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Feedback on Agenda Item H#1: Next Steps for Library System Improvements

From: domainremoved <Lynne>
Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2017 21:20:34 -0400

Dear Mayor Keith, Council and Staff,

I’m writing again about agenda item H#1: Approve next steps for library
system improvements. I am out of town, so unable to attend the meeting.
Thus, my email comments.

*Process and Content Concerns *

I’m concerned about process. Library Management completely bypassed the
Library Commission. Our opinion was not asked and there was no attempt to
build consensus with us before sending report on to council.

The report also continues to NOT address the public’s serious concerns
about the project. Instead, staff should listen to and respond to the
residents and also attempt to build consensus. The public has raised valid
concerns: i.e. do we need a new library at all; could we not just modify
the existing one, such as by adding a meeting room to the right of the
entrance where currently little-used books are stored; aren’t their higher
priorities; and shouldn’t Belle Haven be a priority. So address them in the
Staff report.

The bypassing of the Library Commission and the ignoring of the public’s
concerns seems a violation of the Menlo Park’s stated ideals of open
government and ethical behavior.

*Recommendation: *I would like Council to return the report to library
staff with the instructions that staff work to build consensus with the
Library Commission (and address the public’s concerns) before resubmitting
the report.

*Menlo Park – Lack of Governing Library Board a Violation of Municipal
Code? *

The bypassing of the Library Commission raises the question as to the role
of the Commission. Staff’s view of our role is clear by that action alone.
However, is our current role (as viewed by library management) a violation
of California Municipal Code
governing libraries? The code is summarized in the “California Public
Library Organization 2013”
<https://www.library.ca.gov/lds/docs/CAPubLibOrg_2013.pdf> report which
states that the *governing* [emphasis mine] board for City Libraries should
consist of a “five-member board of trustees” (4). The document adds that
cities may also have a Library Advisory Committee. Our town lacks a
Commission that is allowed to perform a governing role as our current
commission could be considered only a very weak version of an advisory

*Recommendation:* Please ask the City Attorney to look into the Municipal
Code for city libraries to see if Menlo Park is out of compliance.

*Skills Required to Manage a Modern, Library System*

Library Management’s approach, so far, does not bode well for getting
two-thirds of the voters to agree to a bond measure. By bypassing the
Library Commission, and not addressing public concerns -- the Library
missed an opportunity to build consensus, and the (potential) case for a
bond measure. I cannot imagine library management in other towns taking
this approach.

*Recommendation*: I recommend that Council determine the minimum
qualifications required to manage a modern library system and then modify
and update the job description of the Library Director, and the Assistant

I would also form an independent citizen’s committee who can work with a
polling firm to determine community support for a possible bond measure. As
a pointer, I would contact the Library Director in Pacifica for
recommendations as they recently conducted this type of polling. Before
going further, I would verify that the public is in support of this idea.

*Outsource the Management of Belle Haven Branch*

The Branch continues to be neglected. Even minor changes move slowly. It's
time for a new approach where innovation can happen more rapidly and where
the community is more involved.

*Recommendation*: Instead of the proposed Belle Haven Library Advisory
committee, I suggest that Council outsource the management of the Branch as
a pilot approach. I would ask if the Redwood City or East Palo Alto Library
director would agree to take on the role. Both of these library systems
have managed to meet the needs of the entire community. Last summer, the
Children’s Development Center in Belle Haven reached out successfully to
the EPA Library to supply literacy support that the Menlo Park main library
was unable to supply. I have found the EPA Library Director to be very
supportive and I’ve heard the same about the Redwood City Director. (For
the record, I have not talked with either library director about this
idea.) Of course, we would have to pay for this.

After getting a preliminary okay from the Library Director in Redwood City
or EPA, I would next hold a “Community conversation” meeting held in Belle
Haven to discuss short, medium and long-range improvement ideas and how the
community would like to be involved. I suggest also putting back at the
Branch the two library assistants who were working there about two years
ago. Those staff members were very good with the community, responsive, and
innovative. The Branch needs that kind of person working there, day-to-day.
There would also be many volunteers who would like to help. By outsourcing
the management, I think the existing Branch could be transformed in about
four months. Library staff could also then focus on the Main Library.

Of course, the Branch should have its fair share of the overall library
budget – probably around $875,000 given Belle Haven’s rapid population
growth. Longer-term, we also still need a new Branch library in Belle
Haven. Improvements to the Branch would be as a “bridge” to a new library.

Thanks for your work on the Council and for your efforts for integrity and

Lynne Bramlett
Received on Mon Oct 16 2017 - 18:25:34 PDT

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