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January 28, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, January 28, 2005

Library branch advocate left off board Library branch advocate left off board (January 28, 2005)

Stong positions could have cost him post

by Bill D'Agostino

A member of the high-profile library commission may have missed reappointment from the advisory board due to his strong advocacy for the city's branch system.

"At points I have been outspoken," said Tom Wyman, who helped create the commission in 1999. "I may not have courted the pervading views."

On Monday, five of eight City Council members voted against reappointing Wyman to the commission, instead choosing newcomer Valerie Stinger. Three other incumbents (Lenore Jones, Sandra Hirsh and Paula Skokowski) were unanimously reappointed.

The commission's role will be especially important this year -- it will debate how to build a new main library while still distributing library service throughout the community.

Last year, the commission came out against Library Director Paula Simpson's proposal to close two of the city's five branches and build a new, state-of-the-art main library. The council sided with the commission and then asked the appointed officials to find ways to build a new main library while still maintaining "distributed" library service.

Although some council members said they intended that vote to demonstrate their support for keeping all five existing libraries open as is, others said pointed out the term "distributed" could indicate a departure from the status quo.

Council member Dena Mossar said she voted against Wyman because of his rigid position in favor of branches.

"I was looking for commissioners who were interested in looking at alternative solutions for our library systems and Mr. Wyman has been strong, clear advocate for a branch system with a new main library," Mossar said. "From my perspective, that's not going to be the ultimate choice."

Mayor Jim Burch said the length of Wyman's service on the commission led him to vote for Stinger. When asked why he voted against Wyman but not Commissioner Lenore Jones, who also served six years and was up for reappointment on Monday, Burch said: "From my point of view, it was a toss up."

Although Jones -- who will be the only original Palo Alto library commissioner remaining -- voted to preserve the branches last year, she expressed some ambivalence and pondered the possibility of altering the status quo.

Council members who voted for Wyman were surprised he wasn't reappointed.

"I think Tom deserves a lot of credit. He was instrumental in getting the commission started," said Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto, who was joined by councilwomen Judy Kleinberg and Hillary Freeman in voting for Wyman.

Councilman Jack Morton was absent from the discussion.

Wyman, who authored a slim book about the history of Palo Alto's libraries, said he would continue to advocate for a better library system. "I think it's deeply ingrained in the genetic make-up here."

Staff Writer Bill D'Agostino can be e-mailed at [email protected]

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