Editorial: What's in a name? | April 4, 2014 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - April 4, 2014

Editorial: What's in a name?

Is coming up with a name for the new 'main' library really worth all this fuss?

Every so often, the Palo Alto City Council gets itself into a self-inflicted mess that creates frustration and cynicism about government and just makes everyone look silly.

The debate over whether a new name is needed for what is now known as the Main Library when it re-opens after its renovation is such an issue, and is resurfacing for even more discussion at next Monday's City Council meeting.

We suggest the council recognize the folly of its earlier efforts to micromanage this process, adopt the harmless and appropriate "Rinconada Library" name recommended by both the Library Advisory Commission and the Palo Alto Historical Association and declare victory.

Spare yourselves the ridicule that is sure to come if you repeat the tortured discussion from last time and prevent another unneeded community debate.

For inexplicable reasons, the naming of the library seems really important to some members of the council.

Councilmember Larry Klein has had a strong and persistent desire to name the library after a famous, deceased Palo Alto person. Back in September, when this first came to the City Council, surely with the staff expecting a simple adoption of the recommended name, Klein was able to get just enough votes for a crafty motion directing the council's policy committee, on which Klein serves, to either propose the name of a person or recommend retaining the name "Main" Library. The name "Rinconada" or any other name based on geography or history was not off the table, given the wording of the motion.

The vote was 4-3, with Gail Price, Karen Holman and Pat Burt joining Klein, and Greg Scharff, Nancy Shepherd and Greg Schmid dissenting. Liz Kniss, who then chaired the Policy and Services Committee, and Marc Berman were absent.

Then when the policy committee took up the issue last December, with it being obvious that the committee was evenly split, Klein and Price moved to return the matter to the City Council with a recommendation for a new directive back to the committee to come up with the name of a "distinguished person in Palo Alto history" as the new name for the library. That motion failed on a 2-2 vote, with Kniss and Holman voting "no."

So now back to the full council the library-naming issue comes, right back where it started seven months ago and no closer to resolution.

This is hardly what citizens of Palo Alto want our City Council or staff spending its time on.

The council-adopted process for naming city facilities was followed. The Library Advisory Commission, which is appointed by the council, met twice in 2012 to review possible names and to ensure that they met the renaming criteria. It decided to recommend the name "Rinconada," based on the proximity of the park, the fact it is the name of the original land grant for that portion of the city, and due to the name "Main" no longer seeming appropriate since it will not be the largest library, nor will it house the library administrative staff.

The Palo Alto Historical Association gave its blessing in June 2013, believing it to be a historically appropriate name.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with considering the names of individuals, no one has been able to come up with any person who had a major role in developing the city's library system that might make an appropriate option. So instead, some have suggested naming the library simply after famous people who made important contributions to our region, such as David Packard, William Hewlett, Steve Jobs and the like.

Now Klein and Price, "in order to move this matter forward," have sent a memorandum to their colleagues stating they will make a motion Monday night that the library be named after "Palo Alto's most beloved architect" Birge Clark.

This suggestion, seemingly out of nowhere, sets the stage for another long and awkward discussion over what deceased former Palo Alto community leader is more deserving than another for the honor of having a library named after them.

This is the wrong path for naming the new "Main" library and unworthy of any more time. Absent a clear consensus around a person, which clearly does not exist, the Council would be smart to adopt "Rinconada" and be done with it.


Posted by anon , a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 4, 2014 at 10:21 am

Its a little late for the council to avoid "ridicule" on this issue.

I would suggest the old adage ….if it aint broke don't fix it…..

Main it was and Main it should remain

Posted by so, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2014 at 10:33 am

Imagine if they devoted this much time to actually getting the library construction projects completed.

Posted by Gethin, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2014 at 10:41 am

Gethin is a registered user.

Rinconada Library gets my vote

Posted by library user, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 4, 2014 at 10:44 am

And our taxes pay for the salaries of city council members?

Why are they spending time on such matters? Let the library do this job. better yet, just leave the name alone.

I so agree with SO and ANON.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 4, 2014 at 10:48 am

Riconada Library makes the most sense. All the other libraries are named for geographic location (Downtown, Mitchell Park, College Terrace), except Children's Library which obviously has a functional name.

I'm just wondering if this naming business initiated by Klein is the beginning of trying to sell naming rights in the city. Right now they are only considering dead names, but perhaps that will change in the future.

Strange issues to spend so much time and energy on.
Please, let's get Mitchell Park Library completed and open!!

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 4, 2014 at 10:48 am

Whoever wrote this editorial should replace Larry Klein on the city council. Thanks for some common sense.

Posted by Carol Muller, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 4, 2014 at 10:54 am

If a name change is needed, and an historical connection is desired, could we please have a little respect for historical associations, and recognize it was WOMEN in Palo Alto who first got Palo Alto libraries going? If you're going to name the library after an historical figure, why would it named after a person (I notice only men were mentioned) who had been a scion of industry rather than after one or more of those (who happen to have been primarily women) who had the foresight and undertook the labor to get the first libraries going?

Posted by KP, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2014 at 10:55 am

Finally, someone writes a story that echo's the people of the neighborhood.
Although I agree, it's a bit too late to avoid ridicule! LOL!
They (council members) should put more effort into more important issues, like finishing the Mitchell Park library, for goodness sake!!! Help find funding for The Magical Bridge...so many other issues that don't need debate, just geterdone!

Posted by Fisher, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 4, 2014 at 10:57 am

Imagine - if the Council spent its time productively like FINALLY finishing the Mitchell Park Library ( WAY over its estimated cost and STILL UNFINISHED, we might feel we had a worthwhile Council. Wasting time on a name that had already been suggested as an appropriate name is DISGUSTING.

Posted by KP, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2014 at 10:59 am

Please do not add more fuel to the fire. The place does NOT need a name change.
Even if they put some random name on it, what do you think we, the people of Palo Alto, are going to continue to call it???? DUH! Main Library.
A name change will get no recognition/respect from the residents-so who cares what they mull over.
The problem is they are wasting our tax money over this petty debate.
Main Library or Rinconada - DONE!

Posted by Don't rename it, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 4, 2014 at 11:02 am

Klein and Price made inadvertent fools of themselves by suggesting it be named for architect Birge Clark.
As has been pointed out by several people, the library architect was Edward Durrell Stone.

Posted by Emily Renzel, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 4, 2014 at 11:08 am

Carol Muller raises a good point. It was the Woman's Club of Palo Alto that started the first library in Palo Alto. Alas, many women were involved and all can't have their names on the library.

If Main Library has to be renamed, I think the recommendation of Rinconada is a good one. It will always be Main Library to me, regardless.

It seems odd to me that some folks are proposing to name Main for Birge Clark, when the City owns the Birge Clark designed Senior Center which would more appropriately be named for him. If the City succeeds in acquiring the old downtown Post Office, also designed by Birge Clark, that too would be much more fitting testimonial to Birge Clark's works in the city. Main Library, designed by Edward Durrell Stone, is not at all reflective of the Spanish style architecture for which Birge Clark is so well known. It is almost an insult to put Birge Clark's name there. Should this bizarre idea go forward, it ought to be referred back to the HRB for their input.

A greater honor for Birge Clark would be to provide landmark protection for the many beautiful homes he designed in Palo Alto, some of which have already been demolished.

Please respect the work of the Historic Resources Board, the Library Commission and others and re-name Main Library "Rinconada" if you must re-name it at all.

Or, if Council wants to name the library after a person, how about Tom Wyman who was largely responsible for the founding of the Library Commission and was one of its first commissioners. Tom devoted hundreds of hours in support of Palo Alto's Library system.

Posted by Rinconada it should be, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 4, 2014 at 11:20 am

Yep - way to late to avoid ridicule.

There is no reason to waste time on a name - it should be named like every other library in the city, by it's location. I would agree with keeping it called Main except that only makes sense for long-time residents and will just be confusing to future generations.

Does the City Council need a special name for this library because it serves the fancy folk in North Palo Alto? Funny how there was no debate about what to call the all new, biggest, and most expensive library in town - just Mitchell Park Library seemed fine.

City Council: Why do you insist on making yourselves look so silly and dysfunctional?

Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 4, 2014 at 11:49 am

To Rinconada it should be who made this out of whack comment - "Does the City Council need a special name for this library because it serves the fancy folk in North Palo Alto?

PLEASE stop this juvenile, petty "South vs. North tirade and snide remarks like "fancy folk". A high number of seniors and veterans live there and do very nice folks. Remember that the area south of Oregon "Expressway" had to be annexed to Palo Alto in the early 50's. And since evidently it's not YOUR neighborhood library, please BUTT out. Old saying: "Chip on shoulder, wood higher up."

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2014 at 12:17 pm

One of the most important women involved with the earliest library was Ms. John F. Parkinson. When Palo Alto was trying to snag a Carnegie grant for a new library building (rather than simply tax themselves for the money to build the building), they were considered too small by the Carnegie people processing these grant applications. John Parkinson, while on a trip to the East Coast, dropped in on the Carnegie people (actually a secretary to Carnegie) who indicated that Carnegie had no interest in giving Palo Alto any money at all. Parkinson recalled in his autobiography that "he gave as good as he got" from this man" (James Bertram)--pointing out that with Stanford being co-located with Palo Alto, that Palo Alto would doubtless grow in the coming years. A couple of weeks later, a $10,000 grant was announced.

What's interesting about this particular grant is that it was about 3X larger than most other grants. At the time, Bertram was using a formula of $2 (or $3) times the population. Palo Alto's population at that time was about 1500 people, so the "by-the-numbers" grant should have been between $3,000 and $5,000. A second request for funds was denied, however. One of Carnegie's rules was that the town had to dedicate at least 10% of the grant for the yearly maintenance of the library. Additional funds seemed to lie outside of Carnegie's view of good stewardship of this grant funds it would seem.

So, if anyone is looking for an historical figure to promote, it would be the Parkinsons.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Since all other libraries are named for locations, ie. Downtown Library, Mitchell Park Library, etc. it makes sense for consistency to call it Rinconanda. And as someone else already said, "Most people will still call it the Main library anyway!

Posted by ChrisC, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 4, 2014 at 12:26 pm

ChrisC is a registered user.

Will the old Main library still have the bulk of the collection? Whenever I search for books, if there is only one copy, it's usually at Main. If there are multiple copies, most are at Main. Or are they solving this dilemma by "culling" their collection (word used in description of library re-furbishings) Will the majority of the collection move to Mitchell? Luckily we can request books be sent to any library, cuz I avoid Mitchell Park library, old or new.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2014 at 12:54 pm

> If there are multiple copies, most are at Main

Why not shift your reading to a Kindle, or a Tablet? E-books are not linked to branches, like p-books are.

Posted by anciana, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2014 at 1:00 pm

I love the idea of Rinconada for the Main Library, although I suppose I'll continue to refer to it automatically as the Main.

Posted by Kevin, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Apr 4, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Kevin is a registered user.

So, when will the Mitchell Park library re-open, anyway? The city have awfully quiet about it since Flintco got the heave-ho.

Posted by Rinconada it should be, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 4, 2014 at 1:06 pm

To Kate: Wow, talk about a chip on shoulder...


Posted by Green gables, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 4, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Leave the Main Library as the Main Library.

Mitchell Park Library will not be completed in our lifetime. Very poor oversight by the lovely City of Palo Alto.

Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 4, 2014 at 2:12 pm

"Why are they spending time on such matters?"

When substance demands attention, trivial minds seek comfort in trivia.

-Mark Twain

Posted by Ray Bacchetti, a resident of University South
on Apr 4, 2014 at 2:18 pm

While I have disagreed with several recent Weekly editorials I certainly agree with this one. In a town with a distinguished history, made possible by many distinguished individuals, singling one out of the welter seems bound to disgruntle more than it gruntles. Rinconada says something about our Spanish past and doesn't, as "main" would, confuse the past with the present.

Posted by Don't rename it, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 4, 2014 at 2:57 pm

To add to Mr. Klein's embarrassment, (and Price, who follows his lead) it is becoming clear that he seems to be trying to execute the wishes of his political supporters in south palo alto. They are the ones pushing this useless time and money wasting.

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2014 at 3:51 pm

I say leave them to it. It’s actually something they’re capable of achieving, however long it takes.

Once they pick a name, I can’t wait for the harangue on the plaque: Bronze or copper or gold-plated? If it’s named after a person, perhaps a bust or full-sized statue. Bronze or marble? Better call in the art commission.

The good news: As long as they’re spinning their wheels on a name, they can’t make any dangerous decisions like approving more oversized buildings with inadequate parking or approving fat salary hikes to staff.

Posted by Kate, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2014 at 8:03 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Allen Veaner, a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2014 at 8:03 pm

What a waste of time and effort! I fully agree with Ray Bacchetti's comment and suggestion: Rinconada is appropriate; at least that name doesn't get into the men vs women controversy. But if the City is bent on furthering confusion and on getting the citizens even more upset and angrier than they already are, it could be called the Hoover Library!

Posted by Margaret Fruth, a resident of Ventura
on Apr 4, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Margaret Fruth is a registered user.

Rinconada is as close to a consensus as we are likely to get.

I agree with Emily Renzel says about Birge Clark. Remember this council voted to completely tear down another Edward Durrell Stone building--the 1959 hospital.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 4, 2014 at 11:37 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The desire of Library Staff, and their supporters on Council, to change the name of Main Library is intertwined with their plan to reduce and shift services offered at that branch. For some of the details of the service reduction/change, see my blog entry "Librarians Against Books: Subverting the will of the electorate" (Web Link).

That blog post didn't have space for many of the details. I had planned a second posting addressing how the activist group had taken their finding to the City Manager and the City Council (Burt declined a meeting). Briefly, they didn't see Staff's misconduct (deception and insubordination) as warranting any remedial action.

Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 5, 2014 at 9:19 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Given the light Douglas shed on the Issue, it make more sense to retire the name 'Main' as it will no longer have that function.

I am in favor of maintaining the current 'Neighborhood' naming tradition.

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 5, 2014 at 10:36 am

Poor Edward Durell Stone. Hated by the modernist architects because he helped break their style stranglehold. Hated by the provincialists because his stuff was still too modern.

A lot of powerful petty people in the architecture intelligentsia have been working to literally destroy his work (see 2 Columbus Circle in NYC). To name the library he designed after a different architect is really gross, and I'm sure would make some spiteful people happy. Don't do it Palo Alto.. Rinconada or Main, pick one.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2014 at 9:25 pm

The City Hall Plaza was named without any public hearing,input.
Now naming the Library is getting huge attention. Nothing makes any sense in Palo Alto. Meanwhile the City Council and staff are destroying the City,
day by day, block-by-block. In the big picture,with this in mind, it really makes absolutely no difference what they name the Library.

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 5, 2014 at 9:31 pm

@resident - you aren't wrong, but the naming issue resonates for a couple reasons. It is intrinsically tied to the larger library fiasco, and it that the city can't even get small easy things done quickly or correctly.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 6, 2014 at 10:31 am

"Name it" either Main Library or Rinconada Library; anything else is silly.
Thanks for the editorial; I continue to be stunned at the way our City Council wastes time and money...

Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2014 at 12:27 pm

What do you expect? We keep on electing Larry Klein to the council ( and remember he is upset with term limits-- he wants to stay on the council longer. Does not matter to him that the voters decided that matter. [Portion removed.]
Also remember that the weekly always endorses him for election.

Posted by Christine, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Apr 6, 2014 at 3:09 pm

How about just doing the logical thing and use the location and call it Rinconada library. I would think that most people would be happy with that.

Posted by Rupert, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Billy-did Larry complain that I said he does not care what the voters want and that this was an ego trip for him? Pretty innocuous (and honest) criticism. But when your master complains you must obey.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 7, 2014 at 1:09 pm

I was fine reading the comments until I got to the opinion that the South PA residents want this named after an architect that did not design the building. How ridiculous is that? How ridiculous is this whole situation?
People are wasting time and effort on this.
It is the Rinconada Park Library because that is where it is at.
I am tired of the north vs south comments.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 7, 2014 at 1:43 pm

A new sign outside the Junior Museum provides a map of Rinconada Park and adjacent public buildings, and that sign already refers to the library as the Rinconada Library! Clearly staff and most of Council thought this was settled long ago. I hope the Council will have a quick vote to name it Rinconada, which is what should have happened in September, and then move on to more important matters.

Posted by Brian, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 7, 2014 at 1:45 pm

My main comment is that I really hate the fact that most of the people who post on Town Square are people who have to be negative and criticize people, especially by name. It would be nice if those people would try to limit their comments to positive criticism and suggestions. I am amazed at how many of the posters on this thread repeated the refrain "too late to avoid ridicule". Please stop.

My vote is Rinconada.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 7, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Do we get an opportunity to step up to the microphone tonight?

Posted by oops!, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 7, 2014 at 3:16 pm

From Council Members Klein and Price April 7,2014
Re: Item 22, Renaming of Main Library
The Policy and Services Committee deadlocked in attempting to fulfill the Council's direction to find an appropriate person in Palo Alto's history to honor by using that person's name as the new name for Main Library. In order to move this matter forward at Monday's Council meeting we will move that Main Library be re-named in honor of Palo Alto's most beloved architect Birge Clark.
OOPS!This memo from Larry Klein and Gail Price shows what a joke this renaming is. Main Library was designed by Edward Durell Stone, not Birge Clark.

Posted by Michaelquiek, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 5, 2017 at 11:00 pm

wh0cd165598 [url=Web Link topical gel[/url] [url=Web Link cymbalta[/url]

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Save $5 when you register by Monday, July 24

Registration is now open for the 33rd annual Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run and Walk. This family-friendly event which benefits local nonprofits serving kids and families will take place on Friday, Oct. 6 at the Palo Alto Baylands.

Register Here