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Palo Alto embarks on Main Library expansion

Original post made on Apr 26, 2013

With the Downtown Library as good as new and the reconstruction of Mitchell Park Library crawling toward the closing chapter after a series of unwelcome plot twists, officials are now preparing for the grand conclusion of the city's library revival -- the renovation and expansion of Main Library.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, April 26, 2013, 9:31 AM

Comments (52)

Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 26, 2013 at 11:02 am

HA!! 18 months...We'll see about that! I guess it could be possible as long as NOT ONE person from the Mitchell Park Library planning & construction works on the project!
Good thing they are not waiting for MP Library to finish before they start, or they would NEVER get started!

Posted by just thinkin'
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 26, 2013 at 12:03 pm

I believe there was a promise the projects would not overlap.........
Say liver...or something like that.....

Posted by Timing
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 26, 2013 at 1:06 pm

The Empire State Building was built in about one year. Remodeling a building in Palo Alto takes a year and a half.

Posted by Please?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 26, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I hope they have the same system for checking out/returning books as the Mountain View Library. To check out a book, just stack the books on the table and voila! Much faster than the current system of checking out each book individually. And to return a book, the automatic belt takes it and checks it in, no manpower necessary!

Posted by Margaret Feuer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 26, 2013 at 1:45 pm

For those wanting to access the History Archives, they are being moved to Building H at Cubberly.

Posted by Libraries-Are-Dead
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2013 at 3:51 pm

What a massive waste of time and money.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2013 at 4:38 pm

So let's get this straight. Mitchell Park has no sign of reopening and Main will also be closed. This means that we will have two temporary libraries!

We really need to rethink this. In fact, "we" already know this but "they" don't. Palo Alto does not need 5 libraries, and we certainly don't need two temporary libraries.

If nothing else, finish one first. This is so ridiculous. No wonder we are the laughing stock of the Peninsula.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2013 at 5:12 pm

The Mitchell Park Library is another example of "The Palo Alto Way."

Posted by inflated costs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2013 at 5:20 pm

The head librarian at the Main Library claims that fixing a broken door would cost $4,000. Unbelievable--what contractors does the city of Palo Alto use, for goodness sake?

This reminds me of the way in which the U.S. military used to claim thousands of dollars for each toilet seat it ordered . . .

Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 26, 2013 at 5:23 pm

18 MONTHS!!! Want to bet what the final completion date is??

And how utterly brilliant of the city to deprive us of not one library but TWO at once. Such practical planning, such coordination.

Sarcasm aside, the libraries are the city service I most value and use, visiting them several times a week.

Dreading a 2-year withdrawal because the city officials didn't consider the library patrons.

Posted by inflated costs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Once again, the city has put its "system", its "modalities" and its world-class delusions first, before the interests of the taxpayer who PAYS for services such as a fully stocked library.

I don't use the libraries for magazines and best-sellers, but for high-quality literature--no doubt exactly what will be made UNavailable for at least the two years in which the Main Library is being renovated. And after that's reopened, who's to say that the library staff will ever take all those books out of storage--doubtless they'll be regarded as too out-of-date in their contents and authors, or not attractive-looking new in the sparkling new environment . . .

Posted by resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 26, 2013 at 7:42 pm

When will the Mitchell Park Library open? It is really sad to see a partial construction sit there with no progress day after day. What a shameful way to build a library.

Posted by City Hall Incompetence
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 26, 2013 at 8:22 pm

The Mitchell Park library is UGLY. What's with that weird, yellow plastic looking thing hanging on the side of the building. What is it....another piece of handiwork thanks to the Palo Alto Architectural Review Board? I drive by that ghastly stucture every day, and rarely do I see any sign of construction people working to complete the monstrocity. Palo Alto gets uglier and uglier with each new building that is built in this town....can't wait to see the next horror....the Newell Library.

Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 27, 2013 at 10:29 am

SteveU is a registered user.

It is absurd to spend MILLIONS on a new building instead of fixing the door.

$4K to fix a door? Is this what you get when everything is Custom Designed or must meet every possible building code? Or are we replacing an Automatic Door similar to that found in a Grocery store. Fixing Entry doors is a NORMAL repair (hopefully infrequent).

Time and again I hear of PA Agencies deferring repairs, leading to more deterioration of the facility. This is just incompetence. You are wasting TAXPAYERS money, probably to FORCE your desired upgrade through.

Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 27, 2013 at 10:58 am

We drank the kool aid served up a few years ago ,as provided by FOPAL and Megan, and voted for the library bond. Now we have to pay the price.

Posted by jake
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 27, 2013 at 1:17 pm

The trunk has no brake.. Job well done!

Posted by palymom
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 27, 2013 at 1:47 pm

I'm so sad the library will change. I live very close to it and have loved every angle of architecture, every leaf and every blade of grass on the property. The look of it reminds me of my Eichler home childhood. Buildings from that era are dropping like flies.

Posted by still a book reader
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 27, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Is it too late to get some adults involved in PA library management? Postpone NOW the main library closing until Mitchell Park is finished. And, as other posters have pointed out above, repairs to an existing building are part of normal operations and far cheaper than a remodel. Any penalties for postponing the work at Main are justified by the Mitchell Park delay.

Posted by Jed
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 27, 2013 at 11:37 pm

Rebuilding the MP library has been one bungling cost over-run and delay after another. Has the city learned anything from that fiasco to prevent the same thing happening with the main library? I doubt it.

Chime in city officials involved!

Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2013 at 6:08 am

They should never have started the Main remodel before Mitchell Parks is complete. It makes no sense whatsoever. I see the construction in Jordan going on and on and on, Mitchell Park shows no sign of nearing a completion, so it makes me very pessimistic about the promised 18 month projection for Main.

Posted by jake
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 28, 2013 at 9:09 am

Clearly, whoever(s) in charge of the project/funding, they aren't interested in the benefits for the citizens of PA.

Posted by No surprise
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Apr 28, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Here we go again. There is no accountability for the SNAFU that the Mitchell Park library has become and instead of FINISHING it we are launching into spending the remaining bond money on another project!!!!
The management of the library system is absolutely crazy. Who gets away with FAILING so badly on one project and then launching another without finishing hte first?????? Perhaps we need a moratorium on library management rather than more library funding.
What a joke.
This town needs to get its rich act together.
I dare those repsonsible to respond. We can count on one thing from them when pressed - silence

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I hope that next time there is a bond for something in our city, everyone who attempts to get rational, intelligent people to vote yes, get reminded of the fiasco that the library bond was.

As I remember it, voters were guilted into voting yes rather than a smaller, single library which was never on the ballot. All the yes voters should remember that many of us never wanted this fiasco in the first place.

Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 28, 2013 at 10:01 pm

I was over at the main library today just before opening, and noticed the half dozen homeless folks queuing up for their daily shelter (including the guy taking a dump over by the community garden). I'm wondering, will they all fit in the temp library? We need Mitchell Library to open soon so they have a place to sleep all day.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 29, 2013 at 9:39 am

I never realized that Main Library is an Edward Durell Stone work.

Posted by Joke is on us
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 29, 2013 at 12:56 pm

$4,000.00 to repair a door. Yes, sounds like our library is continuing its raid on the treasury.
And stashing books in the basement for easy discard later.
The joke is on us, folks. As long as we continue to mindlessly praise the incompetence.

Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 29, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Resident, many of you didn't want that "fiasco" and the "many of you were wrong", as usual. "Many of you" would never vote for a community oriented project, it's against your religion. I'm sure you would vote though for an expansion of the airport, in order to serve the privileged few.

It was a mistake to start the remodel before Mitchell Park is finished, and the Mitchell Park design is not to my taste, but the decision was fundamentally right. Fortunately, the majority of residents want a better society than you do.

Posted by Doreen
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2013 at 3:00 pm

I absolutely agree, the structure is too look modern and bring a Modern urban look too it and has taken WAY TOO LONG to finish... My GOSH!! Do you realize that the supposed reconstruction of the Mitchell park library started months and months before the New San Antonio Village Center???. So, Mountain View was able to construct two Huge living structures and a New Safeway with parking on rooftop and adjacent shops in less than one year... And here we are still unfinished and too me it looks like a disaster!!! Who are these people on the city council board and what are they doing???... Oh my gosh,.. First the Miki's Alma disaster and now this!!!!... And I agree with the person that said there is usually no one on site working... We drive by almost everyday if not every other day and I swear not a soul too be found... We have enough gone to lengths of looking for people inside too see if anyone is working on the interior of the building but NO!!!... The building has gone Way over budget and not finished and it looks like a mess. I hope they are planning on planting lots of trees!! it sticks out like a sore thumb!!! Once again our wonderful city council has proven themselves too be completely incompetent. Just think of all the money wasted away but then again that seems to be quite the trend of developments in this city of ours.

Posted by Doreen
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2013 at 3:10 pm

@ City council!...BTW Clean up the mess at Mitchell Park before Making another mess at the Main Library. PLEASE!!!

Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2013 at 3:36 pm

> “There is no accountability for the SNAFU that the Mitchell Park library has become…”

No, and I doubt there ever will be any accountability.

The 4-26-13 Weekly “Around Town” column says, “In the past few months, the city had hired a new contractor, Big D Builders, to fix the errors of its original contractor, Flintco Pacific, which has just been taken over by another company and which had filed 37 change orders totaling more than $3 million as of earlier this month. Palo Alto has also brought on board seven different consulting firms, including engineers, attorneys and construction ‘forensic’ experts, to sort out potential disputes between Palo Alto and the contractors involved in building the 56,000-square-foot facility.”

SEVEN MORE CONSULTING FIRMS! This will certainly make for plenty of finger pointing and lots of work for lawyers on all sides.

Meanwhile, “Assistant Public Works Director Phil Bobel said staff has ‘exhaustively analyzed’ the problems at Mitchell Park and came up with 20 or 30 changes to the way the contract is structured. At the very least, Bobel said, the changes will allow the city to catch any construction problems earlier in the process.”

One might reasonably ask why Bobel and his staff had to go through the Mitchell Park disaster before learning to catch problems early in the process. Doesn’t Basic Project Management 101 ell you that you have weekly meetings to track what’s happening – no matter how many consultants you’ve hired? Just where does the buck stop?

Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2013 at 3:48 pm

AND – how can someone at Bobel’s level be so bad at writing contracts that he has now come up with “20 – 30 changes” to make in the future. Where was his boss? Where was the city’s legal team? Why did Council approve such a contract?

Posted by Wha?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Main Library is beng renovated, not torn down.
Inadequite electrical, bathrooms, HVAC are driving decision to renovate. Get your facts straight.
Details here:
Web Link

Replacing automatic doors is expensive but will be done as part of renovatation - I imagine the doors may be completely replaced.

Every day you delay the renovation, the price goes up. Mitchell Park is a legal mess, so Main had to go ahead even though the origianl plan was to close when the new Mitchell Park opened.

Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 29, 2013 at 5:21 pm

I asked at the Main Library what was happening with Mitchell Park and was told that NOTHING is happening -- or expected to -- because the contractor and the city are involved in a LAW SUIT.

When I said, "Then it seems dumb to shut down both libraries at once," the librarians said, "Oh, they're being done by different companies."

I said, "That doesn't change the fact that library patrons are still going to be without 2 libraries. Since you knew about the lawsuit, shouldn't you have planned around that when deciding to close down Main also?"

She said, "Probably but I didn't make that decision."

If the city thinks I'll ever approve another bond issue, think again.

Any City Council members care to comment???

She looked

Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Jo Ann,
The city council doesn't read these blogs. One councilman said they are too "vitriolic," i.e., the council doesn't like criticism.

Please send your comments to and cc:

Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 29, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Thanks, Pat.

I sent an email to the City Council and Mr. Keene and will copy this discussion if I ever get a reply.

I urge the rest of you to write them and complain also.

Posted by WilliamA
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2013 at 10:45 pm

I certainly hope that after they complete these renovations that they replace all of those old books with brand new copies of the same titles.

Posted by eyesore
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 29, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Can someone address (or dress) the "nude in steel" statue in front of
the library? It looks creepy. The library might just look a lot better if we simply plant a tree in its place.

I am thoroughly disappointed by the public art committee of Palo Alto. They made a mockery of the lack of art in our town by strategically placing such extraordinary eyesores in every prominent corners of the city...

Posted by Wilson
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2013 at 8:45 am

> They made a mockery of the lack of art in our town

Yes .. there is little sense that the City—through the people appointed to the so-called Art Commission—have done a credible job of creating a public art program for Palo Alto.

Given how “connected” Palo Alto is, it would make sense to put the selection of public art up to a vote—by placing possible selections of public art on one of the City’s web-pages, and after a sufficient number of votes have been recorded (10%-15% of Palo Alto’s residents) then a choice would be made. It would also pay to rotate public art not only around the city, but also between cities. That way, the art would get some visability by everyone, over time.

Posted by Wilson
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2013 at 8:52 am

> NOTHING is happening -- or expected to -- because the
> contractor and the city are involved in a LAW SUIT.

Given the circumstances--such a lawsuit was inevitable. The question now becomes: "Will the City seek to seal the trail records--no matter what the outcome?" There has been no public insight into the mess that we call: "The Mitchell Park Library Complex". The so-called "Library Advisory Commission" has proven useless in helping the public understand the issues, and the so-called "Bond Oversight Commission" has been nothing more than an embarrassment to the process. What good is an "oversight" committee that has no power, and no will to dig into matters like fraud and incompetence on the part of the City managers?

The trail records are the only way that the public will be able to find out what actually happened--providing that the City tells the truth during depositions, and at trial, should it come to that.

Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 30, 2013 at 10:45 am

I am with boscoli

Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 30, 2013 at 11:43 am

Answers from the city attorney and various council members regarding why close Main while Mitchell drags on:

1) There is no lawsuit over Mitchell, just many contract disputes. They too are frustrated with the delays.

2) Re Main, they haven't even awarded a contract for this project yet but hope to do so real soon now. !!!!!

As to why close two at once, I've been told A) the council gets status reports, B) construction costs always rise, and C) we have 2 temporary "libraries" we should find acceptable.

Perhaps someone else can get a more satisfactory answer re why close Main without a contract while Mitchell drags on and on.

Posted by Whiskers
a resident of Los Altos
on Apr 30, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Project Gutenberg has a great many good books, from Shakespeare to the Hardy Boys. Just plug in Web Link and go to the Index. I would imagine there are other similar web sites though this is the only one I use.

Posted by Library lover
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 30, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Lots of library haters here! Some people just don't know how to let go. Hey, folks - the Bond passed - get over it! Stop meddling, and get a life!

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2013 at 7:59 am

I don't think any of us here are library haters, just Palo Alto process opponents. I for one love a decent library. This building like Mitchell Park library had character and charm. The new buildings are awful and the question of how many libraries a City of our size needs is valid.

Posted by Wilson
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2013 at 8:46 am

> Stop meddling, and get a life!

While the Bond did pass--it's clear that the world is moving away from books, and older, non-digital, entertainment--such as VHS cassettes. Within a few short years, we've seen VHS disappear, CDs are now extinct, DVDs are on their death-beds, with Blu-Ray now in the ascendency for disc-based distribution. And Blu-Ray will not likely deliver the content that its inventors imagined only a couple of years ago--since the Internet has become clearly a more desirable mechanism for distribution for books, videos and music.

While the bond passed, voted on by only 14,000 people out of the 65,000 who live here--the new library, should it ever be completed, will be more of a ghost town, than a "center of the community", as if it ever were.

Google, the Internet Archive, and now, the Digital Public Library of Americal ( have replaced the need for local libraries except as places for homeless to spend their days. Libraries consume an incredible amount of public resource--butincreasingly people have found the Internet/web as a clearly viable, and more convenient source of information, and intertainment.

Just this morning, in the NYT, there were two articles about how travelers are increasingly using the Internet for entertainment:

In-Room Entertainment Turns Away From TV:
Web Link

Craving Wi-Fi, Preferably Free and Really Fast:
Web Link

Clearly, the world has changed a lot over the past couple of decades, and very fast over the past five years along.

> library haters

How absurd. But this pretty much demonstrates the mindset, mentality, and education levels of people who hang around public libraries, more-or-less on a full-time basis. What kind of a life can anyone actually have who fail to understand the extremely high cost of providing public libraries to a diminishingly small number of people who don’t seem to have seen, or understood, the sea changes in information distribution that have been, and are, underway—world wide.

And as to your demand to “stop meddling” --- let’s get one thing straight—the bulk of the money that is paying for this white elephant in Mitchell Park is coming out of the pockets of people who do not use public libraries. So, we don’t expect to have money effectively “stolen” from us and then used as ineffectively as it has been on this project. Our money is not yours—get that in your head! And when this library ends up being underutilized, as it clearly will be in coming years—expect us to be there telling ingrates like yourself “we told you so”, and suggesting ways to downsize this anachronistic “service”.

Just so ‘ya know ..

Posted by S. Brown
a resident of Community Center
on May 2, 2013 at 8:54 am

Obsolete before its even built. Textbook example of of government getting it wrong.

Posted by Voters' Investment
a resident of Community Center
on May 2, 2013 at 10:44 am

23 studies proved that every dollar invested in this bond will result in three dollars returned to the residents. What could be a better investment than that?

Posted by Longtime resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2013 at 12:35 am

In reply to Wilson -- Libraries aren't becoming obsolete. Look how they have changed over the recent years to keep up with all the changes that have taken place in information resources and technology. Libraries are used as much -- if not more -- than they were 10/12 years ago. They not only continue to provide books, magazines and newspapers in print as they always have, but now are resources for digital/electronic information of all kinds as well. I am always amazed when I learn about yet another electronic resource the Palo Alto libraries provide free of charge for patrons -- computers are available for those who don't have any, wireless internet connection, e-books, free downloadable music, genealogical resources, electronic versions of newspapers and magazines, etc. etc. etc. All of these come free with a library card. Also, librarians are there to help patrons find the information they need. They are trained in library science and most have masters degrees. Free, public libraries have been -- and continue to be -- a priceless community resource. Democracies rely on, depend on, NEED -- free access to information of all kinds. Please let's not fall into the trap of believing everything that someone, somewhere predicts will happen. Let's be open to change that is a benefit, but let's not just accept change for change's sake, and, maybe in the process, throw out something of value.

Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2013 at 9:54 am

I think libraries will continue to be a valuable resource, although more of an internet cafe and book pick-up spot than the traditional uses. BUT did we really need FIVE libraries? And did we really need to have the two big ones closed at the same time?

Posted by architect
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 3, 2013 at 7:44 pm

While our libraries are being worked on, the 2013 AIA/ALA Library Building Awards have been announced:

Web Link

Posted by Welcome back Mike
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2013 at 11:07 pm

"Voters' Investment"

Still misrepresenting those 23 studies I see.

Posted by goodjob
a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2013 at 9:57 am

Great job! It makes sense now why we need 5 shops in the city! 2 downs and 3 Ups

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