Town Square

Community pundits get it wrong on the library – again!

Original post made by Sanford Forte, Evergreen Park, on Jul 14, 2006

Before getting on with this response to thinly veiled attacks on our library and recently retired library director, Paula Simpson, contained in letters written by Joy Ogawa and Doug Moran, it’s important to note that The Friends of the Palo Alto Library (FoPAL) is an important, distinguished, and vital organization within the city of Palo Alto, deserving of public support.

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Posted by Quote from University South News Bulletin July 14
a resident of University South
on Jul 14, 2006 at 10:49 pm

Strange Developments surrounding Libraries

The Weekly had a very provocative story featured on page 1,
July 5th, entitled "Friends or Foes?" The use of
the word foe in connection with Friends of the Library
(and other Friends organizations) got my attention.
If the newspaper's intention was to create controversy and increase
readership, they may succeed. I think it was a cheap shot,
but it is resonating, including my reactions here.

The Weekly wondered whether Friends organizations have too much
influence on the libraries. Aside from the humorous aspects
of the charge, I don't recall any Weekly story on whether the
developers have undue influence on the Planning Department.
And what about those soccer players? Do they have too much influence?
after all, we are spending huge sums to benefit them.

Yes, it's a real problem when citizens try to influence their government.
Shocking, in fact! And those hundreds of library lovers who work without
pay or glory to raise money for the libraries, now they're a real threat.

At least that's the way Sanford Forte, a library commissioner,
sees it. Forte has unleashed a series of rants that are unprecedented.
Accusatory, emotional, and inappropriate. He laments the
departure of the library director and is lashing out. I think his behavior is
bringing the LAC into further disrepute, expressing his prejudices supposedly as
a private individual, in public. Lenore Jones, another commissioner,
has written agreeing with him. His First Amendment rights are unquestioned.
His judgement, however, is.

Forte thinks people should follow the city staff's lead; they should get with the program.
His almost religious regard for the "professional staff" is naive and unquestioning
--and laughable to an educated audience. As though government officials always
do the right thing. People are encouraged to question their doctors and their
government. And well they should.

Odd timing

What seems odd to me in the timing of the story is that just this
week there have been several positive developments on the library front.
The library director who evoked so much distrust has left, the acting director
is moving things along nicely, and the next director will learn from earlier mistakes.
The move of staff into the Downtown branch is going to happen next week,
and while we are unhappy about it, we are adjusting to the disappointment.
Maybe we will think of ways to create a positive outcome. (ideas welcome)
At least that's what I'm thinking about.

This Monday the Assistant City Manager proposed and the City Council
decided to look into technological improvements for the library, ideas
that have been suggested by the Friends. (Thank you, Emily Harrison!)
Some councilmembers hadn't heard of Link+. *
The library commission has not been doing its job there.

Everyone says we need to work together or a ballot measure won't succeed.
With so many positive things happening, why did the Weekly decide to stir up animosities?
* My own colloquial description of Link+ is that it's like InterLibrary Loan on steroids.

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Posted by Sanford Forte
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 14, 2006 at 11:54 pm

It's revealing - even amusing - to see you_anonymously_ plant your rant in this forum, contradicting your own words in a very hypocritical way. In fact, your timourous attempt at anonymity far reduces your credibility, and the veracity of your statements.

That said, the Weekly has done this community a favor with its article on the problems at FoPAL. Your statement to the contrary illustrates a stunning naivete on the library issue.

Incidentally, library volunteers _ARE_ valuable and necessary contributors to our library, and community; that's been clearly stated. In fact, FoPAL is a valuable institution; that's also been stated.

The beef is with those _few_ individuals on the board at FoPAL who use the trust given to them by those well-meaning volunteers to extract micromanaged operational control from our library, upsetting the balance of operations, and meddling in a way that threatens the forward sustainability of the institution.

Perhaps you're one of those persons, or closely aligned to one of those persons?

Incidentally, you illustrate profound ignorance of Links+by calling it "Interlibrary loan on steroids". It's FAR from that at this point, yet is being touted by many of the people in question at FoPAL - **contrary to library staff and LAC advice** - as _the_ answer to increasing our collections in Palo Alto. That this has even been considered shows a stunning lack of undertanding of Links+ technology, and resources.

Libraries that use Links+ only realize of tiny (smaller than tiny) fraction of their circulation from Links+. Ask around, and learn a thing or two.

Incidently, from this point on, I will answer only those posters who have the courage, and integrity, to identify themselves. Temerity in a forum like this is, shall we say. lily-livered and hardly worth a response.

This post is my first and only exception to that rule because it gave me an opportunity to educate you - and those naive enough to agree with you - on library issues.

Thanks again for that opportunity!

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Posted by Elaine Meyer
a resident of University South
on Jul 15, 2006 at 1:41 am

I did not post the excerpt from my email newsletter. I write openly and under my own name. Hundreds of people receive copies of my email, and apparently someone thought it worthy of posting an excerpt here. I will gladly email a copy to anyone, please write to me at

Please do not accuse me of behavior that comes out of your over-active imagination. You have been accusing and insulting many really fine people of all manner of things.
I have never claimed to be an expert on library administration, but my impression of FOPAL people is that many of them ARE experts and they have earned the respect of the community. Your insults of them are hurtful and unwarranted.

Elaine Meyer

PS Thank you for your attempt to educate me. Let me return the favor:
It isn't called Links+

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Posted by Sanford Forte
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 15, 2006 at 3:18 am

Your passive-aggressive defense of intractable and hurtful behavior - directed at defenseless library staff, and others - of a few of your zealot friends within the FoPAL administration, including your attempt to project that behavior in other directions is regrettable. You're not as all-knowing on this issue as you appear to think, or write.

In fact, your name has _not_ been brought up in this forum, or on this thread. Thus, perhaps it is _your_ imagination that is overactive?

I've been pointing out facts; facts that can be substantiated. And you?

It's time that bad bahavior from otherwise good people is outed, so that they can be motivated to change - or replaced - and our library enabled to move forward.

I do not want to see the next library director and library staff suffer though what I have recently witnessed. Behavior that can be corroborated by many people.

There's nothing like a little sunshine to get that ball rolling, and deserved taut responses to those who fancy themselves the lords and guardians of Palo Alto politics, speaking from on high.

btw, thanks for coming out of the closet, and no matter the spelling, your newsletter analysis of "Links+" is FAR from accurate. Perhaps a visit or call to the Mt. View library and others will enlighten you on that issue, or give me a call.