/Community Center. This was also weighed down with renovations to Main Library, Children's Library, and the Art Center.
But, with enthusiasm they seem to think the residents of Palo Alto can be educated to approve this one with an outreach program. After all what's $80 Million to a community like ours!!!
Posted by Resident, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 5, 2008 at 2:40 pm
The estimate for building the new police station has now topped 81 MILLION!! Why don't we just give the police department additional room on another floor in City Hall. Surely there is room somewhere in that huge building. How about moving the Planning Department from its current location across the street from City Hall and use that as a public safety site. It's close to downtown, City Hall and the Police Department. Makes sense to me. Just say NO to the outrageous demands of City Council to build this new 81 MILLION PLUS police station/public safety building. City Council needs to use what we already have more intelligently.
Posted by Over Taxed, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 5, 2008 at 2:56 pm
Let's see: 80 Million for Libraries, another 80 Mil for the police station, 380 Million for schools, (minimum) 50 million shortfall on the storm drains. That's over half a billion. And we haven't even started calculating what fixing the streets (30 million a couple of years ago) will cost, or the many other "needs" we have plus the burden of adding all the ABAG housing that was discussed a while back ....
We're a rich town, but isn't this getting kind of ridiculous?
Posted by Over-Taxed-2, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 5, 2008 at 3:01 pm
If one adds up all of the outstanding projects which have been presented to the public (city government and schools), the cost of the spending is about 1.5 billion dollars! Since most of the expenses are supposed to be funded through bonds--the property owners will be expect to pay about 3 billion dollars in all--and this is by no means the total spending to be proposed.
Posted by Midtown Mom, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 5, 2008 at 3:30 pm
Well, no - what it says is $180 per year for a Palo Alto property assessed at about $650,000 - just for the library. That doesn't include public safety building, school bonds, storm drains . . . Not to mention those - few - properties assessed at more than 650K (Thank you Prop 13).
For many of us, this could be closer to $400/year/library, plus another $400/year/police building, and not to mention several thousand more/year/schools.
While I love the idea of libraries, in all honesty I could buy a copy of every book that I have borrowed from the library in a year for much less than $400.
Posted by Just-Say-NO!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 5, 2008 at 3:31 pm
> This works out to about only $160 per average household
Not hardly. If one were to assume the cost of the $3B would be spread across the roughly 20,000 taxable parcels in Palo Alto--the cost comes to about $150,000 per parcel. Over 30 years, this would come to about $5K per parcel. However, most taxes are not parcel taxes, so some people will pay ten times more than others--based on the inequities of Prop.13.
> that a public library brings to our community.
There is already a public library which services the community. Any additional spending will not change that fact.
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 5, 2008 at 3:36 pm
Maybe it is time for some out of the box thinking.
How about - re-build the public safety building where it is and include the land from the downtown library.
Expand the main library to include the art center, utilize the art center land for another use.
One reason I keep hearing that we need more space at Mitchell Park is because kids come after school to do homework. Last time I checked, all the schools in PA have libraries - some even have books and computers! Spend the money on staffing the school libraries from after school until 6pm.
Create more "neighborhood libraries" using the school libraries for pick-up and drop off of books.
Posted by RS, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 5, 2008 at 4:57 pm
So as I recall the old plan, it involved all the libraris in this plan plus the childrens library for $45 million. It went up for a vote and lost.
This plan involves all the libraries and not the childrens library for 80 million.
So what changed that makes this a plan people will go for?
Also, assuming the city will float a 30 year muni bond to pay for this, and wants to actually pay it back in the 30 years and not carry the debt forward $160 per household shouldnt cover the principal plus interest. Where does the rest of the funding come from?
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 5, 2008 at 9:39 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
The City of Palo Alto knows what is best for *all* of us. They are the oracle of the common good. Don't strain your feeble brain trying to comprehend the boundless wisdom of their plans. Some mysteries are not meant to be understood by mere citizens. Just give them all your money and shut up, you pitiful NAYSAYERS! You should beg to be allowed to contribute your measly dollars towards our lush retirement benefits.
That's just the way it is. Get used to it. Read Popeye.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 6:28 am
I'm sure glad that the costs for the library are rising at this nice clip. Four times $80 million is a lot more than 4 times $50 million. So according to the logic of the 23 studies, we get a bigger return as inflation pushes up the cost of building these libraries.
If we wait a few years - say until the cost is $250 million - we can fix all our other infrastructure problems and contribute the rest to the schools with our library returns. What's the rush? Inflation is our friend.
Posted by perspective, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 7:01 am
I believe it was Stalin who taught that if you repeat something often enough it becomes the truth ( at least in the minds of the trusting).
I will look it up.
By the way...I haven't read the reports, and not gonna..but the assertion of 4 times return cracks me up as much as when I am told by the cashier at check out that I just "saved $100"....after having spent $400.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 9:34 am
Those 23 studies do indeed exist. Only problem is interpreting what they “prove.” As some folks like “perspective” understand, they do not show that libraries provide 4 times return on investment. I’ve posted the following info below on other library discussions.
BTW, I am absolutely in favor of libraries. They are an essential community service. I would vote for the bond issue in a hot second if it didn’t include all the branches.
“Nine public libraries in Southwest Ohio spent $74.4 million in 2005 on library operations. These expenditures included amounts for materials, database services, salaries, and other costs of operations at all main and branch libraries. Library patrons received direct benefits from library services during the same period of about $190.4 million.”
Note that the benefit to LIBRARY PATRONS was calculated by figuring out how much they would have paid to purchase books, DVDs, etc. if they were not able to get these materials free from the library. While taxpayers spent $74.4 million on library operations, $190.4 million did not go into the general fund.
In this calculation, there is no real return, just a shift in cost from a small group of people (library patrons) to the general tax-paying public. There are no real dollars generated.
I obtained a print copy of the St. Louis Library Study, which was done in 2000. It provides similar information.
The study uses cost benefit analysis to determine direct benefits to an individual user (not to the entire population), e.g., for borrowing a book. It estimates how much users would be willing to pay for such items if they didn't have the library.
The study specifically does not incorporate indirect benefits -- e.g., the collective benefits to all members of a neighborhood such as a shared sense of community -- because they can't be quantified.
I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with any of this. It’s just important to read the studies carefully, look for real data, and understand exactly what benefits are being claimed.
The names change (Mike/Broccoli/Benjamin/Anna) but the hyperbole remains consistent. It's used in a similar fashion to cries of "racism" in other debates. It is a rat hole best avoided as you can see from the number of posts with [removed by Palo Alto...] entries.
A more balanced view is available with the auditor's report on Palo Alto libraries here: Web Link
This study on public libraries gives an indication as to the quality of the libraries in neighboring cities: Web Link
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 9:48 am
I am sorry if I sound vague, but I don't get it.
How can the money we spend on libraries come back to us times 4?
If I want to read a book, I go the library and check one out. If I have a desire to read a specific book, I order it beforehand, usually.
If I feel like reading something and there were no libraries, I may borrow from a friend, go to a second hand bookshop or perhaps re-read an old favorite. I doubt if I would just go out and buy a book the way I would just go to the library and borrow one.
The same could be said for dvds, or magazines, or, well you get the picture.
In other words, the libraries don't save me money. I am not a cheapsgate, but I do not look on my library as a means of saving me money.
I look on a library as a place to get information or a place to get recreation. It is not essential to my life, but it is an asset.
So, please explain to me how we get this money back because it is lost on me.
Posted by RS, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 9:55 am
Naw, forum reader, I just wanted to read them, but you are right, I can see from your links it is a rat hole and I will refrain from discussing them as it appears that would be more noise than signal. Pat's analysis is what I expected to find and has saved me some time. Thanks pat
Posted by Midtown Mom, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 11:17 am
It isn't that hard to calculate the cost. If we assume the library bond will be for $81M, and that it is to be paid off in 20 years at (arbitrarily chosen) 6% interest rate, with the cost shared equally among 20,000 Palo Alto families, then it comes to $319/family/year for 20 years. Any amortization calculator can be used to play around with the interest rate and term.
The "public safety" building has a similar cost, so add another $319/family/year.
The proposed school bond is much higher, perhaps around $320M, so calculate another $1260/family/year for that.
I think a round $2000/year will come close to covering the proposed costs.
Posted by Freud, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 11:24 am
The Library Director is jealous because the City Council is enabling the Police Chief's edifice complex.
The City of Santa Clara has a large stand alone police building, so the Palo Alto police department needs the same kind of building regardless of the truth about the condition of the existing police building in Palo Alto.
The City Council is not going to give the voters the opportunity to vote against a new police building. The Council is just going to approve the new building and cut future services without telling the voters prior to the Council's decision which services are going to be cut.
The voters only opportunity to express their anger at the Council's action on the police building will be to vote "no" on the only the measure before them which will be the library.
If the Council was serious about building a new library the Council would link together the approval and funding for both the police building and the library building.
By approving only the police building the Council knows the library funding measure will be defeated and at least a majority of the Council does not care about that.
Any statements in favor of a library funding measure made by Council members prior to the Council vote in favor of going ahead with the police building without voter approval are just posturing.
Posted by forum watcher, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 1:44 pm
"At the City Council meeting Monday night, Library Commissioner Sanford Forte spoke about the 23 studies and the return on investment they provide."
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Sanford Forte has been pushing this line for a long time. Check out this entry where he actually posts under his own name back in 2006: Web Link
Just a snippet, you might recognize the style and the link! ;)
I would urge all who are interested in real returns on taxpayer dollars spent, and how libraries enable that, to read the following link; it clearly shows that taxpayer investment in libraries leads to a *positive* return to community, in terms of real dollar payback.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 2:22 pm
forum watcher, pat, etc. - still trying to make yourselves believe that those studies - ALL 23 OF THEM - don't really come to the conclusions that they do - that there are 23 STUDIES THAT SHOW POSITIVE ROI TO COMMUNITY FOR EVERY DOLLAR SPENT ON LIBRARIES. Where is your data to the contrary??
What about those studies do your studies refute? There IS positive payback for library users; and, that's MOST of the people in Palo Alto. The VAST majorioty of Palo Altans use the library. So, what's your point?
And, why have all 23 of the studies shown a positive ROI for libraries in community? And, what about other evidence that suggests positive correlations between libraries and high school graduation rates, lower crime rates, etc. etc. that has been presented by many people in the past.
And like someone said, above, if yuo repeat something over and over again, you come to believe it. That's the sad situation you find yourselves in.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Oh, read the audit, why don't you? Read what the auditor said about Palo Alto library's physical condition, compared to others. the naysayers can take DIRECT blame for helping to make that happen. Also, look at how oru library is already addressing the things that the auditor says needed to change - to improve efficiencies. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by Pam, a resident of the Monroe Park neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 2:42 pm
The studies above referred do not show the positive return on investment "to the community" as claimed by Mike of College Terrace - at least as ROI is usually measured.
The studies measure the "returns" on a book/tape/dvd as what a person borrowing that item would pay for it were it not "free" to him. Thus under this reasoning, if a book is checked out 50 times, and the average user claims he would have paid $5 to buy that book, the return is $250.
Even assuming the accuracy of the data (asking someone what he would have paid for a book often yields radically different results from what people actually buy when they have to spend their own money), it's a logical stretch to say that the sum of the subjective values of reading a book to 50 individuals is a "return to the community".
At best these studies show that expenditures on libraries by the community at large subsidize the reading habits of library users. Hardly a surprising conclusion. I support this kind of subsidy, and think others in town do to. But to claim "positive returns to the community" only discredits the arguments in favor of these subsidies.
We might argue about whether the proposed cost of the library is worth it....but when we are asked to rely on *23 published studies*, we should at least be clear on what these studies say.
Posted by Don't call me Mike, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 2:52 pm
From the San Jose Moercury News:
Councilman Jack Morton bristled at the idea of building just a library on the Mitchell Park site, rather than the joint-use facility with a community center the previous council had agreed upon last year.
"We previously decided it made no sense to do just the library," he said. "So much work has gone into fabulous designs."
Posted by LB Daveu, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 3:24 pm
forum watcher makes sense. If anyone is to be held accountable for the stalemate on libraries in town, it is not the mythical "Naysayers" we hear so much about in this forum.
Rather it is the uncompromising, unrealistic leadership of the Library community in town. This includes the "Libraries Now!" types as well as the commission members (who are often the same people.) Rather than try to bring the community together, this leadership demonizes those who disagree with their vision - which to many of us seems a relic of the last century.
Posted by In their dreams, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 4:06 pm
How can the city be so disconnected from reality.
They believe everybody in Palo Alto has deep pockets... Not so.
I will vote NO.
And I will wait for them to become reasonable and pragmatic. Example: the library and community center at Mitchell Park only need upgrades and maybe a small addition. It is so wasteful and "un-green" to want to tear down two buildings just because they are 50 years old. Do the right thing (remodel instead of rebuild), at a reasonable cost, and then I'll start thinking of voting yes.
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 4:20 pm
City budget is $139 Million; for 19,000+ homes that works out to about $7,000/home; $319 tax for the bond is about 5%, so can the city find the 5% to cut in the budget?
Also the bond tax will not fall equally on all homeowners if it's based on property value; long time owners will pay alot less, and new residents will pay alot more! Definitely could be burdensome for those newer residents who are paying $1.5 million to live in our fair city.
Posted by Tom, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 4:53 pm
common sense: Dumping the tax burden onto newcomers is the essence of Prop 13, the most popular law in the state. It's California's welcome wagon.
Your save 5% idea seems intriguing and worth pursuing. I also wonder if Palo Alto could avoid much of this horrifically growing building cost if it got more creative about how it uses its existing facilities, and I mean ALL city properties.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 7:18 pm
thanks for those links, above - to recapture some truth in this thread, let's start with
"Someone above posted a web link Web Link
"this study - replicated several times, with similar results - clearly shows that money spent on libraries MAKES money for the city, and its citizens. How do you measure your claim against the result of that study?
"The library survey has already shown that our citizens want branches, so any revenue request at the polls that doesn't include a continuation of the branches would probably be defeated. Thus, the conundrum faced by those who want to properly support our library system, bring the Mitchell Park complex up to date - so that it can adequately serve municipal growth - and see our branches maintained.
"It serves us best, as Mr. Forte has pointed out above, to find a creative way to make our library system work, in ways that honor fiscal constraint, recognize the real payback that libraries bring community, and keep the current branch system intact.
"....... "We can do this!"
"Again, following are some numeric results that CLEARLY show a positive return on taxpayer dollars deployed for investment in public libraries. It's important to note that this study has been replicated (as the summaries indicate) several times, and have consistently shown POSITIVE returns on public library investment.
"Here is some representative data from the summaries linked to above:
"Annual local taxes spent for library operations yield substantial direct benefits. Each library returns more than $1 of benefits for each $1 of annual taxes. Baltimore County Public Library returns $3-$6 in benefits per tax dollar. Birmingham Public Library returns $1.30-$2.70 in benefits per tax dollar. King County Library System returns $5-$10 in benefits per tax dollar. Phoenix Public Library returns over $10 in benefits per tax dollar. SLPL returns $2.50-$5 in benefits per tax dollar.
"Each library studied yields a good return on invested capital. Baltimore County Public Library returns a minimum of 72%. Birmingham Public Library returns a minimum of 5%. King County Library System returns a minimum of 94%. Phoenix Public Library returns over $150%. SLPL returns a minimum of 22%.
"a. Shortly after completing the IMLS CBA study and before publicizing its results, Phoenix Public Library participated in a city-wide bond referendum that will expand its capital assets by 20% over 5 years. The referendum passes more than 75% of voter support. The overwhelming strength of this majority confirms the public's (and cardholders') perception of the high social rate of return to the public's investment in library assets, consistent with the results of the CBA study."
Thanks again for those links, and thanks again to Mr. Forte's bringing these studies to light. I just heard from a friend that these studies have helped at least 14 if the communities pass a bond, so they're valid in that way, too. I think that's what has the naysayers running scared.
Last, it seems that these naysayers have not tried very hard to educate themselves about the library. They keep quoting mistaken numbers, and distortions of findings (like the library studies). It's quite intellectually dishonest to be claiming special knowledge when all one is carrying in one's pail is opinion.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 7:51 pm
I must confess, I've changed my mind. The library upgrade will be a big waste of money. The "studies" that show huge positive "returns" from investments in libraries are a joke. The City Council should withdraw their plans for library upgrades and the "public safety building", and stop proposing capricious, unnecessary boondoggles. Instead, they should focus on repairing our crumbling roads, flood prevention, and living within our means instead of floating endless bonds.
I feel sick at having written so many disinformative, propagandistic messages, and especially for my ad hominem "naysayer" labeling of anyone who has disagreed with my socialist. I'm now on the path to recovery, thanks to reading Ayn Rand and joining the Cato Institute. Please forgive me for all the drivel I've spewed -- we both know it was nonsense.
Posted by The Real Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 9:00 pm
The last post by "Mike" is a fraud. And kind of funny. You see, the naysayers are so flummoxed by the truth of these studies, and the lack of their own, countervailing data, that they have taken to impersonating me in a way that I find - to be honest - rather flattering.
Posted by RS, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 9:13 pm
So library Mike, not anti-library Mike,
I know you want a library, but all of us need to determine what we want from a library as well and what we are willing to pay.
It is good that you can justify the current plan in your mind as worthwhile. I can not.
It would be good if you could show some respect for the others that see it as extravagant, or do not trust this city to deliver what it promises based on prior history. I do not see how name calling is winning strategy either, but to each his own.
I have read the document you linked and unfortunately for me, I find it wanting. It does not prove a return on investment. It does however try to quantify the town’s perceived value of a shared resource based on what they might be willing to pay for the resource. The math is a bit creative in my opinion; people have a hard time placing a true value on something they don’t really have to open their wallets for.
For me personally I think this town needs a library. I would even say 2 libraries, and children’s library is good amount. So I would close the other 2 and sell or rent out the sites to help pay for this project. It would make the budget for this plan make sense to me especially if we are going to triple the size of Michell Park.
We would get a great “return on investment” with this plan because we would not have to buy so many duplications with fewer libraries to stock.
Posted by Neal, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 9:42 pm
In this progressive city it's time the change the concept of what a libarary is. Let the library lovers put their money where their mouth is. Let's charge about $160 per year for a library card and let's see what happens. They should be thrilled to do this because the return on investment is a no brainer.
Posted by giraffe, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 6, 2008 at 10:42 pm
Is it the case that a year ago the estimate was $45,000,000 and now it is $80,000,000 for the same thing? Isn't that like a 78% increase?
And 'city staff members' blame inflation? Inflation is nowhere near that high!
I worry that city officials apparently took last year's number seriously and now are taking this radically different new number seriously. Either one number or both are seriously wrong. Something seems seriously broken in the process.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2008 at 12:36 am
RS, [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Our community appears to value the branch library system, and has clearly stated that they want improved collections and facilities. There has been a run up in cost, but that cost is counterweighted by the great value that libraries bring to community.
What's interesting about the 23 studies is that they were used by virtually every city that funded them, to help pass a library bond.
Whether or not you agree with the studies - studies designed by prominent econometricians and demographers, and modeled with stark conservatism - they do show a return in value for communities that results in a positive return on investment for tax dollars spent.
I have openly challenged those who disagree with those studies to counter with studies of their own that refute these findings. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
All that aside, Palo Alto does enjoy a wonderful bevy of services. Most of our citizens want to keep those services. the last City Council (and hopefully, this one) have been able to maintain a consistent focus to accomplish goals that are consistent with sustainable infrastructure, fiscal soundness, and community satisfaction. Occasionally, they've stumbled, but on balance they have done a great job.
RS, I would urge you to attend some Saturday story times in the branches, or stand by for an hour or two in the afternoon to watch people of all stripes sauntering in and out of our various libraries. It's really an amazing this to see - persons of all ages, able to take for granted that a *place* that permits them social companionship, search for wonder, educational improvement, etc. etc. is simple THERE for them. This is a wonderful PRIVILEGE. It's Ben Franklin's dream. It's the Public Library - one of the last truly democratic institutions in existence.
We receive SO much (I've written about all the things we get from library - many times) from the library.
We have a wonderful Friends of the Library Program. They do book sales with hundreds of volunteers. What's the joy of contributing to community worth, in dollars? We know from recent research that volunteering makes for a healthier mind, and body. That's a value that wouldn't exist without our library.
What's it worth to have a safe place for your child to go after school, to do homework, socialize with friends, discover new ideas, etc.? It's a priceless thing.
What we need to do is think about what we *wouldn't have* if our libraries were not present - ALL of them, all the branches.
Cost IS an important factor, but we are foolish not to consider the benefits that library has brought our community. Our branch library system is one of the jewels of our community.
Again, you may disagree, but if you do, you owe it to yuorself and everyone you spread negative information about the library to, to look carefully at the full value of the library as an institution. Not just your use of it, but the collective use of the library by our community. That, sadly, is not the way things are usually done.
We're talking about $180 per year for the average household (with seniors probably able to exempt themselves, if they want) to maintain a crown jewel - for everyone, for the common good.
I love out little College Terrace branch. I've seen thoudands and thousands of kids use that library over the years, and now more and more seniors are using it, every day. What's that worth to our community? There is no way to value ALL that the library is, or does,
The 23 studies are only a SMALL part of the picture. Our libraries pay back FAR more than we invest in them, just like other essential services - like public transport, education, public safety, and a few others. We ignore these things at our peril, and if we fail to fund them, we have only ourselves to blame for the decrease in overall quality of life that this wonderful place, and the good people in it, have come to expect, deserve, and are willing to pay for (as shown in vote after vote, where the large majority has said "YES", only to have its wish turned away by a determined minority - the latter who has had its numbers bumped up at the last minute through misinformation, and small minds.
Posted by forum watcher, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2008 at 7:32 am
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
[Mike] makes no reference to any of the reports that are actually about Palo Alto and neighboring libraries. He fails to mention the fact that Palo Alto pays twice as much for an inferior library service that is open less hours, has less floor space and and offers less services/facilities than those in neighboring cities.
Rather than address the reports that were actually about Palo Alto libraries, [Mike] would prefer to throw out red herrings that boil down to: "Historically, the stock market has always risen. See these reports? So BUY THIS STOCK". It really is shameful.
Posted by Neal, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2008 at 7:41 am
Yes, Palo Alto does enjoy a bevy of services and most people want to keep those services, but more importantly I would like to keep my home. The cost of all these services are not sustainable for some people. Has it ever dawned on people that some people simply can't afford it. The return on investement is just too intangible for me to get excited about.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2008 at 10:50 am
pat: "Regardless of what anyone thinks the studies prove, there’s one ESSENTIAL POINT to remember: They don’t say we need five libraries to obtain the benefits."
But Palo Alto studies - the polling that was done - clearly says that Palo Altans want five libraries. There you go. We all know the studies say that there is positive ROI for tax dollars invested in libraries - including you. You've finally admitted it.
Your numbers belie the truth - i.e. that most Palo Altans use the Library. IN fact, there are some heavier users of police service, but all Palo Altans enjoy use of the police service, and the schools, and the parks, That's what's missing in your, and other's arguments - as you imagine that every Palo Altan is parsing every use and calculating it only to his/her benefit.
Yours is the "I'm for me" libertarian stance, along with the 3-4 other against the library on these threads.
Neal, you can keep your home, as seniors can exempt themselves from certain costs.
forum watcher, it's a fact atht Palo Alto actually delivers more value, and more efficiently, than neighboring libraries. I can dredge up those numbers again, if you wish.
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2008 at 11:03 am
It seems folks are arguing back and forth about the merits of investing in libraries. Instead, my focus is on the practical: how we'll actually fund needed facility improvements. How 'bout we focus on defraying the need for public outlays in the first place by rallying for public-private partnerships, with naming opportunities a nominal incentive for private contributions toward our facility upgrades? California's current system of "minority rule" means we'll need to be focused on ways to assemble a package of funds from multiple sources.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2008 at 11:46 am
According to the data in the survey pat quotes, 55% of citizens go to the library once a month or less. This is hardly a ringing endorsement for the idea that we should place a major burden on all Palo Altans for the expansion and enhancement of these facilities.
Assuming 2.7 people per household, given the estimates of the tax burden quoted in this thread, we're talking of around $10 per averave library visit for over half of the residents of Palo Alto.
I doubt if most people - whether they are regular users of the library or not - think that $10 per visit is worth it, especially when we can use the nice mt view library for free, or visit Borders Books and have a couple of latte's for the same amount.
Let's rethink this whole idea in light of the many real needs of the city, and the limited capacity of many residents to absorb this kind of tax increase on top of the planned school and other bonds.
Posted by Want-To-Go-Snipe-Hunting?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2008 at 12:15 pm
Someone wrote about "23 studies .. no one has refuted them .."
There are people all over the world strapping high explosives on their bodies, killing themselves and murdering others in the name of Allah. Isn't it strange that there are no studies refuting the claim that Allah wants them to do this?
There is such thing called "a fool's errand" .. intelligent people know better than getting involved with such things .. Intelligent people prefer spending their time on more productive matters.
Posted by RS, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2008 at 1:19 pm
One doesn't have to counter a study with a study. You only have to find flaws in the study presented. The 1 study you linked to has flaws. It asked library cardholders to place a subjective value on the service they received without actually having to experience the reality of paying that value. It did not even ask non-card holding library users what they thought it was worth or non-library patrons what it is worth, so they asked the group that was going to place the highest value on the service. That value can not be extrapolated a whole community as it includes no one that does not value the libraries.
What I see is the strongest library supporters deciding what the community needs rather than the general community deciding what library services it needs.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2008 at 3:51 pm
The escalating costs for infrastructure projects, and the seemingly intractable challenge of being able to make realistic estimates upon which the community can make decisions, has been with us for a couple years now.
Generally speaking, my perception is that the community agrees that there are needs to improve some major infrastructure, much of which is 40 years old or older. A great deal of effort was undertaken to propose a new police building, upgrade of libraries and a heavily used community center, rapidly deteriorating storm drains, and the needs for work on our streets and sidewalks appear to grown greater with each passing season.
What has changed is that the price tags to take the approaches that seemed to best reflect the wishes of the community have gone up anywhere from 50% to 100% since the approaches first were "socialized." There could be a host of reasons that have contributed to these higher costs, some exogenous and out of our control, some over which we have various degrees of ability to manage.
Whatever the factors are that put the costs where they are today, I think it is fair to say that what some people thought made sense when the understood costs were considerably less may not be what people think make sense given these developments. Or maybe they do, but the question has to be seriously and thoroughly revisited. These cost increases are too signficant to merely say, well let's hunker down and keep doing what we had in mind. While the community may ultimately decide to do that, I think that there may be many people who had one point of view about these ideas a year or two ago, and may be of another opinion given where things are now.
I have had the benefit of getting briefed a number of times on the Mitcehll Park complex, and I have been very excited about what the new combined LIbrary/Community Center can do for Palo Alto. But, to use that as an example, bundling everything at this point may be forcing us to bite off more than we can realistically chew, as it were, financially, and we may have to settle for fewer things done well. I do hope we don't settle for "everything" done in a slip shod manner, that will haunt us for many years to come.
Posted by Not so fast, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2008 at 4:01 pm
What will haunt us for many years to come is our incompetent city leaders, who have been unwilling/unable to make difficult decisions on pressing city matters, preferring instead to pursue pipe-dream pet projects while our city infrastructure has gone downhill.
Let's remember that a recently retired councilmember claims her biggest accomplishment was the expensive and little used Homer Avenue tunnel.
Climate change seems to be the flavor of the day and we will have had by the end of 2009, 3 years of mayors who are focused on that single subject. The question is will the newer city council members be able to take charge and persuade one of the dinosaurs/Stanford bashers on the council to make these difficult decisions?
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2008 at 4:34 pm
"It asked library cardholders to place a subjective value on the service they received without actually having to experience the reality of paying that value.
Oh, you mean just like an insurance policy? That's what actuaries do, and we accept those metrics. What's your problem with accepting these metrics, as they come from a study designed by experienced study modelers, econometricians, and demographers.
Your assumption is that you've found a flaw in the study. I disagree, and so do the 23 municipalities that have passed bonds, based on the results of those studies, as well as the professionals who designed them
There's a difference between saying something is flawed, and have that opinion verified in the larger community. So far, I see no countervailing data to show that these studies are flawed.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2008 at 4:48 pm
pat: "Looks like you interpret forum posts the same way you interpret studies: you read your own biases into them."
Hmmm, pot,, meet kettle. Touche, and back to you...
Read my response to RS. There is a *fundamental* misunderstanding on your part about the valuation algorithms for ROI (I've even sent them to you in prior threads, but you fail to respond, instead giving me a business school 101 definition that was outmoded five years ago).
There is also a *findamental* flaw in how you calculate benefit to community. Serving even small parts of a community with services that enlarge the possibility of human capital has a positive multiplier effect on the WHOLE community. Metrics can be put to that.
In the case of the library, MOST Palo Altans use it. Who are you to say that someone who read 16 novels a week receives more return from the library than someone who borrowed a book that helped her discover how to help her mentally ill child in a way that makes her child a productive member of the community? That's your assumption.
This is what I mean when I say that critics who want to put public services in a silo, and pay attention ONLY to the COST side - whilst ignoring the BENEFITS, are COMPLETELY missing the boat on municipal services, and the public good. It's a pauper's way to think about possibility that would be LAUGHED OUT OF a private boardroom.
Library expenditures are an INVESTMENT in community opportunity, and there IS payback from that opportunity that FAR exceeds even the basic ROI numbers that come from these studies.
Posted by ROI, a resident of the Palo Alto Hills neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2008 at 6:55 pm
This whole thing about the return on investment for dollars spent on libraries in total nonsense.
Most people who own a home in Palo Alto and live in it do not, and cannot, look at their house as a traditional "investment". It is first and foremost where they live...
For it to really be an investment, it would have to be that they reasonably plan to sell some time soon in order to cash in on the gain in value. Well, this just does not happen. People need a place to live and they just hang on to their house. Even if the paper value of the house goes way up, there is no way the average PAlo Alto inhabitant is going to realize that gain any time soon.
So please Mike, and Mike clones, spare us your ROI stories. They may apply to the landlord who rents you the place that you reside in in College Terrace, but it does not apply to the average Palo Alto homeowner.
Posted by Ada, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2008 at 10:53 pm
Where can I see the breakdown of costs and the increases?!! I am a finance professional, I can read budgets, I want to see what is baked in those costs! Such a huge increase in costs in such relatively short period of time sounds fishy to me. And with economy heading towards recession and construction industry slow down we are sure in position to negotiate these costs down!
Posted by rick, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2008 at 11:28 pm
In response to those who think we don't really need libraries or new upgrades: Do we really need the Fire Department? How often have you used it? What is the cost per use? We could set up volinteer neighborhood fire brigades. At least one council member said all they do is come and watch the building(s) burn.
Do we need a police department? I haven't seen a police person doing any law enforcement in my neighborhood in the last year and there are lawbreakers here every day. We could contract with the sheriffs dept as Los Altos Hills do for a fraction of the cost if we do need police.
Do we need a city hall and staff? It could probably be contracted out for a fraction of the cost and high union pay for most of the city staff.
There are many other things the city funds that just a very few people use like the Art center, Childrens library, etc..
If you don't think libraries are part of the city function why just cut out the libraries?
Also why does a city of Industry and commerce just tax the residents for our services? It appesrs that non-residental properties pay little or no taxes into the city general fund. Is this true. They should be paying a very large percentage of our costs to run the city.
This issue needs looking into, but don't count on the City Council to do it for obvious reasons.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2008 at 12:56 am
RS: "What I see is the strongest library supporters deciding what the community needs rather than the general community deciding what library services it needs." and (the study).... "did not even ask non-card holding library users what they thought it was worth or non-library patrons what it is worth, so they asked the group that was going to place the highest value on the service"
So, let's apply your logic to public services. Perhaps we should only be asking who use police services how they want police services structured. This is balderdash,, and you know it.
Further, it's *common knowledge* that public libraries create a LOT of constituent value BEYOND what has been shown in those studies.
You and the others who criticize the studies simply can't stand the fact that they show public libraries as valuable and paying back positive returns (in a decidedly conservative study model). It completely throws your argument against library value out the window. That can be unsettling for someone who has convinced himself that s/he right about a certain municipal expenditure, but that's the way it is. Sometimes we have to change our assumptions about reality, when reality stares us in the face with information that contradicts our uninformed and unstudied opinions.
forum watcher, Again, I have shown how Palo Alto's libraries run more efficiently than neighboring libraries. In fact, you were one of the people I wrote to. So, again, It turns out that Palo Alto is open for three times the number of cumulative hours - and delivers three times the service that Mountain View does, at just twice the price. (btw, Mt. View is closing for one month - so they have no library service - too bad they don't have a branch or two). That puts Palo Alto as some significant % of more efficiency that Mt. View.
"ROI" (a clone, but I'll answer, anyway) said: "For it to really be an investment, it would have to be that they reasonably plan to sell some time soon in order to cash in on the gain in value."
I suggest you go to the "B" school library at Stanford and look up "Social Returns on INvestment". Then, look up the positive economic multipliers for communities that have good public libraries. Follow that up with 23 studies that have been sanctioned by experts that are far beyond the minikin experts whining about the studies here, and understand that no matter what you say, the data is there, the conclusions that have been drawn are not in question, and that libraries do return positive ROI for tax investment, to community.
Now, of course, you can say this isn't true, or that the studies are flawed - but that's your opinion. From what I've read, and what I've heard, the experts and residents living in 23 three American cities disagree. So I guess you're in a pretty tiny minority. Think what you will.
Posted by JA, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2008 at 9:30 am
Six libraries for a town this size!?! Come on, lets get real. Redo 1 or 2 libraries and sell off the land that the other four are on. With the internet, the time has come that we do not need this many libraries. Most towns our size, make do with one huge library and a commuinity center. I drive by the library parking lots everyday and they are empty.
Posted by Too bad they're NIMBY, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2008 at 10:02 am
"I drive by the library parking lots everyday and they are empty."
Ah, but do you go IN the libraries? The reason we have a branch library system is so that they're walkable. The parking lots are empty because all the neighbors walked. The libraries are packed - just ask Mikey.
Now if it's our cars you're looking for, go to the Los Altos and Mountain View libraries.
Posted by JA 2, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2008 at 11:29 am
"Most towns our size, make do with one huge library and a commuinity center."
Far too logical, JA. Toss logic and reason aside here. Welcome to Palo Alto, the City of countless studies.
In a serious vien, note the approach taken several years back by San Mateo -- rely on a combination of State funds, prudent allocation of City resources, and contributions from the public (from citizens and local firms with an interest) to fund a beautiful, large, new, expanded library. I believe the City of San Mateo has two (2) small branch librarys -- Hillsdale and Marina -- neither of which, I believe, was renovated or expanded at the time.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2008 at 12:02 pm
JA: "With the internet, the time has come that we do not need this many libraries"
This is the latest urban myth.
Note that there are recent studies that clearly show the Google Generation is far better at accessing information than prior, BUT that generation is actually behind in *using* that information to make well-rounded conclusions, and *lacking* in using prompts (via Google) in skills needed to drill deep into sources of information. This is the next step, and challenge for libraries, as they evolve into information provider/cultural center/community "place".
JA: "I drive by the library parking lots everyday and they are empty."
When are you passing by, at 2AM? I rarely find parking at the Main or Mitchell libraries; they're always full - and often have to find parking space on adjacent blocks when I visit Downtown or College Terrace.
RS, The only assumptions made are those that result from very conservatively designed studies, and agreed on by 10's of thousands of library patrons in 23 cities - including expert economists and demographers. Those are the assumptions that I keep pointing out, and those are the same assumptions that you continue to disagree with, and some try to spin to mean something other than what they really mean.
I understand how difficult it is to accept the fact that something has shown to be more the case, than not - especially if the latter is a closely held belief.
I can also appreciate how some in Palo Alto don't like branch libraries, or like the library at all, or don't want to fund a bond. But, those groups are also in the minority.
Unfortunately, for better or worse, those voices often end up here, in this forum, where those who simply want to go about their day enjoying the fantastic services that our library provides are too busy to comment.
I'm here for those residents.
So, you and I will just have to agree to disagree - although I feel comfortable about the fact that I have far more research to back up my position than you, and others who agree with you.
Posted by JA 2, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2008 at 12:36 pm
"...some in Palo Alto ... don't want to fund a bond. But, those groups are also in the minority."
Ah, the proof will be in the pudding here. A bond will require a vote; and, at least in my opinion, a vote may disprove your contention quite roundly; 'tis rare indeed to find a City -- one the size of Palo Alto -- approving a bond of this size -- roughly $80 million -- for this work scope.
Posted by Bobby, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2008 at 1:18 pm
"Unfortunately, for better or worse, those voices often end up here, in this forum, where those who simply want to go about their day enjoying the fantastic services that our library provides are too busy to comment."
Someone who posts multiple times in lengthy fashion on almost anything and everything to do with city spending - and who by any measure is the most verbose person on this forum - probably isn't the best person to complain about people on the other side who post a lot at the expense of those who are "too busy to comment".
Posted by RS, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2008 at 1:59 pm
From the 1 study you provided a link to
"the study captures benefits to cardholders only"
It makes no attempt to determine benefits to casual patrons, or non-patrons.
Those people also make up the community and have a say in what they want or dont want to pay for. I believe not taking them into consideration is why measure D failed.
The false assumption you made was when you said
"You and the others who criticize the studies simply can't stand the fact that they show public libraries as valuable "
It may not be well know, but I am a reputed expert in what I think, and I believe unless you claim psychic abilities, you are not. ;^)
I do value libraries, I do go to PA libraries, I do not find the main library over crowded, I do find the Mitchell Park Library over crowded. I would support a system the consists of Michell Park, the Main library and the Childrens library. I have stated as much above, hence the comment "you dont seem to listen."
Posted by Isabelle, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2008 at 2:46 pm
I like the idea suggested earlier of having one nice modern library and selling the other three to finance it.
But I do want to continue to draw attention to poor cost control by the city. We as a comminuty need to demand cost comparison of why PA library costs are $80M and other CA town recent libary additions were under $20M. Why our cost is 4 times more? And we don't need expensive consultants to conduct the study. Give it as a project to high school students or Stanford MBAs, they will be happy to do it, there is nothing difficult about cost comparison analysis.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2008 at 3:57 pm
RS: ""the study captures benefits to cardholders only""
Almost all Palo Altans are cardholders. And, the fact that benefits to non-cardholders are NOT measured, further reveals the *conservative* nature of the study model, because casual users Do benefit from the library, and non-users benefit peripherally. The study authors decided it would be to difficult to quantify those benefits, but agreed that they do exist.
Posted by laura, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2008 at 6:37 pm
I moved to Palo Alto in 1978. There was discussion then about a new Mitchell Park Library. Thirty years later the same discussion is still going on. At this rate i will be dead by the time a new library is built.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2008 at 7:35 pm
When the library bond, improbably packaged with the public safety building bond, fails, my hope is that enough desperation sets it that we look at something truly different - like inviting the Santa Clara County library system to take over our branches.
Let them run what they want and close what they don't. They will do a far better job than we have done, as they do today in their award winning system. We clearly can't get it done here; time to turn it over to those who can.
- … the commission hasn't yet addressed one of the most critical issues — how much desired improvements would cost and how the city would pay for them.
- Instead, commissioners spent much of the three-hour meeting discussing a few specifics — such as whether two libraries should have their names changed — and how to sell the final plan to the community. "I'm looking at this from a marketing perspective," Commissioner Paula Skokowski said.
- The greatest ongoing costs in the proposal would come from expanding the hours of operations at all branches 66 hours per week total, bringing the hours open to 304 at the five branches.
In addition to understanding the building costs, we need to know what operational changes would result from library expansion/upgrades, because that money would not come from a bond.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 9, 2008 at 10:54 am
It's sad to see how far apart the perspective are. I'm learning there is a reason we've gotten to this terrible condition - we have very divergent views and cannot find middle ground. Time to hand it all over to others, like Santa Clara County.
Posted by Get real, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2008 at 1:51 pm
The huge cost isn't caused by the upgrades of Main and Downtown, it is the entirely new building for the Community Center. People forget that an additional structure has been inserted into a "Library" bond.
Anyway, Main just had a remodel, I'm not sure it is even finished yet.
And Downtown should be done for half of that estimated cost.