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Holiday Fund: Library Foundation pushes to furnish city's libraries

Original post made on Dec 1, 2012

Palo Alto's politicos, civic leaders and bookworms rejoiced in November 2008 when voters resoundingly passed Measure N, a $76 million bond measure to renovate two city libraries and rebuild its largest library at Mitchell Park.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, December 1, 2012, 10:38 AM

Comments (12)

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Posted by Longtime resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2012 at 11:36 am

This is great. I voted for the bond, and can't wait to see the finished construction. However - Mayor - are you pleased enough with the gift from the citizens to make the fee structure more like the Los Altos library's? We go to Los Altos because of the fee structure and how it allows us to work our library visits better into our lives. We haven't used our local libraries, that we pay for, in TEN YEARS because the lending policies make them unusable and punitive.

Reserve a book and can't pock it up in time? A dollar fine. Borrow a children's video and someone else reserves it? You have to bring it back in one week of checking it out or be fined. Los Altos gives three weeks and a six week grace period, plus the fines go to the LIBRARY, not the general fund as they do in Palo Alto. Palo Alto is using the fines for revenue, which gives them an incentive to keep an unfriendly fine structure. The fines should be to encourage returning the books, not to raise money for the city.

Do you know why Palo Alto sends you an email BEFORE your items are due, instead of two weeks after? Because I argued vociferously for it back when, I think it was Paula Simpson was stil here. I still have emails where I was told it wasn't possible to do that!! (oh brother, right?)

The reason I was given for Palo Alto's punitive fee structure relative to Los Altos' is that Palo Alto doesn't have the resources of he county system. Well if the county system is such a great advantage (and I agree), why aren't we joining? Now that the itizens have been so active and generous, can you please do two things to make our libraries more usable?
1) change fines and lending policies to match those of the Los Altos library, which are just frankly easier on families, and
2) change the recipient of fines from the general fund to the library system - it feels a lot better paying unavoidable fines if I know it will benefit the library.

Lastly - something is wrong in the computer system, too. I would pay for my fines, not use the library, and the next time I'd go back, there would be fines on my record. Like I said, I finally gave up using our lical PA libraries.

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 1, 2012 at 12:01 pm

This building, when it finally is finished construction, will be of little value to the community at large. The digital world has clearly established itself during the last ten years--no matter how hard the people pushing for this library tried to deny that fact, vilifying every one in their way.

We're seeing a mini-revolution going on within the PC industry--an unexpected endorsement of tablets--so much so that they may very well put an premature end to the desktop PC business--

Gartner Says Worldwide Media Tablets Sales to Reach 119 Million Units in 2012:
Web Link

Web Link

The tablets can hold hundreds/thousands of e-books, movies, audios, etc. There really is no reason to ever go to a public library again--to pick up/drop off reading material.

And .. in the coming years we will be seeing new kinds of "libraries" evolve--which link together the extant holdings, in one form or another, from all over the US, and eventually--the world:

Walk into any privately-owned coffee shop, and look around. Virtually everyone in their has a laptop, a tablet, or is reading on a cell phone. There are few people actually reading books any more.

National Digital Public Library
Web Link

People donating to this now unneeded facility would be better off asking that their money be used to build a city-wide "Mesh Network", so that wireless Internet access would be available to all. The money being raised (per this article) would completely build such a wireless network, providing funds to operate it for years to come, in addition.

Sadly, much of this money will sit idle, when the library is closed (about 65% of the year).

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm

I --- and a huge number of others --- read books both on my Kindle and on paper. I watch movies at a theater, and streamed on my TV/computer. I watch plays or operas on a screen and go to live performances.

Each environment has different attributes to offer, but they are not adequate substitutes for each other.

I still want books, lots of them, and can't imagine not having them.

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Posted by PA vs LA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Longtime resident,

I agree, we should be more like Los Altos, a single library system. Close everything but Mitchell.

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Posted by Woodland
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 1, 2012 at 3:01 pm

"we should be more like Los Altos, a single library system. "

Los Altos actually has two branches.

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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2012 at 5:46 pm

One item not mentioned in the article, but I found in reviewing the bond ballot materials is that there is an expected $1 million in increased operational costs for the new library, but is not currently in the library budget. Will the library foundation be covering this as well?

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Posted by Mattie
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 1, 2012 at 5:50 pm

For 76 mil, will they finally be open at times normal, working parents can actually go with their kids? After work? Nope. Weekends? Hardly. Second tier holiday, don't even ask. 2pm on a weekday? Guaranteed.

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Posted by @PAFreePress
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 1, 2012 at 7:59 pm

We agree with Mr. Martin's comments. A fitting Mausoleum to analog jurassic government thinking in a digital world.

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2012 at 10:55 am

Los Altos is part of the Santa Clara County library system and does have 2 branches. But the city is thinking of dropping out of the county system. Web Link

The increased operational costs were pointed out in a 2007 audit, which concluded that, “Choosing to deliver services through five branches results in a more expensive system. The marginal cost of the branch system is not easily quantifiable; multiple branches require duplication of effort in many areas. But the branch library system is ultimately a community and policy choice,” i.e., not a financial decision.

From an email from then-City Auditor Sharon Erickson: “…delivering services through 5 branches is more expensive than a single facility system. It requires duplication of effort – the example we used on page 16 was Santa Clara which only needs 11 employees to staff customer service desks in its 80,000 square foot library, compared to Palo Alto that needs 14 employees to staff customer service desks in our total of 51,000 square feet (spread across 5 facilities). … 77% of cost is in staffing…”

Audit is at Web Link

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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2012 at 7:21 am

Pat, the additional $1.1 million in annual operational costs needed for the new Mitchell Park library is not from having multiple branches, but because of the size, and additional maintence. Even though the city budget has increased to $152 million this year, they needed to cut services (like 6 police positions, animal services, etc). What the city will cut to fund the additional operational costs is an interesting question.

Here is the text from the city staff report recommending the library ballot measure:

The potential construction of a new, larger Mitchell Park Library and Community Center will require an allocation of additional annual operating expenses, both from a facility maintenance and library/community center operations standpoint. Staff has worked to develop an estimated range of these anticipated annual operating costs, based on input from the Library, Community Services, Utilities and Public Works departments as well as the independent library consultant who has been working with Group 4 Architecture on these projects. These costs include the following: additional library and community center staff necessary for larger Mitchell Park
facility (no more than 4 full time positions – three Library and one Community Center - as recommended by library consultant); new Public Works Facilities Mechanic position for building systems maintenance; custodial/maintenance costs; utility costs; library collection
maintenance; public computer replacement; security system costs; and furniture replacement. The estimated annual cost for these items could range between $750,000 and $1.1 million.

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Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2012 at 11:01 am

"This building, when it finally is finished construction, will be of little value to the community at large. The digital world has clearly established itself during the last ten years--no matter how hard the people pushing for this library tried to deny that fact, vilifying every one in their way"


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Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 7, 2012 at 12:45 pm

PA needs all three branches - those Libraries are eventually going to be community centers with community activities for all ages, as well as lending libraries – just look at the new renovated Downtown Library – great success!
Of course Main Library is just a scare - look forward when it’s renovated
how the City allowed it to run down to such awful condition? Staff compensation is too high, library per se funding is too low, some expenses overinflated: recently asked a librarian at the main library why there is no Link+ checkout system in Downtown Branch, her answer? The system & staff training on how to use it would cost hundreds of $$... for real? I am a corporate librarian myself & very aware of the real costs…
I believe the new Mitchell Park Library will be great
I do wish Downtown library extended its hours at least one day/week to 8PM. Many of us work, you know; outside PA as well. Why academic library can work nights/weekends (for less salaries that city librarians), but city library staff can’t?
Disagree that lending time is too short; much better - 1 mo +renewal if not on hold – than in MV; fines are fair too ( user have sufficient time to pick-up a reserved material; you can always cancel your reservation to avoid fines)

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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