A new chapter begins at Paly library | News | Palo Alto Online |


A new chapter begins at Paly library

Larger facility offers students more spaces to study

Palo Alto High School students admire the newly renovated library, which officially opened to students on Feb. 6, 2019. The new space features new study rooms, a mezzanine, lounge seating, conference rooms and a central help desk. Photo by Veronica Weber.

There was visible awe and excitement on the faces of Palo Alto High School students as they flooded into their brand-new library for the first time on Wednesday.

Some pulled out their smartphones to take pictures and video, while several students immediately claimed spaced in a silent study room to work on laptops.

"I'm going to spend all my time here now," one student exclaimed.

After a year and a half without a fully fledged library, Paly has a brand new space that Principal Adam Paulson said he hopes will "be an inspiring space for generations to come."

"This building is for you," he told students gathered for a ribbon-cutting during lunch on Wednesday. "It was designed for you. It was built for you."

As such, the brief ribbon-cutting featured no outside speakers, district officials or parents and got right to the point: letting students explore their newest campus space.

The new library is larger, with more natural light, higher ceilings and a black spiral staircase winding up to a mezzanine that houses the school's 125-year-old archives, including decades of Paly yearbooks. The library houses the same number of books, about 13,000, but can now accommodate about 250 people, up from 175 in the previous library, said librarian Rachel Kellerman.

There are numerous spaces for students to read and work, from differently configured seating areas and reading nooks to quiet, silent and group study rooms. There's also an instructional space, which the old library didn't have. Students also have access to several computers and printers in the library.

The silent study room evokes a collegiate feel, with four tables and softer lighting. Purposeful decisions were made about design, lighting and furniture throughout the library, Kellerman said. (The furniture comes from the same company that the city of Palo Alto used for the Mitchell Park Library.)

"More than number of seats, the number of ways kids can work is different," Kellerman said. "It's very exciting."

The building is also LEED-certified, she noted. Lights in rooms automatically turn off if they're not in use and overhead lights in the main space will dim during the day as natural light pours in from large windows facing the school's quad.

The library renovation was funded through the $378 million Strong Schools Bond passed by voters in 2008. It's one of the last major facilities projects at Paly from that bond, following the construction of a new performing arts center, media arts center, athletic center and classroom buildings.

In the same building as the library are new offices for guidance, college and career counseling and a student activities center, which have yet to open.

Paly senior Tess Manjarrez was the first student to check out a book in the new library on Wednesday. She came in for Michelle Obama's "Becoming" but left with "A Blade So Black," an Alice in Wonderland fantasy novel with a black teenage heroine.

Before the renovation, the library was where she spent much of her time at Paly. It was difficult being without that space for most of her junior year, she said.

"Having such a beautiful space to enjoy and feel comfortable in among a bunch of books and quiet rooms that you can study in is really kind of a relief," Manjarrez said. "It's somewhere I know I can feel really comfortable and I'm really excited to have the space."

Paly will host a public open house at the library as part of a yearlong centennial celebration on March 23 from noon to 2 p.m. For more information, go to paly.net.


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9 people like this
Posted by Librarian
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2019 at 12:08 pm

Thanks for the book recommendation Tess, will have to check out A Blade so Black! Hope you all enjoy and appreciate this wonderful new library.

10 people like this
Posted by Stuart Berman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 7, 2019 at 12:19 pm

Stuart Berman is a registered user.

The library looks great. What an upgrade from the old library. I hope that the students enjoy and appreciate it.

11 people like this
Posted by 4good
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 7, 2019 at 12:31 pm

4good is a registered user.

Wow - looks amazing! Why is the Paly campus so much nicer than Gunn? We are suppose to be a "unified" school district.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 7, 2019 at 6:42 pm

"Lights in rooms automatically turn off if they're not in use ..."

Need to jump up and flap your arms periodically? In my workplace offices we simply cranked the sensitivity full-high so the lights are now on 24/7. I hope better solutions have evolved.

3 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 7, 2019 at 7:06 pm

Most of the photos show students on their phones and laptops, very few looking at books. Maybe there’re downloading the books to their laptops? Lol!

5 people like this
Posted by Format
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 7, 2019 at 9:13 pm

The format of information isn’t really the point. What is vital for an informed, educated society of thinkers and voters is using wonderful resources, in whatever format is most beneficial, like these ones. Lifelong benefits for these students and for our society.

6 people like this
Posted by Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 7, 2019 at 9:17 pm

Alum is a registered user.

Glad to see it done, library upgrades were long overdue but they look great. Thanks to everyone involved in making it happen. Enjoy the new library Paly!

Like this comment
Posted by Julie armitano
a resident of University South
on Feb 8, 2019 at 9:00 am

Very nice library

Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of another community
on Feb 9, 2019 at 6:38 am

Students, teachers and parents should read Michelle Obama's "Becoming." While Palo Alto is not Chicago when Michelle was growing up in South Side of Chicago, we all can use her lessons such as "If you’d had a head start at home, you were rewarded for it at school, deemed “bright” or “gifted,” which in turn only compounded your confidence. The advantages aggregated quickly..."

2 people like this
Posted by Experienced
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2019 at 1:42 pm

@4good: Our bell schedules are not even the same. Gunn and Paly are two different schools with many differences. "Unified" refers to it being connected to the elementary and middle schools. If they weren't unified (Los Altos is not unified) then the high schools could have a separate academic calendar than the K-8. We could bring back Ski Week!

I heard that the next construction project is the snack bar area.

Please get rid of the portables in the middle of campus! That is long overdue.

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