Whoops! Posted to the wrong blog. Let's try again on the other one, Sunnyvale Library Today.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a great holiday season - I did. I’m just back from a wonderful Central American adventure with family and friends, a real bonding experience which I highly recommend. During my vacation I found that I had not once worried about how things were going at home. News flash to Deb – You are not Type A! But more to the point, I know that the Sunnyvale Library has dedicated, talented staff here at all times.
The bloom of the vacation has worn off quickly though. Prepared for the day, knowing that I had a challenging meeting scheduled early on, things didn’t start off as well as I had hoped. I spilled café mocha on my clothes just minutes before my meeting with a library patron whom I believed had a problem to discuss with me. This was an unfortunate beginning for what I suspected would be a talk about double digit library fines!
Fines are sometimes an emotional issue for the public, as well as for library staff members. From the staff perspective, many of us intensely dislike having to charge fines. After all, we are in the business of freely providing information and freely loaning materials. I, for one, have found myself trying to give information to people who have not even asked me for it. Fines and fees are one approach to the business side of libraries which requires that materials be returned on time in order for the system to work, and they help recover the cost of replacing materials that are not returned. In between fines/fees and patrons/staff are special circumstances, human error and miscommunications. Dealing with library fines is NOT the fun part of being a librarian. Meeting and talking with library users IS a fun part, even under circumstances that are not the very best.
We renewed our commitment to excellent customer service at a staff meeting at the beginning of the year. Sunnyvale Library management staff also agreed to “go the extra mile” to address customer service issues whenever we could do so. While we recognize that we must adhere to policies and procedures, we also agreed that we would strive to better understand the patrons’ perspective and look for opportunities to serve them. This was my opportunity. The library user had asked for a meeting with me but had not specified the reason. I scouted around for a likely problem that this meeting could solve. Identifying one possibility, staff and I discussed a potential approach to the topic, just in case we were right about the purpose of the meeting. So, having completed the research and changed my clothes, I was ready to meet our library user. Imagine my delight as we met and the patron said, “I am having a problem with my beloved library.” The day just got infinitely better...
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
As a City of Sunnyvale staff member, I have been silent on this blog for awhile so as not to confuse these entries with the political campaign for the Sunnyvale Library of the Future, which was led by community members. By now most of you have heard that Measure B, the City’s ballot initiative that would have funded the construction of Sunnyvale’s Library of the Future, did not pass. The majority of Sunnyvale’s voters, 59%, favored the new library but requirements in California stipulate that a super-majority must approve such a project (67%).
It’s been difficult to digest this loss of a dream. I believe that it could have brought a wonderful reality to Sunnyvale. Located just two blocks from the new downtown, the new library would have helped create a stronger hub for commercial, educational and leisure activities, all in a one-mile radius. Receiving 59% approval for the library is heartening though. With any other ballot measure, 59% would have been considered a huge success. I sincerely hope that this thought will not be lost on those who wonder if library services are valued in Sunnyvale. Our library is being used now more than ever, and I believe the same is true of other libraries in the Silicon Valley area. Yes, even so in the age of the Internet, and perhaps because of it. The needs identified in the Sunnyvale Library of the Future study still exist. How they will be addressed in the future is not clear at this point in time.
So, for now we move on to a new chapter in our Library. I say a dream is lost but that’s only temporary. Dreams have a way of reoccurring and revising themselves. What we have now is another opportunity for the Library to understand the concerns of the community and to re-examine the possibilities for future library services. I will retire the Sunnyvale Library of the Future blog for the foreseeable future. However, I hope to give you a glimpse of the Sunnyvale Library, its services, plans and people. So, starting early next year (2008) please look out for a new blog from me called, Sunnyvale Public Library Today, which you may find at: http://sunnyvalelibrarytoday.blogspot.com/. I hope to bring to you my perspective on the interesting, fun and challenging things happening in our library from time to time.
Thanks for reading along with me, and I hope to see you in the near future.
Deborah L. Barrow
Sunnyvale Public Library
Friday, July 27, 2007
I am pleased to report that the Sunnyvale Library of the Future project has been approved to go forward as a funding request to voters. Through their unanimous vote on Tuesday evening, the City Council completed all steps required to place a general obligation bond for the new library on the November 6, 2007 election ballot.
This is a momentous step for the City of Sunnyvale. By all reports, this is the first general obligation bond to be placed on a Sunnyvale election ballot in decades. If the ballot measure is passed by two-thirds of the voters, the new library project will be one of the most significant public facility projects in Sunnyvale.
For community members, a new library could make a big difference. Sunnyvale and its surrounding communities are great proponents of education and the opportunity for self improvement, both symbolic of what the public library has to offer each and every community member. The new library would offer the upgrade and expansion of the children’s reading and learning areas, provide a greater and more diverse collection of books and other materials, and more computers for children, seniors and the general public. Quiet reading areas, study rooms, and community meeting rooms, all of which are missing in the current facility, would be available along with expanded educational and cultural programs.
Many people love the warmth and friendliness of the existing 1960’s brick building with the signature stained glass window and the inspiring man “Out to Lunch” statue in front of the library. Whether these two signature Sunnyvale Public Library features move to the new facility is open to possibilities. What we do know is that the existing building has been expanded twice in the past and would be too expensive and inefficient to expand again. The building has aged and cannot meet the demands of a very busy public library, although it could be renovated as future office space.
Over 2,100 library users come to the Sunnyvale Public Library on average on a daily basis, making it one of the busiest libraries in California per hour for its size and population category, according to statistics reported to the California State Library. The Sunnyvale Public Library had over 2.2 million checkouts last year with approximately 300,000 of those checkouts going to non-Sunnyvale residents.
Some have expressed surprise that nonresidents can use the Sunnyvale Public Library. However, Sunnyvale residents also go to other libraries in the area; and last year they checked out approximately 1 million items at those other libraries, thus addressing their unmet needs in Sunnyvale.
Council’s decision to go forward with a ballot measure to fund the construction of the new library will address the community’s needs now and well into the future. A library as busy as Sunnyvale’s requires more space and a modern physical infrastructure with upgraded electrical, plumbing and other building systems to support a growing community.
The new library, if approved, will be located at Olive Ave. and Charles St. adjacent to the current library building. The City purchased the site for $17 million in 2000 for future Civic Center expansion. A portion of the site, which was vacant land, was approved by the City for lease last year for a community garden. The lease was for a period of 5 years. Since the garden has been very successful on the site, Council has mandated that the new library design creatively incorporate the concept of a community garden. The library and garden community will work together to accomplish the Council’s goals.
The design shown from past meetings is only a concept. After approval of the funding and the establishment of a contract with an architectural design firm, the actual design of the building will be developed. There will be community involvement in the design process, as well.
The preliminary plan for the library is for an 116,000 s.f. building with the option to expand up to 143,500 s.f., depending on the availability of funding. The City is highly committed to environmental sustainability. The City Council’s direction to staff is that the new library should be a green building designed to achieve a certification level of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System) Platinum and carbon neutral. LEED Platinum is the highest of designations in the point system developed by the US Green Building Council to measure environmental sustainability in buildings.
If the $108 million general obligation bond measure passes in November, the design process, including public input will begin early in 2008 with completion of the library in 2010/2011. The general obligation bond would cost an average of $19.52 per $100,000 in assessed valuation.
Library staff is committed to providing the best service possible given the current facility and resources. Please continue to use our services and give us your feedback. Library staff also will eagerly await the community’s decision regarding funding. We will make preparations to move forward in a timely manner if two-thirds of the voters approve funding for the Sunnyvale Library of the Future.
If you have questions, feel free to contact me. I will be happy to provide factual information about the project and the library, to the best of my ability.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Happy 4th of July everyone! Or, Happy Independence Day! We will be making an appearance in the next few hours at Washington Park for the City’s annual Independence Day celebration and picnic. The Mayor plans to give his State of the City address. I’ve heard that he will mention the Sunnyvale Library of the Future. I’m very excited to hear his speech. I hope people will come by our booth to ask about the project, too.
This is probably one of our last appearances at a public event where we can easily talk about the project. It is possible that discussions about the new library project will shift to campaign mode in a few months and that’s not something we do in the library. The library advocates will launch a campaign to build the library. Staff will only supply the facts about the project, such as why such a project is proposed, what problems will the new library resolve, how much it will cost, how long it will take. Staff cannot be involved in advocacy.
Oh, didn’t I tell you?!!!? The City Council voted on June 19 to move forward with the next stage of the Sunnyvale Library of the Future! By that I mean that Council voted to direct staff to complete the work required to include a funding request to the voters for the new library on the November 2007 election ballot. The funding for such a project is the issue now. The need for the new library has been well established. We ran out of space to support the Sunnyvale community many years ago, as noted in a study as far back as 1992. Results of a current, comprehensive study of community needs through 2030, indicate that Sunnyvale needs a library of approximately 143,500 square feet.
There are impediments to improving the current library facility and it would be more expensive then building a new library. Having added on to the building through two expansion projects, along with the brick construction of the library, the building is a series of adjoining rooms that do not flow very well for library use and leave little room for the improvements needed. New technologies require wired access, electrical connections, hardwiring as well, all of which are extremely difficult to add in the current building. In fact, staff has been told that we are at capacity for phones and computers. There’s no logical way to make new connections that are needed. We are at absolute capacity for people too. If you have seen the children’s room, you know it is cramped and not so attractive.
So on July 17, we will take to Council the actual wording for an election ballot measure to fund the new library!!! The measure will most likely talk a little bit about the "why" in terms of what are the library needs and then get to the point of "what" would be approved. Due to the cost of such a project, the City is now proposing to build an 116,000 s.f. library at the corner of Olive and Charles across from City Hall. The new library is projected to cost $108M, which based on a community survey, seems to be about what community members would be willing to pay for their new library in Sunnyvale.
There are temporary buildings on the site and Council leased the vacant part of the expansion space for the project to the community garden last year, for a five-year period. Council has indicated they would like for staff and the community garden group to work collaboratively. They would like for the architects to creatively incorporate the concept of a community garden in the new library plan. When the architects are hired for the actual library plan, the various needs of the library, the site requirements, entry/exit, parking needs, and the community garden will all be taken into account. Community meetings will also help staff and the architects review all needs for the project.
It should be noted that the cost estimate anticipates that it takes a few years to plan and complete construction of the building. In the meantime, the construction costs tend to escalate. Also, the City Council is committed to building an environmentally sustainable or "green" library, so there are upfront costs that have to be taken into account for these additional features. There is a possibility that the State of California will have additional grant funds for libraries through a proposed statewide ballot measure. If that occurs and Sunnyvale is a successful applicant, then the library could be built at the recommended size of approximately 143,500 s.f. A lot of the possibility for obtaining additional funds depends on approval processes as well as timing.
So, if you happen to be in the area today, please stop by our booth and talk with us about the Sunnyvale Library of the Future. We will have lots of interesting things for families and children at our booth, too. Also, this may be the last chance at one of these events to say hello to our Head of Children’s Services, Betsy Wachter. After some 30 wonderful years of serving children and families in Sunnyvale, Betsy will be retiring from what she has said has been a truly rewarding career.
See you at the picnic…
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged and I’ll try not to be contrite about it. I’ve discovered I’m a “happy times’ blogger, that’s all. Much has happened since my last installment. I’ll try to catch you up, if you have not been following developments of the Sunnyvale Library of the Future on your own. It’s Ok if you haven’t; the purpose of this blog is to give you the shortcut, the fast and fun facts – all in keeping with “happy times” blogging, right?
At the April 24th meeting of the City Council, there was a lively discussion about the Sunnyvale Library of the Future. Check out the minutes of the meeting for the details. The summary is this: the Council selected as their preferred scenario to have the new main library placed in the Civic Center at the corner of Olive and Charles, next door to the current library. There was concern expressed about the fate of the community garden which is behind the temporary buildings and parking lot on the site of the Sunnyvale Office Center. The community garden was established a year ago through a 5-year lease to community members from the City on land the City had purchased for possible expansion of the library. The Council voted to have the architects attempt to creatively incorporate the community garden concept in the design of the library.
Council gave direction for the library to be anywhere between 133,500 square feet to 143,500 square feet. The cost of the project, based on the study, would be $108M and additional on-going operational costs would be $1.2M. Remodeling and expanding the existing building for continued use as a library would have cost even more, $7M more! The current building could be converted to office use.
The Council also would like for the new library to be a LEED platinum project or equivalent, meaning that green design and sustainability will be extremely important factors. For now, the Council has decided to forego a branch library and reconsider the branch option once the new main library is online. Staff will look for alternatives in service delivery to underserved areas in the meantime.
It is gratifying to see the project move forward to this point. Of course, the ultimate question is how does this project get paid for? Starting tonight, a community opinion survey will measure Sunnyvale residents’ interest in paying for the capital costs and the additional ongoing operating costs of the new library through a possible general obligation bond and/or community facilities district. Sunnyvale is very concerned about and supportive of educational opportunities and cultural enrichment. The results will tell what the current priorities are for the community. We will deliver the results of the community opinion survey and the finalized conceptual design of the new library to Council on June 12, 2007.
And, there is some very good news! Remember the young people that helped spread the word about the Sunnyvale Library of the Future and increased teen involvement in the project? Yes, I am speaking of Rohit, Max and Sunny. Well, they were among the winners in the Future Business Leaders of America state-wide competition. Homestead High School’s teams carried away 42 of the 73 top places, a remarkable record. And our team from the LOF project received 2nd place for the community service component of the competition. Rohit, Max and Sunny, along with other Homestead FBLA teammates will be going to the national competition. This project has benefited so much from their participation. We wish them the very best – happy times for all!
Monday, January 29, 2007
Want to see something fabulous? Take a look at the Sunnyvale Library of the Future Web page (libraryofthefuture.inSunnyvale.com) and glance at the photos associated with an event held here at the Library yesterday. You’ll see the Future Business Leaders of America of Homestead High School; the Sunnyvale Mayor, the Honorable Otto Lee; and Sunnyvale Vice Mayor, the Honorable Tony Spitaleri. The occasion is the presentation of a check of over $4,500 for the Sunnyvale Public Library from the Future Business Leaders of America!
This is our first donation specifically for the Sunnyvale Library of the Future. I love that a project designed to meet future and current community needs is coming from our future leaders. (Really, they’re leaders already, aren’t they?)
Remember the fundraising effort I described a few months ago when the FBLA arranged the 1st Annual Fremont Union High School District Teachers’ Dodgeball Tournament? Well, this check represents the proceeds from that tournament. And, there will be more money from the students’ gift wrapping efforts at Borders Bookstore! This is all from their belief that the Sunnyvale Library of the Future is a worthwhile project that is important to the future youth and other members of this community.
These young leaders, including their teacher/advisor, the ever-youthful Mr. Byron Lee, are so professional, dedicated, smart, and enthusiastic! Their “can do” attitude is inspiring to me and all of the team members working on the library project.
Thanks again, FBLA for believing in our future library, and for doing what you can to bring it to reality!!!
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
There’s a commercial on television that shows the wife in the foreground talking about the wonders of a new telecommunications system they now have at home. She calmly talks about how much money the family is saving and how easy the system was to install. Unbeknownst to her and embarrassingly, her husband is so happy with the system, he’s in the background dancing away to a song – “Woo-who, woo-who-who, Woo-who, woo-who-who!”
Well, I feel like doing that same dance!
We went to Council last night to deliver the Sunnyvale Library of the Future Study and Strategy and presented the recommendations developed by Anderson Brulé and City staff. Council had questions, and our choices were certainly challenged but in the end, the recommendations were accepted unanimously with an addition of one more goal the Council felt would be important as an indication of the quality of library services for the community.
So, we are officially examining options for a new library and a branch. What progress! Great work team, and thanks so much! We have our work cut out for us.
“Woo-who, woo-who-who! Woo-who, woo-who-who!"