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Commission candidates present plans for rundown library system

Original post made on Aug 2, 2007

Six candidates, from proud gadfly to self-proclaimed neutral observer, are in the running for an open seat on the Palo Alto Library Advisory Commission (LAC). The City Council is expected to make its selection Monday. "I have something unique to offer that no one else can," candidate Bob Moss said Wednesday at City Hall. "I helped create the Terman Branch."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, August 2, 2007, 2:47 PM

Comments (24)

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Posted by Diane Jennings, Library Director
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 2, 2007 at 5:27 pm

Just a clarification to this story. The City Council has not yet placed a bond measure on an upcoming ballot measure. City staff is working with architects to study options for facility improvements at the Mitchell Park Library/Community Center, Main Library, and Downtown Library. These options with estimated costs will be brought to Council this Fall for review.

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Posted by rick
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 2, 2007 at 7:24 pm

I hope they look into why the last Mitchell Park bond failed. My thoughts about the failure are: 1. Much to elaborate, fancy exterior archeture. We don't need it to be a monument to the archtect.

2. The tennis players probably mounted a campain against the bond issue as it required moving maybe two tennis courts and thats a "No-No" as they are more important and have a lot of power in this city (or had a lot of power)

3. There was also opposition from those who thought that libraries were obselete. Although many of these may have large libraries in their mansions.

I hope this new propasal has the "community/hangout center" for the young people and community meeting places. These are lacking in South Palo Alto and Cubberly may revert to a new high school with all of the high density housing coming to this area

Does anyone else have ideas why it failed? Or what can be done to assure it dosen't fail.

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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 3, 2007 at 4:57 am

Rick, placing the proposed 2002 Mitchell Park library over the tennis and paddle ball courts was not only opposed by the tennis community but many of the neighbors who use Mitchell Park on a regular basis voted against it.

It may pass this time around if those on the Library Commission can respect those of us who believe parks and open space are as important if not more important than large buildings.

Downsize the new library/community center and keep the cost down. Build between the tennis courts and Middlefield Road, and you may get it passed this time.

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Posted by Kathy
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 3, 2007 at 8:27 am

Group Four, an independent research group, investigated the City's library needs and reported to the City Council earlier this year. Their conclusion: Mitchell Park Library is WAY too small for the population served. A few key points in their report:
Current square footage: 9468; Recommended square footage (for the population served in 2030): 28-33,000.
Current amount of seating: 61 (2 seats/1000 pop); Recommended seating: 144 to 150 seats (4 seats/1000 pop).
Current books/material: 79185 (2.6 vol per capita); Recommended: 150,000 books (4 per capita)
Current storytelling, group study, and program space: NONE; Recommended: 40 seats for storytelling; 18-24 seats of group study space; 100 seats of program space;
Current computers: 25; recommended: 60

Group Four is now putting together a plan that will have a reasonable and appropriate upgrades so that Mitchell Park Library can meet the community's needs now and for the next 50 years. The above guidelines are a part of coming up with the plan.

And the new building will be situated so that the traffic flow into Mitchell Park works better (the entry across from Mayfield rather than offset); and without interfering with any park or tennis land.

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Posted by Max
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 3, 2007 at 11:21 am


I don't think City Council will consider a new "small" Mitchell Park. It's going to be much larger than the current one. We'll see what people say.

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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 3, 2007 at 11:27 am

I will continue to vote against any bonds which support spending $$ on Downtown, College Terrace, etc. I would be happy to support a bond to renovate and expand Mitchell Park and the Main library only. Although our branch library is nice, the small branches serve only a vocal few. If we closed a couple branches - think of what we could do with the dollars saved! If we sold or rented the space, we would have even more $$. Maybe we could use the neighborhood school libraries as a pick-up spots for books reserved online or even as homework centers.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 3, 2007 at 12:25 pm

Palo Alto Mom, a lot of people agree with you including myself. Unfortunately, closing College Terrace and Downtown libraries won't happen because politically their support groups i.e. College Terrace and Downtown run this City.

The only way to show your opposition to keeping these two unnecessary branch libraries is to vote against the Library bond next year.

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Posted by Kathy
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 3, 2007 at 8:11 pm

Please don't vote against a bond!
Political reality: the five branches are here to stay.
Physical reality: Mitchell Park needs to be replaced.
Let's accept the political reality and deal with the physical one!

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Posted by Stand up and be heard
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 3, 2007 at 9:52 pm

Why not deal with the political reality, too? If what Resident says is true - that "closing College Terrace and Downtown libraries won't happen because politically their support groups i.e. College Terrace and Downtown run this City" - then how about dealing with the problem at the source? Vote in a more representative city council. Lobby the existing ones. Write letters to the editor. Voice your concerns to the library folks with power. Speak up. Put pressure on those in power who aren't representing your views. Why settle for accepting a political reality which doesn't serve you?

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Posted by Standing up
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 3, 2007 at 10:35 pm

I'll stand up. I think we should add a children's wing to the Mitchell Park branch, and remodel the interior to make it look attractive. And don't waste millions of dollars trying to keep up with the neighbors. Envy can be very expensive.

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Posted by Stand up and be heard
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 3, 2007 at 10:58 pm

I don’t view upgrading our library system to a level close to our neighbors’ as ‘envy’. The Palo Alto Library system is so below par that it’s barely useful to me. I visit both the Santa Clara County and Mountain View libraries weekly. I haven't stepped foot into Palo Alto's libraries in 2 years. Half-stocked branch libraries with dated collections don’t serve my needs - I prefer quality over location. If I must, I'm willing to drive a few miles for a good selection. I'm also willing to bike across town - provided the selection is worth the ride.
A children’s wing at Mitchell Park sounds wonderful. For me, an attractive interior is secondary to a solid collection.

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Posted by Voter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 4, 2007 at 3:58 am

Mountain View built a large central library and raised the money by selling off surplus land, they did not ask the voters for bond money. Rather than keep asking Palo Alto voters to pass bond measures to finance a re-build of the Mitchell Park library, why doesn't Palo Alto sell off surplus land we've got plenty of it.

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Posted by Stand up and be heard
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 4, 2007 at 11:03 am

I'm new to the library debate so maybe this question has already been answered: why haven't/don't we join the Santa Clara County library system? Has this ever been considered?

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 6, 2007 at 5:07 pm

An argument for keeping College Terrace and Downtown libraries was that they served "neighborhoods". If you draw a circle around each of our 5 libraries with a one half mile radius, only 41% of the residents fall within those circles. So much for neighborhood branches.

It may be that the 1/2 mile radius chosen is too large. How many will walk that far carrying books - and then be faced with walking that distance back?

I note one poster said they would drive to get a good selection. Two good libraries in Palo Alto - Main and Mitchell - would fill that criteria. And the money saved by closing the other branches would support this better system.

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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 6, 2007 at 5:55 pm

Think of what we could do with 3 libraries (I can't imaging the Children's library closing after the renovations) if we sold or developed the land where the Downtown and College Terrace libraries are.

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Posted by anonymous resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 6, 2007 at 8:38 pm

well, you're not going to get rid of Children's Library (looking forward to seeing it when it reopens), but I think downtown and college terrace must *surely* be up for discussion by this time!

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Posted by Library fan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 7, 2007 at 11:08 am

The library does seem to be targeting the Downtown branch. The shelves are gradually being emptied. About half of the shelves are empty. No books, nothing.
Some of the tables and chairs were removed a few months ago. And the dvds are a disgrace.
Perhaps the director can explain the empty shelves?

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Posted by Another mom
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 8, 2007 at 12:06 pm

Dear mom,
I looked up the cost of keeping the small branches open and I don't think, given the size of the library budget (something like $6 or 7 million), that you will gain by closing them. It sounds like common sense that it would save a lot, but in fact you wouldnt. The budget for 2007-08 for the branches is
College Terrace branch 257,964
Downtown branch 259,232
Mitchell branch 1,298,455
Main 1,769,975
Children's (closed till fall so probably not a comparable number) 701,710

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Posted by Also a library fan
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 9, 2007 at 4:56 pm

That's interesting, your description of the branch. It is one way to discourage usage and then later show that it isn't used much.
When a government wants to get rid of a bus line they make the schedule inconvenient, so people find other transportation, then they can show hardly anyone uses it and they can get rid of it. I searched the catalog for some thing that is pretty ordinary and the catalog showed only copies at Main and Mitchell. They are training me to go there first next time.
You may be on to something.

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Posted by Also a fan
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 12, 2007 at 9:12 am

I can understand that the library people do not want to get into a back and forth with people on the web. But it is a little odd that no one responds about those empty shelves.

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Posted by Ex-pat librarian
a resident of another community
on Aug 15, 2007 at 10:30 pm

Those empty shelves are probably the result of your library folks doing their best to spread inadequate resources among four outlets, two of which are sentimental icons more than anything else. It appears that your city has four - and soon five, once more - libraries and money enough to support two and a half.

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Posted by Another mom
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 15, 2007 at 10:58 pm

Repeating the former director's PR isn't helpful. My post above listed the city's budget for each of the branches. You wouldn't save enough to buy hardly anything if you closed the smaller branches. The staff in the smaller branches is non-professional and lower paid.
Does anyone really know why those shelves have so few books? The city keeps saying they need space. Is it really for the purpose of discouraging usage? I'd hate to think they were doing that.

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Posted by Reader
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2007 at 10:09 am

The library system seems to work in Palo Alto on the system that if you want a specific book, you request it or put a hold on it and you get email when it is ready to be picked up. I have been told by many people that they no longer expect to find what they want on a perusal of the shelves but expect to reserve a copy and be told when it is available. By looking at the amount of shelf space reserved for this purpose at Mitchell Park, I think it is a valid method. I have no idea of how much a service such as this is used in other cities with more modern libraries, but in this fast paced lifestyle in which we live, it does seem to make some sense.

So for this reason, it would make sense to me to have the following type of service.

Close both downtown and college terrace libraries. Use the facilities for something city owned, but do not sell the property. With the savings by a bookmobile or large type book carrying vehicle which can be moved on a daily basis and parked overnight at one of the two remaining libraries. A schedule can be organised whereby the bookmobile spends regular time in both (if not more) venues whereby local residents can walk or bike as they do now to get the books they have previously ordered. Each site can have the bookmobile for day/evening/weekend hours. Even children's story time can be arranged for summertime activities on the grass near the bookmobile.
The bookmobile will spend each night at its home base and be restocked with ordered books on a daily basis.

I am sure that this system would give the majority of residents what they want at a much lesser cost than what we have now. Yes, the amount of hours at each site would be less than what we have now, but the residents would adjust. The savings would be significant and the present sites could be used for whatever the imagination of the city decides, but it could then become multi-use.

I consider this a win/win solution.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2007 at 9:14 pm

We definitely agree that the library system is rundown and we want something state of the art. Running our libraries in a similar fashion to the way they are running now is so last century. It is time to be innovative and create something for the 21st century and the way we live now. With so much available on the internet, our uses for a brick and mortar building have to be completely rethought. A system on the above lines would certainly be a start to the idea of the books coming to us rather than us going to the books.

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