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City fails to spend donated money for libraries

Original post made by Bob Moss, treasurer, Friends of Libraries, Barron Park, on Jul 7, 2006

The July 5 article about "Friends" groups has some strange and inaccurate statements about Friends of the Palo Alto Library (FOPAL) that need correction.


"City leaders say they don't understand why they don't receive more of the donations." They aren't spending much of the existing donations.


Two years ago, FOPAL granted $10,000 for foreign-language books, but only $5,588 has been spent. Last year, staff requested $18,500 to lease best sellers, $19,900 for 1,000 new books, $7,000 for teen paperbacks, $2,538 for paperbacks and $7,906 for DVDs for Main and Mitchell Park libraries.


FOPAL approved all $55,844. Spending to date: $17,969 to lease best sellers, nothing for those other collection items. The library survey last February found expanding the collection is the public's highest priority -- $41,756 for collections is available but unspent.


FOPAL is discussing grant requests for this year. Library staff requested only $148,500, of which $15,000 is for books and $25,000 is to lease new books. This seems low, particularly when patrons want more materials on the shelves.


Lenore Jones is quoted as saying that FOPAL doesn't always look at the whole picture. Untrue. It was FOPAL that got funding to install wireless hot spots in all branches, provided color laser printers and 17 laptops for use by patrons, pays for on-line subscriptions and is in the forefront of adapting Link+ for Palo Alto's library software currently incompatible with Link+.


Link+ gives access to more than 4.5 million unique titles and more than 15 million books. Staff hasn't requested it yet.


FOPAL provides more funding and support than the library seems able to utilize.

Comments (10)

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Posted by Sanford Forte
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 8, 2006 at 1:14 am

Bob Moss:
They (the library) aren't spending much of the existing donations."
-----------
This isn't quite accurate. Often, infrastructure and other prerequisites don't permit instant deployment of donations. You are implying that the library is not efficiently using FoPAL donations.

What surprises me - and many I've spoken to since the Weekly article appeared - is that FoPAL has accumulated $1.3M in _membership_donations (through book sales that derive from donated books) Why is FoPAL holding so much in reserve? Is this fair to FoPAL members, and subscribers who expect their money to be put directly and immediately to use?

Further, why should FoPAL board members decide when, how, and where - in minute detail - donated funds are spent in the library? Why aren't turned over to the library general fund for disbursement in the library as the acting director and staff see fit? It would be a simple matter to monitor those funds, and have the library transparently account for every dollar spent, with credit going to FoPAL.



Bob Moss:
"Two years ago, FOPAL granted $10,000 for foreign-language books, but only $5,588 has been spent. Last year, staff requested $18,500 to lease best sellers, $19,900 for 1,000 new books, $7,000 for teen paperbacks, $2,538 for paperbacks and $7,906 for DVDs for Main and Mitchell Park libraries.

FOPAL approved all $55,844. Spending to date: $17,969 to lease best sellers, nothing for those other collection items. The library survey last February found expanding the collection is the public's highest priority -- $41,756 for collections is available but unspent."
---------
Your comments don't take into consideration that funds deployment _takes time_. This is an internal library operations matter. As long as the library is accounting for the donated funds, and there are eventual disbursement of funds, what's the problem? See my comment above.

It appears to me that FoPAL is holding needed funds as leverage, in an effort to control the way donated money is spent and deployed in the library. Doing so assumes that the FoPAL board knows more about what's good for othe library than the library does.

Is this fair to FoPAL subscribership, the library, library staff, and those in our community who come to book sales thinking that their money is going directly to the library, instead of a huge "reserve fund"?

It makes sense to keep some small money in emergency reserve, but $1.3 MILLION?!



Bob Moss:
"FOPAL is discussing grant requests for this year. Library staff requested only $148,500, of which $15,000 is for books and $25,000 is to lease new books. This seems low, particularly when patrons want more materials on the shelves."
-----------
Again, this is a matter of staff time to process requests from FoPAL. It's common knowledge that FoPAL requires library staff to do extremely detailed diligence when it makes a finding request to FoPAL. That translates to staff _time_, which translates to _real dollars, taxpayer dollars_ spent to satisfy FoPAL's diligence requirements.

FoPAL requirements act as a real disincentive in this case. In all this, it certainly appears that FoPAL wants to micromanage the disbursement of funds contributed by its membership.

FoPAL also requires costly staff time when it makes an offer to donate money to the library. In fact, the real value fo FoPAL's monetary contributions are often significantly _decreased_ in value, when taking dollars that go to staff time for FoPAL diligence is taken into consideration. This appears to be a very inefficient process, and not responsible when it comes to maximizing book donations, and the money raised at book sales.

Again, why isn't the money raised during book sales **immediately** placed into the library's general fund? This is what most FoPAL subscribers and members think is happening, but apparently, it's not. I find this disturbing.



Bob Moss:
"Lenore Jones is quoted as saying that FOPAL doesn't always look at the whole picture. Untrue. It was FOPAL that got funding to install wireless hot spots in all branches, provided color laser printers and 17 laptops for use by patrons, pays for on-line subscriptions and is in the forefront of adapting Link+ for Palo Alto's library software currently incompatible with Link+."
------------
Nobody is saying that FoPAL doesn't donate money, or do good. FoPAL has been a valuable contributing member of our community.

What's being called into question is the seemingly inordinate amount of time that FoPAL requires of library staff regarding requests for _already donated_funds, or reception of funds designated by FoPAL.

All of the "problems" that you have brought forward - above - are directly related to FoPALS funding micromanagement. They are not - as you imply - due to structural or other inefficiencies in our library system.

Why doesn't FoPAL simply donate to a general category fund like "furnishings", or "technology", or "collections" and let the professionals - the librarians - decide where to spend it in an institution that they - the librarians - understand better than anyone else? That's what we hire and pay them for.

About Links+: the library has long considered an attempt to adopt Links+. It's not quite accurate to say that "staff has not requested it yet", and leave it at that. Your claim leaves an incomplete picture, relative to the current situation 'on the ground'.

The current constraint re: Links+ is that Palo Alto's library software is not compatible with Links+. This is common knowledge in the FoPAL organization. As you know, not requesting Links+ has nothing whatsoever with our library's inability to see the vcalue of Links+, as you sem to imply.

As you know (it's common knowledge at FoPAL) Palo Alto's library software vendor claims to have the Links+ incompatability problem solved, soon. In fact, the current library recommendation prepared by the Library Advisory Commission - with the outgoing director's blessing - has suggested that our library adopt Links+ as soon as possible.


Bob Moss:
FOPAL provides more funding and support than the library seems able to utilize.
---------
This is not accurate. In fact, the library has many needs, and I would venture again that most FoPAL subscribers are going to be surprised at the size of the amount of money that FoPAL is "holding back" in its reserve.

That money is going to be worth less (with inflation). Why not donate most of it now and let the library spend it in ways that our professional librarians think best, without FoPAL's time-draining requirements - requirements that act as a disincentive to librarians making requests for money that FoPAL members, and others in our community, trust is to be spent in the library, as soon as possible.


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Posted by Lenore Jones
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 9, 2006 at 9:21 am

Bob Moss does not mention the Library requests that FoPAL did not grant – for example, the library requested funding for the Silicon Valley Library Reads program. FoPAL granted the requests for the books, but not for staffing. Given that staffing is the greatest cost for this program, the library had to turn down the offer of the books. Staffing is the greatest cost for most programs. Even collections have a staffing cost as staff must select, order and process materials.

Perhaps it is time for FoPAL to fund complete programs, including the staffing element. Or better yet, donate the funds unencumbered, and trust the staff to do its job. (Just try it for a year or two, see how the money is used, see the results!)

Bob Moss also disagrees with my statement that FoPAL does not look at the needs of the whole city. I say this because at every public meeting held to review the LAC draft plan, vocal members of the FoPAL board said they could not support the LAC's plan. Why? Because although we recommended increased hours, improved collections and more public services space at the Downtown Library, we did not **guarantee** the continued existence of this branch. Vocal FoPAL Board members could not support an expanded Mitchell Park branch, which serves 55% of the city population, because somehow this would diminish their branch.

The branch issue is no longer an issue! There is a commitment by the council, city and library staff, and LAC to retain all branches. It is time for the FoPAL Board to recognize this and move on. It is time to improve services for the rest of the community.


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Posted by lenore jones
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 9, 2006 at 9:36 am

p.s. to my earlier comment:

Thank you to Bill D'Agostino and the PA Weekly for airing the "elephant in the room." It has been ignored for too long. Now that the issues are being discussed openly we have a better chance at resolving them.


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Posted by Bob Moss
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 9, 2006 at 9:08 pm

Bob Moss does not mention the Library requests that FoPAL did not grant – for example, the library requested funding for the Silicon Valley Library Reads program. FoPAL granted the requests for the books, but not for staffing. Given that staffing is the greatest cost for this program, the library had to turn down the offer of the books. Staffing is the greatest cost for most programs. Even collections have a staffing cost as staff must select, order and process materials.

Lenore is incorrect. The actual request for Silicon Valley Reads was as follows:
Contribution to Silicon Valley Reads c/o San Jose Public Library Foundation $2000;
PACL staff participation 40 hrs x $20/hr = $800
PACL sponsor event, pubilc speaker, publicity, etc. $2000
50 copies of books, not to exceed $100 Total $5800, of which $800 or 13.8% for staffing. The request was rejected because FOPAL had fully funded Silicon Valley Reads the past 3 years and staff support ws never requested. FOPAL and almost all other non-profits have problems justifying funding normal staff, so the $800 for staffin was rejected. The other $5000 was approved, but the entire grant then was rejected by Paula Simpson.


Perhaps it is time for FoPAL to fund complete programs, including the staffing element. Or better yet, donate the funds unencumbered, and trust the staff to do its job. (Just try it for a year or two, see how the money is used, see the results!)

FOPAL does fund entire programs, including 100% of the teens and childrens story hours and discussion groups, 100% of the loaner laptops, 100% of the color laser printers at every branch, 100% of the foreign language books, 100% of World Book On-line and other on-line resources, and 100% of participation in NatoinalLibrary Week. At no time an under no circumstances will any non-profit in it's right mind fund staffing and let the City divert the funds elsewhere. It also is absurd to suggest that any non-profit "donate the funds unencumbered". When Cable Co-op over $4.2 million in Legacy Grants we carefully encumbered them to be as sure as possible that the money would be used as agreed. My daughter-in-law is an executive at a major foundation with amost $0.5 billion is assets. When they make grants they require the money be spent as agreed, and if it isn't they insist it be returned.


Bob Moss also disagrees with my statement that FoPAL does not look at the needs of the whole city. I say this because at every public meeting held to review the LAC draft plan, vocal members of the FoPAL board said they could not support the LAC's plan. Why? Because although we recommended increased hours, improved collections and more public services space at the Downtown Library, we did not **guarantee** the continued existence of this branch. Vocal FoPAL Board members could not support an expanded Mitchell Park branch, which serves 55% of the city population, because somehow this would diminish their branch.

In fact the LAC proposal that was discussed at the 4 community meetings was basically dismissed by the City Council which then approved a significantly different plan. See the May 15, 2006 City Council minutes. Both members of the public who spoke at the 4 meetings and the Council were unhappy with the draft LAC proposals, and in the end the Council agreed with the survey results and the public comments and rejected many of the LAC recommendations.

The branch issue is no longer an issue! There is a commitment by the council, city and library staff, and LAC to retain all branches. It is time for the FoPAL Board to recognize this and move on. It is time to improve services for the rest of the community.

Agreed. And the first way to improve services is to increase hours of operation. We now have 4 branches open 196 hours/week (while Children's is renovated), and 55 FTE. In 2002 we had 6 branches open 278 hours/week and 51.7 FTE. How could we have so many more hours of operation with fewer staff and more branches? Simple, better management and priorities were to serve patrons first, not mis-allocate resources.




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Posted by Bob Moss
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 9, 2006 at 10:51 pm

Bob Moss:


They (the library) aren't spending much of the existing donations."

-----------
Sanford Forte said:

This isn't quite accurate. Often, infrastructure and other prerequisites don't permit instant deployment of donations. You are implying that the library is not efficiently using FoPAL donations.

____
Yes, that is exactly what I said. What "infrastructure and other prerequisites" apply to ordering books and DVDs? If librarians aren't capable of routinely ordering such materials they are in the wrong occupation. I don't think that's at all the problem, they just aren't using the funds available for some odd reason.

Sanford Forte said:
What surprises me - and many I've spoken to since the Weekly article appeared - is that FoPAL has accumulated $1.3M in _membership_donations (through book sales that derive from donated books) Why is FoPAL holding so much in reserve? Is this fair to FoPAL members, and subscribers who expect their money to be put directly and immediately to use?

____
I'm also surprised to see that since it is totally untrue. This fact was sent to Sanford the day after the article appeared, but he still uses the incorrect information. The $1.3 million figure was total assets as of June 30, 2005. That included $473,000 pledged for Children's Library renovation which was paid to the City in March, and $361,000 in Cable Co-op Legacy Grant funds, 4/9 of which must be spent for libraries in Menlo Park, Atherton and East Palo Alto and only for specified purposes. Another $40,000 is pledged for a new reference desk in Children's Library as part of the renovation. Another $40,000 was various specific grants and gifts that can only be used for those thing explicitly approved by donors, such as children's books. That accounts for $914,000 of the total funds. The endowment was about $240,000 at that time, so unencumbered funds amounted to less than $150,000, and that had to support normal operating expenses.

Sanford Forte said:
Further, why should FoPAL board members decide when, how, and where - in minute detail - donated funds are spent in the library? Why aren't turned over to the library general fund for disbursement in the library as the acting director and staff see fit? It would be a simple matter to monitor those funds, and have the library transparently account for every dollar spent, with credit going to FoPAL.

____
Library staff requested funds for specific purposes, but they were generic, not in minute detail, for example, DVDs, books, children's storytime, teen discussion, staff recognition (request was $1000, but FOPAL raised it to $1500). Asking that donations be spent as agreed is basic to donors and non-profits operations. FOPAL did not ask if the books would be by a particular aurhor, or on a specific topic, or what color the covers would be. The only requirement was that they be books. Same for the request for paperbacks. No minute details were required, just show us the invoice so that we can pay the vendor.

Bob Moss:

"Two years ago, FOPAL granted $10,000 for foreign-language books, but only $5,588 has been spent. Last year, staff requested $18,500 to lease best sellers, $19,900 for 1,000 new books, $7,000 for teen paperbacks, $2,538 for paperbacks and $7,906 for DVDs for Main and Mitchell Park libraries.

FOPAL approved all $55,844. Spending to date: $17,969 to lease best sellers, nothing for those other collection items. The library survey last February found expanding the collection is the public's highest priority -- $41,756 for collections is available but unspent."

---------
Sanford Forte said:
Your comments don't take into consideration that funds deployment _takes time_. This is an internal library operations matter. As long as the library is accounting for the donated funds, and there are eventual disbursement of funds, what's the problem? See my comment above.

_____
It has been 2 years and much of the money for foreign books is unspent even though staff said demand for such books is high. As for ordering books, paperbacks and DVDs, since when is that a major project requiring extensive "deployment"? Libraries are in the book business, so they should be able to order them, no? Did you recall the survey that found people badly want more books and other items in the collection and want collections expanded? Staff had been complaining that the budget didn't increase funds enough for purchasing books, etc. so here is over $41,000 that has been sitting unused for almost a year.

Sanford Forte siad:
It appears to me that FoPAL is holding needed funds as leverage, in an effort to control the way donated money is spent and deployed in the library. Doing so assumes that the FoPAL board knows more about what's good for the library than the library does.

______
We keep asking library staff why they don't ask for more and why they don't spend what we already approved. In the case of the $148,500 requested for this FY, the response was "Why are they asking for so little? Why only $15,000 for books?" Nobody is "holding needed funds for leverage", it's exactly the opposite. Do you recall the $100,000 FOPAL offer for a modular building to house staff at Main, and eliminate the need to spend over $30,000 relocating staff to Downtown? Is that what you call "holding needed funds for leverage"? Have you paid any attention the the repeated offers from FOPAL to provide at least partial funding for deployment of Link+? The City Council seems to think that having Link+ is a good idea since a collegues memo approving the concept is on the July 10 agenda.

Sanford Forte said:
Is this fair to FoPAL subscribership, the library, library staff, and those in our community who come to book sales thinking that their money is going directly to the library, instead of a huge "reserve fund"?

____
It would be nice to check the facts first, but that's just not Sanford's style. As noted there is no huge reserve fund, the article was wrong, the facts show it was wrong, so what is there about WRONG that can't be understood?

Sanfod said;
It makes sense to keep some small money in emergency reserve, but $1.3 MILLION?!

____
See above. Still WRONG!

Bob Moss:

"FOPAL is discussing grant requests for this year. Library staff requested only $148,500, of which $15,000 is for books and $25,000 is to lease new books. This seems low, particularly when patrons want more materials on the shelves."

-----------
Sanford Forte said;

Again, this is a matter of staff time to process requests from FoPAL. It's common knowledge that FoPAL requires library staff to do extremely detailed diligence when it makes a finding request to FoPAL. That translates to staff _time_, which translates to _real dollars, taxpayer dollars_ spent to satisfy FoPAL's diligence requirements.

____
Here is the reality of what's required of staff. FOPAL approved a grant request for $39,420 for DVDs for teens, Mitchell Park, College Terrace, Downtown, and Main. Staffer Vicki Tran E-mails an order for 25 DVD titles, some with as many as 8 copies, to Baker & Taylor at a cost of $934.07. Baker & Taylor ships the DVDs and sends the library an invoice for $934.07. The invoice plus a request to pay and identification of which grant to charge for the DVDs is put into a FOPAL file folder Downtown. The treasurer picks up the request and invoice, checks the amount and vendor, cuts a check and pays the bill. Time from when the invoice was put in the file folder until the check was sent was 3 weeks. Sounds really complex and time-consuming doesn't it? Guess how much more exciting, and how much more expensive,it would be going through the City purchasing department and having them place the order, get the invoice and cut the check to pay. Micromanged? Garbage!!

Sanford Forte said:
FoPAL requirements act as a real disincentive in this case. In all this, it certainly appears that FoPAL wants to micromanage the disbursement of funds contributed by its membership.

____
Just because Paula Simpson claimed she was being micromanaged doesn't mean she was. In her case micromanagement meant anyone that didn't agree with her and failed to fall in line and do exactly as she wished.

Sanford Forte said:
FoPAL also requires costly staff time when it makes an offer to donate money to the library. In fact, the real value fo FoPAL's monetary contributions are often significantly _decreased_ in value, when taking dollars that go to staff time for FoPAL diligence is taken into consideration. This appears to be a very inefficient process, and not responsible when it comes to maximizing book donations, and the money raised at book sales.

____
Total nonsense, absolutely untrue, no relationship to reality, wrong, and completely offbase. Someone who isn't at all involved with how staff asked for grants, how staff submits bills, and how FOPAL or any other donor actually processes payment is not even marginally qualified to make such outrageous, incorrect,error-filed accusations.

Sanford Forte said:
Again, why isn't the money raised during book sales **immediately** placed into the library's general fund? This is what most FoPAL subscribers and members think is happening, but apparently, it's not. I find this disturbing.

____
Because FOPAL isn't run by a bunch of idiots. No responsible donor would use funds to indesciminately pay into a city accout with no idea what the money would be used for, no accountability, and no recourse if we found the contributions were for example all used to attend conferences in Maui, or buy the Director a Mercedes. If donors or book buyers really think money is just given directly to the city with no requirements or accountability, they have been very quiet about it. Much more common is asking that funds be used for specific purposes, such as upgrading Children's Library, or books of poetry, or by particular authors, or children's books and programs. Some of the requests that FOPAL didn't fund last year were $15,000 for anything the staff wanted to do, and $8000 to send 4 staff to the American Library Association Conference. These are costs that should be paret of the normal Citybudget and operations, and are inappropriate for a non-profit to fund, particularly when there are so many needs for expanded collections and on-line services.


Bob Moss:

"Lenore Jones is quoted as saying that FOPAL doesn't always look at the whole picture. Untrue. It was FOPAL that got funding to install wireless hot spots in all branches, provided color laser printers and 17 laptops for use by patrons, pays for on-line subscriptions and is in the forefront of adapting Link+ for Palo Alto's library software currently incompatible with Link+."

------------
Sanfor Forte said:

Nobody is saying that FoPAL doesn't donate money, or do good. FoPAL has been a valuable contributing member of our community.

What's being called into question is the seemingly inordinate amount of time that FoPAL requires of library staff regarding requests for _already donated_funds, or reception of funds designated by FoPAL.

____
Again, the requests of staff to show what grants are used for are minimal, just enough to verify that the money was spent as agreed.

Sanford Fore said:
All of the "problems" that you have brought forward - above - are directly related to FoPALS funding micromanagement. They are not - as you imply - due to structural or other inefficiencies in our library system.

_____
Wrong! They are directly and fully due to staff failure to use and spend the already approved grants, not to any micromanagement or unreasonable demands by FOPAL. Get off the Paula Simpson horse, she's gone, her mis-statements should have gone with her.

Sanford Forte said:
Why doesn't FoPAL simply donate to a general category fund like "furnishings", or "technology", or "collections" and let the professionals - the librarians - decide where to spend it in an institution that they - the librarians - understand better than anyone else? That's what we hire and pay them for.

_____
Again it was the staff that requested what should be funded last year. Paula later said it would be nice to have umbrella tables for the outdoor patio Downtown. FOPAL amended the grants to the library to add $10,000 for furniture, and then spent$6250 for outdoor tables and chairs. All of this happened within 2 months. If staff has reasonable requests they are funded and the items purchased. This year the requests are more generic, and they are being considered carefully. A major concern is the ratio of spending between books and DVDs. Patrons and the survey indicate a desire for more books, but none of the funding for books last year was spent, and some oversight is needed to assure that money for books approved this year will actually be spent that way.

Sanford Forte said:
About Links+: the library has long considered an attempt to adopt Links+. It's not quite accurate to say that "staff has not requested it yet", and leave it at that. Your claim leaves an incomplete picture, relative to the current situation 'on the ground'.
___
No, it is completely accurate. Neither last year's request nor the one supplied a month ago for this year ask for any funding for Link+. Early this year the Link+ vendor offered to work with Palo Alto libraries to adapt the system to the library software which is different from that used by all other California libraries. So far there has been no reply. It is true and current that Palo Alto libraries have made no effort to implement Link+.

Sanford Forte said:
The current constraint re: Links+ is that Palo Alto's library software is not compatible with Links+. This is common knowledge in the FoPAL organization. As you know, not requesting Links+ has nothing whatsoever with our library's inability to see the vcalue of Links+, as you seem to imply.

As you know (it's common knowledge at FoPAL) Palo Alto's library software vendor claims to have the Links+ incompatability problem solved, soon. In fact, the current library recommendation prepared by the Library Advisory Commission - with the outgoing director's blessing - has suggested that our library adopt Links+ as soon as possible.

____
One of the FOPAL directors has been talking to Link+ and working actively to resolve any remaining issues with adapting it for our libraries. The software incompatibility has been resolved, and staff was informed of this. Cost estimates for implimenting Link+ were given to Paula Simpson months ago. FOPAL has informally said that much of the start-up funding could be provided by FOPAL. His work has not been responded to in any depth by our staff. The LAC recommendation for Link+ is not reflected in the current wish list from staff to FOPAL.

Bob Moss:

FOPAL provides more funding and support than the library seems able to utilize.

Sanford Forte said:
---------

This is not accurate. In fact, the library has many needs, and I would venture again that most FoPAL subscribers are going to be surprised at the size of the amount of money that FoPAL is "holding back" in its reserve.

____
The phantom reserves have already been debunked. As for satisfying more of the library's unmet needs, they can't spend over $72,000 that FOPAL granted last year, and they only asked for $148,500 this year. What are all those many needs that the library staff didn't think were important enough to ask for? Link+? More foreign language books? More children's programs? More books and DVDs? As noted above Diane Jennings was asked to increae her requests for funding, especially for books, but also for Link+ and other useful programs and functions.


That money is going to be worth less (with inflation). Why not donate most of it now and let the library spend it in ways that our professional librarians think best, without FoPAL's time-draining requirements - requirements that act as a disincentive to librarians making requests for money that FoPAL members, and others in our community, trust is to be spent in the library, as soon as possible.
Posted by Sanford Forte, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2006 at 1:14 am


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Posted by Sanford Forte
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 10, 2006 at 12:52 am

Bob Moss (on the details of Silicon Valley Reads):
"50 copies of books, not to exceed $100 Total $5800, of which $800 or 13.8% for staffing. The request was rejected because FOPAL had fully funded Silicon Valley Reads the past 3 years and staff support ws never requested. FOPAL and almost all other non-profits have problems justifying funding normal staff, so the $800 for staffin was rejected. The other $5000 was approved, but the entire grant then was rejected by Paula Simpson."


Might it be that Paula Simpson rejected the grant because the diligence required by FoPAL for the grant was excessive? Might it be that the grant was rejected due to the onerous process that FoPAL puts library staff through when offering - or taking requests for - grants? Might it be that the grant was rejected due to other weighty variables that make dealing with FoPAL's "contributions" less than a happy event for those that staff the library? There's a devil in the details. Just as there was a devil in the details about your earlier statement claiming that the library has not requested or heavily investigated the adoption of Links+. You were mistaken about that, too.

It's easy to quote chapter and verse on the details of some small portion of library operations as an outsider, and then attempt to make a "Monday Morning Quarterback" case from that. That said, the latter what some few FoPAL board members are doing, and is representative of the case I made in my last post, claiming that certain members of the FoPAL board assume they can run the library better than library staff, or whoever its current administrator happens to be.

In fact, some FoPAL board members have put themselves in the position of meddling - and meddling deeply - into library operations via the 'requirements' and 'conditions' that they compel in the letting of donations to the library.

In many years of private and sometimes public service, I have never quite seen anything like this. This meddling has created a demoralization of staff, dissension and confusion among the public about our library, unacceptable delays on moving forward with new library plans, and general inefficiencies in library operations. All this represents a pure play for institutional power that is FAR beyond FoPAL's real contributions to the library - monetary and otherwise.

In fact, it's been estimated that FoPAL's fiscal contributions to the library amount to (minus) 0 - 2%. One might ask: "how is it possible that FoPAL contributions might even be in the "minus" category?".

When staff time to prepare for FoPAL contributions (essentially, FoPAL _member and donor_ contributions) is taken into consideration, the real value of FoPAL donations is - in reality - _decreased_ by the dollar cost of staff time to process FoPAL contributions. Do FoPAL's membership and contributors know about this? If not, they should.

Further, your - and some few FoPAL board members _harassment_ (there's no other word for it, in my opinion) of Paula Simpson didn't do very much to help make her receptive to FoPAL offerings.

In my opinion, some FoPAL board members cost Palo Alto the services of one of the more visionary and forward-looking library directors around. She will not be an easy person to replace. Further, word is out among the library community about what kind of living hell can be made for any library director that doesn't buckle to the demands of the most vocal Palo Altans – some few board members of FoPAL among them.

There is something gone _badly_ wrong with the relationship between FoPAL and the library. FoPAL bears significant responsibility for that, but wants to make it look like a library problem. The library staff can't defend itself against the constant attacks that some relatively few members of this community want to level at it - as such, library staff is easy prey to criticisms that come one after another from certain FoPAL board members about almost every aspect of librarianship in Palo Alto.
***********************************

Bob Moss:
"FOPAL does fund entire programs, including 100% of the teens and children's story hours and discussion groups, 100% of the loaner laptops, 100% of the color laser printers at every branch, 100% of the foreign language books, 100% of World Book On-line and other on-line resources, and 100% of participation in NatoinalLibrary Week. At no time an under no circumstances will any non-profit in it's right mind fund staffing and let the City divert the funds elsewhere. It also is absurd to suggest that any non-profit "donate the funds unencumbered". When Cable Co-op over $4.2 million in Legacy Grants we carefully encumbered them to be as sure as possible that the money would be used as agreed. My daughter-in-law is an executive at a major foundation with almost $0.5 billion is assets. When they make grants they require the money be spent as agreed, and if it isn't they insist it be returned."


Nobody has suggested that FoPAL contribute to Palo Alto's general fund. The suggestions made would have FoPAL sending the bulk of its trusting members and contributors contributions _directly_ to the library. This is the expectation that members and contributors have; it's apparently not being fulfilled.

In no way should the onerous requirements that FoPAL places on library donations continue as it has. It's time that our City Council or some other body require that donations made to public institutions be sent to that institution in general categories - e.g. "furnishings", "technology", "collections", "programs", etc, and let the _library staff_ determine how and where that money gets spent.

Again, why is FoPAL holding a $1.3 MILLION surplus? That's money should have long ago been earmarked for library operations. Somehow, FoPAL's board appears to feel that the library should "ask" for the money (with the onerous strings, diligence, and controls that FoPAL demands). If anything appears absurd, it's the latter. Just put the money where the public wants it to go when it's donating and buying books – directly to the library.

Who knows more about the library's needs than the local librarians, and the many thousands of public visitors that feed back to those librarians what they would like to see in their local library? FoPAL, in hoarding contributions, and insisting on the amount of control that it demands in the disbursal process is co-opting that process, and opting for a kind of operational influence and control that is entirely inappropriate.

Also, there is a world of difference between a multi-billion dollar foundation (like the one your daughter works with) and a local "Friends-of-the-library" organization that is collecting money for a local library from local book sales. The money collected is supposed to be funneled directly to the library, in all haste (with some small reserve maintained).

From there, due diligence by library staff determines where and how it will be spent _in the library_, with fiscal reporting-out to the donor (FoPAL). How the current situation that permits FoPAL to maintain excessive reserves has come into play is something that should be explained to the many donors to FoPAL, who expect that their donated money is going to the library, and not being help back in a way that compels extreme diligence from the library to use that money. This entire situation smacks of a desire for FoPAL to overtly have a far larger hand in library operations than is healthy.




********************
Bob Moss:
In fact the LAC proposal that was discussed at the 4 community meetings was basically dismissed by the City Council which then approved a significantly different plan. See the May 15, 2006 City Council minutes. Both members of the public who spoke at the 4 meetings and the Council were unhappy with the draft LAC proposals, and in the end the Council agreed with the survey results and the public comments and rejected many of the LAC recommendations.
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With respect, the above is as close to distortion as one can get, given the reality of the 4 public meetings in question. In spite of the LAC's - and library administration's - efforts to assure the public (including FoPAL) that the recommendations were _draft_ recommendations, subject to change, many FoPAL board members came out to those meetings with criticisms that assumed the _draft_ recommendations were final.

I – and others - saw a very-well orchestrated attempt by some FoPAL board members to slight the LAC's hard work and diligence during those public meetings. In fact, many of the public spoke positively of the draft recommendations, including other institutional supporters of the library. Why not mention that fact?

About Council addendums to the draft: In fact, there were several addendums placed by the City Council on the _draft_ LAC proposal. Most of those addendums were prompted by FoPAL lobbying, and the thrust of negativity spewed forth by a very small segment of our community during sparsely attended public meetings (as stated earlier, many citizens commented positively on the draft recommendations), and during oral argument in front of Council.

In fact, the draft recommendations were (and are, currently) replete with deep operational details that were put in the draft because if the constant pressure brought by FoPAL-inspired diligence. It seems that if every nuance of any decision or plan regarding the library wasn't placed in the draft, then the library director, or the LAC was "hiding" something. Thus, we ended up with what was supposed to be a large-scale strategic document, filled with small operational detail that was fair game for anyone who wanted to find fault. The result was a duck shoot for some few FoPAL members who want the library "their way, or the highway".

About the survey results: it's been some FoPAL board member's intention to skew those results in favor of the minutiae of operational control that they would like to impose on whoever the current library director happens to be.

As you well know, almost anything can be found to satisfy ANY argument one makes about a survey. One could say that surveys are like the Bible, open to wide interpretation.
In fact, a community survey is just ONE tool for strategizing institutional futures. Staff experience and other variables are also necessary.

From the very inception of the library survey, some FoPAL board members did what they could to influence questions placed on, and the outcome of, the survey. This was in spite of the fact that the LAC took a long time to find a survey company that had hefty experience with public library surveys in California. So it was that some members of FoPAL's board thought they knew more about library surveys than Godbe (the survey research firm). There's more to be said about this; I'll save that for another time.

In fact, several of the public who spoke at the 4 public meetings were FoPAL board members. Many people – some FoPAL board members – attended more than one meeting, and spoke at more than one meeting. Those were the most negative commentators at those sparsely attended meetings.

That the community meetings were not well attended is something you should know, because you attended some of them. Why not mention that fact?

In my opinion, and in the opinion of many others I've spoken with, those public meetings, they were especially not well attended by those who are the primary drivers of library service in our community - i.e. parents with children. The latter is the large "silent majority" in our community that wants a sustainable library system that scales well into the future; it's the silent majority that is being led astray by the divisive meddling of some few members of FoPAL's board – a meddling that should come to a halt as soon as possible.

We're never going to have a cohesive library system here that as long as some few individuals think that they can dictate the way our library will be run - or assume that they have the right to question every single operational decision that doesn't go their way. Public institutions simply cannot run if this kind of interference is permitted.


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Bob Moss:
".... the first way to improve services is to increase hours of operation. We now have 4 branches open 196 hours/week (while Children's is renovated), and 55 FTE. In 2002 we had 6 branches open 278 hours/week and 51.7 FTE. How could we have so many more hours of operation with fewer staff and more branches? Simple, better management and priorities were to serve patrons first, not mis-allocate resources.
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First, your assumptions that the library's priorities are NOT to serve patrons first, and NOT to properly allocate resources are insulting - and absurd - on their face.

Interesting - your analysis appears to indicate that you have the answer to improving library operations. Your answer perfectly reinforces my - and many others - notion that some FoPAL board members think they can run the library better than paid staff. "Better management?" That's YOUR version of management. How about letting the professional librarians decide what's good for the library, and the library community?

In fact, it's assumptions like this that cause problems in our community – and circulate among – and from - a small core of FoPAL board members who appear to answer to no one.

There has been an "elephant" in the room for too long in our local library system. Either FoPAL finds its way back to being a truly supportive member of our community as a transparent transmitter of donated funds, or it will find itself increasingly marginalized as an organization. This would be a shame, because some members of FoPAL's board, as well as the vast majority of FoPAL donors and members trust that FoPAL is funneling their respective contributions to the library in a way that enhances the institution, and the public's delight in same, not the other way around.

Might I suggest that you and other FoPAL board members that agree with your very public stance take a hard look at your organization's mandate, and reconsider the current misdirection that your organization has taken?

Perhaps then FoPAL can fulfill its public mandate as a supporter of our public library in ways that most members and donors to FoPAL expect.


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Posted by Sanford Forte
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 10, 2006 at 2:26 am



Bob Moss:
They (the library) aren't spending much of the existing donations."

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Sanford Forte said:

This isn't quite accurate. Often, infrastructure and other prerequisites don't permit instant deployment of donations. You are implying that the library is not efficiently using FoPAL donations.

____

Yes, that is exactly what I said. What "infrastructure and other prerequisites" apply to ordering books and DVDs? If librarians aren't capable of routinely ordering such materials they are in the wrong occupation. I don't think that's at all the problem, they just aren't using the funds available for some odd reason.

Sanford Forte said:

What surprises me - and many I've spoken to since the Weekly article appeared - is that FoPAL has accumulated $1.3M in _membership_donations (through book sales that derive from donated books) Why is FoPAL holding so much in reserve? Is this fair to FoPAL members, and subscribers who expect their money to be put directly and immediately to use?

____

I'm also surprised to see that since it is totally untrue. This fact was sent to Sanford the day after the article appeared, but he still uses the incorrect information. The $1.3 million figure was total assets as of June 30, 2005. That included $473,000 pledged for Children's Library renovation which was paid to the City in March, and $361,000 in Cable Co-op Legacy Grant funds, 4/9 of which must be spent for libraries in Menlo Park, Atherton and East Palo Alto and only for specified purposes. Another $40,000 is pledged for a new reference desk in Children's Library as part of the renovation. Another $40,000 was various specific grants and gifts that can only be used for those thing explicitly approved by donors, such as children's books. That accounts for $914,000 of the total funds. The endowment was about $240,000 at that time, so unencumbered funds amounted to less than $150,000, and that had to support normal operating expenses.

Sanford Forte said:

Further, why should FoPAL board members decide when, how, and where - in minute detail - donated funds are spent in the library? Why aren't turned over to the library general fund for disbursement in the library as the acting director and staff see fit? It would be a simple matter to monitor those funds, and have the library transparently account for every dollar spent, with credit going to FoPAL.

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Library staff requested funds for specific purposes, but they were generic, not in minute detail, for example, DVDs, books, children's storytime, teen discussion, staff recognition (request was $1000, but FOPAL raised it to $1500). Asking that donations be spent as agreed is basic to donors and non-profits operations. FOPAL did not ask if the books would be by a particular aurhor, or on a specific topic, or what color the covers would be. The only requirement was that they be books. Same for the request for paperbacks. No minute details were required, just show us the invoice so that we can pay the vendor.

Bob Moss:

"Two years ago, FOPAL granted $10,000 for foreign-language books, but only $5,588 has been spent. Last year, staff requested $18,500 to lease best sellers, $19,900 for 1,000 new books, $7,000 for teen paperbacks, $2,538 for paperbacks and $7,906 for DVDs for Main and Mitchell Park libraries.

FOPAL approved all $55,844. Spending to date: $17,969 to lease best sellers, nothing for those other collection items. The library survey last February found expanding the collection is the public's highest priority -- $41,756 for collections is available but unspent."

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Sanford Forte said:

Your comments don't take into consideration that funds deployment _takes time_. This is an internal library operations matter. As long as the library is accounting for the donated funds, and there are eventual disbursement of funds, what's the problem? See my comment above.

_____

It has been 2 years and much of the money for foreign books is unspent even though staff said demand for such books is high. As for ordering books, paperbacks and DVDs, since when is that a major project requiring extensive "deployment"? Libraries are in the book business, so they should be able to order them, no? Did you recall the survey that found people badly want more books and other items in the collection and want collections expanded? Staff had been complaining that the budget didn't increase funds enough for purchasing books, etc. so here is over $41,000 that has been sitting unused for almost a year.

Sanford Forte siad:

It appears to me that FoPAL is holding needed funds as leverage, in an effort to control the way donated money is spent and deployed in the library. Doing so assumes that the FoPAL board knows more about what's good for the library than the library does.

______

We keep asking library staff why they don't ask for more and why they don't spend what we already approved. In the case of the $148,500 requested for this FY, the response was "Why are they asking for so little? Why only $15,000 for books?" Nobody is "holding needed funds for leverage", it's exactly the opposite. Do you recall the $100,000 FOPAL offer for a modular building to house staff at Main, and eliminate the need to spend over $30,000 relocating staff to Downtown? Is that what you call "holding needed funds for leverage"? Have you paid any attention the the repeated offers from FOPAL to provide at least partial funding for deployment of Link+? The City Council seems to think that having Link+ is a good idea since a collegues memo approving the concept is on the July 10 agenda.

Sanford Forte said:

Is this fair to FoPAL subscribership, the library, library staff, and those in our community who come to book sales thinking that their money is going directly to the library, instead of a huge "reserve fund"?

____

It would be nice to check the facts first, but that's just not Sanford's style. As noted there is no huge reserve fund, the article was wrong, the facts show it was wrong, so what is there about WRONG that can't be understood?

Sanfod said;

It makes sense to keep some small money in emergency reserve, but $1.3 MILLION?!

____

See above. Still WRONG!

Bob Moss:

"FOPAL is discussing grant requests for this year. Library staff requested only $148,500, of which $15,000 is for books and $25,000 is to lease new books. This seems low, particularly when patrons want more materials on the shelves."

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Sanford Forte said;

Again, this is a matter of staff time to process requests from FoPAL. It's common knowledge that FoPAL requires library staff to do extremely detailed diligence when it makes a finding request to FoPAL. That translates to staff _time_, which translates to _real dollars, taxpayer dollars_ spent to satisfy FoPAL's diligence requirements.

____

Here is the reality of what's required of staff. FOPAL approved a grant request for $39,420 for DVDs for teens, Mitchell Park, College Terrace, Downtown, and Main. Staffer Vicki Tran E-mails an order for 25 DVD titles, some with as many as 8 copies, to Baker & Taylor at a cost of $934.07. Baker & Taylor ships the DVDs and sends the library an invoice for $934.07. The invoice plus a request to pay and identification of which grant to charge for the DVDs is put into a FOPAL file folder Downtown. The treasurer picks up the request and invoice, checks the amount and vendor, cuts a check and pays the bill. Time from when the invoice was put in the file folder until the check was sent was 3 weeks. Sounds really complex and time-consuming doesn't it? Guess how much more exciting, and how much more expensive,it would be going through the City purchasing department and having them place the order, get the invoice and cut the check to pay. Micromanged? Garbage!!

Sanford Forte said:

FoPAL requirements act as a real disincentive in this case. In all this, it certainly appears that FoPAL wants to micromanage the disbursement of funds contributed by its membership.

____

Just because Paula Simpson claimed she was being micromanaged doesn't mean she was. In her case micromanagement meant anyone that didn't agree with her and failed to fall in line and do exactly as she wished.

Sanford Forte said:

FoPAL also requires costly staff time when it makes an offer to donate money to the library. In fact, the real value fo FoPAL's monetary contributions are often significantly _decreased_ in value, when taking dollars that go to staff time for FoPAL diligence is taken into consideration. This appears to be a very inefficient process, and not responsible when it comes to maximizing book donations, and the money raised at book sales.

____

Total nonsense, absolutely untrue, no relationship to reality, wrong, and completely offbase. Someone who isn't at all involved with how staff asked for grants, how staff submits bills, and how FOPAL or any other donor actually processes payment is not even marginally qualified to make such outrageous, incorrect,error-filed accusations.

Sanford Forte said:

Again, why isn't the money raised during book sales **immediately** placed into the library's general fund? This is what most FoPAL subscribers and members think is happening, but apparently, it's not. I find this disturbing.

____

Because FOPAL isn't run by a bunch of idiots. No responsible donor would use funds to indesciminately pay into a city accout with no idea what the money would be used for, no accountability, and no recourse if we found the contributions were for example all used to attend conferences in Maui, or buy the Director a Mercedes. If donors or book buyers really think money is just given directly to the city with no requirements or accountability, they have been very quiet about it. Much more common is asking that funds be used for specific purposes, such as upgrading Children's Library, or books of poetry, or by particular authors, or children's books and programs. Some of the requests that FOPAL didn't fund last year were $15,000 for anything the staff wanted to do, and $8000 to send 4 staff to the American Library Association Conference. These are costs that should be paret of the normal Citybudget and operations, and are inappropriate for a non-profit to fund, particularly when there are so many needs for expanded collections and on-line services.

Bob Moss:

"Lenore Jones is quoted as saying that FOPAL doesn't always look at the whole picture. Untrue. It was FOPAL that got funding to install wireless hot spots in all branches, provided color laser printers and 17 laptops for use by patrons, pays for on-line subscriptions and is in the forefront of adapting Link+ for Palo Alto's library software currently incompatible with Link+."

------------

Sanfor Forte said:

Nobody is saying that FoPAL doesn't donate money, or do good. FoPAL has been a valuable contributing member of our community.

What's being called into question is the seemingly inordinate amount of time that FoPAL requires of library staff regarding requests for _already donated_funds, or reception of funds designated by FoPAL.

____

Again, the requests of staff to show what grants are used for are minimal, just enough to verify that the money was spent as agreed.

Sanford Fore said:

All of the "problems" that you have brought forward - above - are directly related to FoPALS funding micromanagement. They are not - as you imply - due to structural or other inefficiencies in our library system.

_____

Wrong! They are directly and fully due to staff failure to use and spend the already approved grants, not to any micromanagement or unreasonable demands by FOPAL. Get off the Paula Simpson horse, she's gone, her mis-statements should have gone with her.

Sanford Forte said:

Why doesn't FoPAL simply donate to a general category fund like "furnishings", or "technology", or "collections" and let the professionals - the librarians - decide where to spend it in an institution that they - the librarians - understand better than anyone else? That's what we hire and pay them for.

_____

Again it was the staff that requested what should be funded last year. Paula later said it would be nice to have umbrella tables for the outdoor patio Downtown. FOPAL amended the grants to the library to add $10,000 for furniture, and then spent$6250 for outdoor tables and chairs. All of this happened within 2 months. If staff has reasonable requests they are funded and the items purchased. This year the requests are more generic, and they are being considered carefully. A major concern is the ratio of spending between books and DVDs. Patrons and the survey indicate a desire for more books, but none of the funding for books last year was spent, and some oversight is needed to assure that money for books approved this year will actually be spent that way.

Sanford Forte said:

About Links+: the library has long considered an attempt to adopt Links+. It's not quite accurate to say that "staff has not requested it yet", and leave it at that. Your claim leaves an incomplete picture, relative to the current situation 'on the ground'.

___

No, it is completely accurate. Neither last year's request nor the one supplied a month ago for this year ask for any funding for Link+. Early this year the Link+ vendor offered to work with Palo Alto libraries to adapt the system to the library software which is different from that used by all other California libraries. So far there has been no reply. It is true and current that Palo Alto libraries have made no effort to implement Link+.

Sanford Forte said:

The current constraint re: Links+ is that Palo Alto's library software is not compatible with Links+. This is common knowledge in the FoPAL organization. As you know, not requesting Links+ has nothing whatsoever with our library's inability to see the vcalue of Links+, as you seem to imply.

As you know (it's common knowledge at FoPAL) Palo Alto's library software vendor claims to have the Links+ incompatability problem solved, soon. In fact, the current library recommendation prepared by the Library Advisory Commission - with the outgoing director's blessing - has suggested that our library adopt Links+ as soon as possible.

____

One of the FOPAL directors has been talking to Link+ and working actively to resolve any remaining issues with adapting it for our libraries. The software incompatibility has been resolved, and staff was informed of this. Cost estimates for implimenting Link+ were given to Paula Simpson months ago. FOPAL has informally said that much of the start-up funding could be provided by FOPAL. His work has not been responded to in any depth by our staff. The LAC recommendation for Link+ is not reflected in the current wish list from staff to FOPAL.

Bob Moss:

FOPAL provides more funding and support than the library seems able to utilize.

Sanford Forte said:

---------

This is not accurate. In fact, the library has many needs, and I would venture again that most FoPAL subscribers are going to be surprised at the size of the amount of money that FoPAL is "holding back" in its reserve.

____

The phantom reserves have already been debunked. As for satisfying more of the library's unmet needs, they can't spend over $72,000 that FOPAL granted last year, and they only asked for $148,500 this year. What are all those many needs that the library staff didn't think were important enough to ask for? Link+? More foreign language books? More children's programs? More books and DVDs? As noted above Diane Jennings was asked to increae her requests for funding, especially for books, but also for Link+ and other useful programs and functions.

That money is going to be worth less (with inflation). Why not donate most of it now and let the library spend it in ways that our professional librarians think best, without FoPAL's time-draining requirements - requirements that act as a disincentive to librarians making requests for money that FoPAL members, and others in our community, trust is to be spent in the library, as soon as possible.

**********
**********
**********
Rather than answer Bob Moss's detailed statements - statements that I trust will reveal to any cogent reader that Mr. Moss, and those FoPAL members who agree with his opinion of our library are TOO INVOLVED with the details of running OUR (the Palo Alto community's) library. Yes, dare one say that the Palo Alto Public Library belongs to _everyone_ in Palo Alto, and not just to Mr. Moss and a relative few others.

This is a "dirty-little-secret" that our library staff and public (unknowingly) has endured for too long a time. Now it's time for Mr. Moss and FoPAL to pull back its horns and become COOPERATIVE partners with the institution that it is supposed to be helping.

Mr. Moss can quote chapter and verse on the donations that FoPAL has made (really, that it's many donors and members have made), but again - as said elsewhere - the devil is in the details of those donations, and how money that FoPAL raises is used as a lever to interfere with library operations.

Anyone taking the time to read these posts will clearly witness the low esteem that library staff is held in Mr. Moss opinion. Others on the FoPAL board (not all) share that opinion.

Mr. Moss pressumes that just because certain operations don't go his way - or as quickly as he would like - that our library staff must be incompetent. That's clearly the implication. How unfortunate for someone from the "Friends" of the Library to be making these statements! It's easy to Monday Morning Quarterback, Mr. Moss.

Note that Mr. Moss will say over and over that library staff is inefficient. This is truly an unfortunate and dismal thing to be said, publicly, by someone who purports to be a board member of a library "Friends" group. His views, sadly, are also held by an important core group of FoPAL's board. In sum, I believe this to be a toxic problem for the well-meaning members and donors of FoPAL, as well as those FoPAL board members who disagree with some of the current heavy-handed tactics used by Mr. Moss and those that agree with him.

Has Mr. Moss said anything about how some of his board members violated confidentiality agreements when they requested that ONE of their members see a pre-publication version of the Library Community Survey, and how that member then spread that confidential copy to other FoPAL board members for review, so that cooperative opinion could influence the nature and tone ofo questions on the survey? This is just ONE of more than one serious breach of trust that has been committed by some members of the FoPAL board.

As for Mr. Moss statement about my error - and I freely admit the error - regarding the total amount of reserve held by FoPAL, I clearly did _not_ receive information to the contrary of what I read in the Weekly article. I retract any statements made in error about FoPAL's reserve. However, does this really change the main thrust of my criticism about the way FoPAL is currently run, and the inefficiencies and community dissesion that it causes? Not really.

My error about the FoPAL reserve notwithstanding, it remains that FoPAL require inordinate amounts of staff time for contributions diligence, and has made life a living hell for any librarian or library administrator that won't bend to its desires. This is an INAPPROPRIATE role for a local funding organization. One need only look at the disdain for staff that Mr. Moss illustrates as he details every minute failing - from his OUTSIDER perspective (although Mr. Moss implies by his words and actions that he knows more than any librarian) - of library operations that don't fill his every expectation.

Mr. Moss comments about the $100K modular building are disingenuous. Instead of accepting tactical operational decisions made by the library director regarding the deployment of books and space during the construction of Children's library, he and some few FoPAL board members took it upon themselves to make a very public, distorted case that attempted to make Ms. Simpson and anyone else that agreed with her look like they didn't know what they were talking about. They made a public mockery of her plans to deal with many aspects of Children's temporary closing during construction. It was a sad and embarrassing affair; one that diod not reflect well on the good work that FoPAL has done in the past.

Mr. Moss, and FoPAL, after having their offer for the $100K module rebuked - for sound operational reasons - by Ms. Simpson and the LAC, tried to do an end run and slip the request through City Council - a move that would have gone around Ms. Simpson's and the LAC's decision to continue as planned.

Thankfully, our City Council saw through this thinly veiled attempt to control basic library operations, and frustrate Ms. Simpson in her plans to make the Chiuldren's move as efficiently and economically as possible.

Further, I suspect that some FoPAL board members may be in violation of FOPAL's non-profit charter, as some few of its board members cleverly make statements that are representative of board positions as their own, or as members of other organizations (like neighborhood associations). These statements and positions - lobbied to voting bodies - are clearly statements that can (and will) effect the outcome of public elections where revenue bonds come into play. Perhaps FoPAL board members who engage in this kind of disingenuous lobbying might rehink either their public positions, or their place on a nonprofit board. They can't - and shouldn't - have it both ways.

I, for one, will not be renewing my FoPAL membership until the current egregious abuses of that organization cease and desist. I know several others who feel the same way, and have acted on their convictions. The word is spreading.

I also have it on good authority that a former board member of FoPAL isi so upset with the current leadership that s/he has not renewed, and is donating books to Menlo Park's Friends group. Nice going, Mr. Moss.

Again, can any reader laboring through this thread think of any other library "Friends" group that has caused this much community rancor? I can't.

Let's hope that those FoPAL board members who have respect for our library (they do exist, outnumbered by the current core group), as well as the well-meaning and dedicated volunteers at FoPAL, and FoPAL's dedicated donors and citizen-buyers at their book sales do something about a core group of FoPAL's board that has run amok with it's power of the donated dollar's purse.

My hope is that this dialogue will spur FoPAL members to look carefully into their organization's present leadership, and ask some very hard questions.

My final note to Mr. Moss, and those on the FoPAL board who agree with him:

Let our librarians run our library, Mr. Moss. That's what we trust and pay them for. They're doing a wonderful job. They work hard and faithfully every day in sometimes extraordinarily challenged conditions. The last thing they need is the kind of meddling interference that you and others on the FoPAL board that agree with you level on them, and as a result, our community.

If you don't like the way the library is being run, or operates, might I suggest you put in an application and work from inside the system to change it, rather than using your position on the FoPAL board to take cheap potshots at, and create mayhem in, our wonderful library system.




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Posted by a real friend of the library
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 10, 2006 at 9:23 pm

I am a member of FoPAL but I do not believe the board represents me, or the memebership in general. How do we go about influencing the next Board election of FoPAL? The nominating committee is a clique, as evidenced by Levinsky having been president these least couple of years. It's time that the Real Friends take back FoPAL. (Sanford - Maybe you could be a write in candidate)


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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 11, 2006 at 4:36 am

I am skeptical of Sanford Forte's claim "... some of his [FOPAL's] board members violated confidentiality agreements when they requested that ONE of their members see a pre-publication version of the Library Community Survey, and how that member then spread that confidential copy to other FoPAL board members for review, so that cooperative opinion could influence the nature and tone ofo questions on the survey?"

I was at the City's public outreach meeting on what should be in the survey and made suggestions about specific topics as well as advocating strongly that the survey include a question about how the respondent personally used the library, not on how they thought the overall community used the library, and that this emphasis needed to be stated forcefully. I knew the FOPAL member of the advisory group who was on the advisory group for the survey and asked him if they had gotten the focus right. He apologized that he couldn't tell me because the draft was confidential. Turns out that the consultant, and whomever supervised them, badly botched this portion of the questionnaire - They made an amateur mistake in the wording of the question and got nonsense results:
- 57% of the respondents stated that adult literary tutoring was an important service for the library to provide to them (over 90% of adult Palo Altans have gone to college and 50% have at least some graduate school);
- 63% said they were seniors who found outreach services important (but 68% reported that no seniors lived in their household)

The second half of Mr. Forte's claim - that of their intent - is unsupported. I am aligned *philosophically* with the people he attacks (I am not a member of FOPAL). I was very disappointed with the coverage of the survey - it ignored significant areas of what was being discussed by people like me (and them). Given that there was a small budget for the survey, my assumption was that the consultants took what they had used for other cities and made minimal customizations for the local situation. I wish someone with some vision had intervened in the development of the survey to include forward-looking questions - our money would have been better spent.

So, just how did these shadowy FOPAL board members warp this survey to fit their agenda? Oh, but I forget: The best evidence for a conspiracy is that there is no evidence for that conspiracy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sanford Forte
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 11, 2006 at 6:11 pm

Doug Moran,

" I am skeptical of Sanford Forte's claim that some of" [FOPAL's] board members violated confidentiality agreements when they requested that ONE of their members see a pre-publication version of the Library Community Survey, and how that member then spread that confidential copy to other FoPAL board members for review, so that cooperative opinion could influence the nature and tone of questions on the survey?"

I was at the City's public outreach meeting on what should be in the survey and made suggestions about specific topics as well as advocating strongly that the survey include a question about how the respondent personally used the library, not on how they thought the overall community used the library, and that this emphasis needed to be stated forcefully. I knew the FOPAL member of the advisory group who was on the advisory group for the survey and asked him if they had gotten the focus right. He apologized that he couldn't tell me because the draft was confidential. Turns out that the consultant, and whomever supervised them, badly botched this portion of the questionnaire - They made an amateur mistake in the wording of the question and got nonsense results:
- 57% of the respondents stated that adult literary tutoring was an important service for the library to provide to them (over 90% of adult Palo Altans have gone to college and 50% have at least some graduate school);
- 63% said they were seniors who found outreach services important (but 68% reported that no seniors lived in their household)
The second half of Mr. Forte's claim - that of their intent - is unsupported. I am aligned *philosophically* with the people he attacks (I am not a member of FOPAL). I was very disappointed with the coverage of the survey - it ignored significant areas of what was being discussed by people like me (and them). Given that there was a small budget for the survey, my assumption was that the consultants took what they had used for other cities and made minimal customizations for the local situation. I wish someone with some vision had intervened in the development of the survey to include forward-looking questions - our money would have been better spent.
So, just how did these shadowy FOPAL board members warp this survey to fit their agenda? Oh, but I forget: The best evidence for a conspiracy is that there is no evidence for that conspiracy."
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Mr. Moran,

There is really no need for skepticism. In fact, there us more evidence for my claim regarding the breach of good faith and confidentiality committed by some few FoPAL and other members than there was against you last year for threatening physical harm to a contractor for building a structure you didn't like in your neighborhood. It's a matter of public record that the contractor dropped that case against you for some reason, but it did cost you a run at a Council seat – isn't that true? So, let's stick to facts, and not innuendo.

If you're thinking about running for City Council again, Mr. Moran, perhaps you might think about learning to check sources for facts before making claims, and further insinuations that are created to cast doubt on a position you disagree with. Especially in support of 'friends' who have been disingenuous in the past – to say the least.

All that aside, it's common knowledge among those who were part of the Library Survey Subcommittee that it was agreed – at FOPAL's insistence, mind you - that ONE member of FoPAL would be permitted to review the survey. That member consciously broke a confidentiality agreement, and spread the document to other FoPAL members, who then collaborated on how they wanted the survey to change. I will be happy to provide that person's name to the public or press, at any time, if you, the press, and others in the FoPAL organization, if you insist on knowing more.

As per your "friends" (pun intended) on the FoPAL board, that you are "philosophically" aligned with (as you put it), why aren't they here, on this thread, rebutting my claims – which ARE true? This is entirely consistent with their tactic of putting other people to work for them, or coming to public meetings and expressing board opinions as their own, so as to keep FoPAL's name out of the press, or make FOPAL board appear in public statements that it's "neutral" on these issues, when in fact just the opposite is the case.

About the survey:
It's instructive that you – and your friends at FoPAL should think that somehow you all know more about constructing a survey than a survey consultant (Godbe) who is known as one of the best, and who has performed numerous public library surveys in California. Your further claim, that Godbe "took what they had used for other cities and made minimal customizations for the local situation" is completely unfounded. Why would you say that, withno evidence, and not at all having been part of the survey subcommittee?

So, here you are claiming that I can't back up my claims – claims you've never asked me about, in person. And, making further unfounded claims about the actions and intentions of one of the best servey consultants in the business. After all that - with more to follow - it appears that one sould be skeptical about YOUR claims, as they're made so broadly, without checking facts.

I should suppose that your words and actions would be very much like the "friends' of FoPAL that you're "philosophically" aligned with (and it's really a shame to have to grace your failed attempt at throwing poorly supported doubts about what you label as 'mistakes" or "botched" survey questions. In doing so show a rather poor understanding about what community surveys surveys are intended for, and how they're most effetively used.

Are you aware of the fact that survey consultants – and even City Councils (Mt. View's City Council has even stated this in public) that surveys are but ONE tool to be factored into community decision making?

The data points from a survey are most effective when combined with the inputs of experienced staff and the accumulated intellectual capital that results from feedback between community members (in this case users of the library) and experienced staff INcluding the intellectual capital accumulated from everyday encounters between sstaff and the public). This appears to be a _contextual_ reference about the use and deployment that escapes your analysis, Mr. Moran.

About your criticism of the literacy program question. Might is be that Palo Altans – in general not being as knowledgeable as you about detailed demographic profiles - pouring over those kinds of things the way that you do - would want literacy programs available for the minority of Palo Altans that need those programs? The library is for EVERYONE, Mr. Moran, not just the well-educated, literate masses. That's why it's called a PUBLIC library. What's wrong with having a literacy program for those that need it?

About your criticism of the seniors question. Might it be that some seniors queried live in group senior housing and don't consider their living situation a 'household'? Might is be that some seniors were confused by a question or two, and some elder seniors often are? Other possibilities also come to mind.

You don't take these possibilities into consideration when making your criticism about the survey. Nor do you consider that – again – the survey is not the Bible, Mr. Moran. It's not a document to be poured over and interpreted as the last and final word on everything, or picked through to decide what you like or don't like about it. Rather, a community survey is a set of data points that are considered _within the context_ of the things I mentioned above, and which you and your friends at FoPAL seem to unaware, or unwilling to consider, because of your "philosophical" stance.

About that philosophical stance; it's known that from the top of the administrative structure at FoPAL, there is a fierce desire not to spend public money where efficiencies can be perceived. Unfortunately, that well-meaning impulse has been perverted into a single-and-small-minded idea about just exactly what those library efficiencies might be, notwithstanding staff opinion to the contrary.

Perhaps we shuold make the stacks in Children's Library as high as regular library stacks, as I've heard some of the gang at FoPAL suggest. Never mind that the kids wouldn't be able to reach them, because, after all, it's _efficient_. This would be laughable if it was a joke - it's not. the group I'm speaking of at FoPAL actually think this way. What a shame! A further shame is that they're running an organization whose membership has no or little idea about what's been going on for the last few years. Well, they're about to find out.

About your comments regarding vision. Are you aware, Mr. Moran, that some few FoPAL board members have done everything they can to insinuate THEIR vision as the one true vision for the library, often in fierce and obstructive opposition to library staff? It's a sad and pathetic role for an organization that is supposed to be a "friend' to the library. We have just lost one of the more visionary library directors in the state of California; she won't be easy to replace.

Finally, I had to laugh out loud at the absurdity of your comments about my comments - attributing to me the invention of a "conspiracy". That's YOUR interpretation, Mr. Moran. Perhaps yuo shuold canvass some public library staff - anonymously, if they'll trust you - about this - - or some LAC members.

IN fact, what we have here is a small cabal of FoPAL board members, and some long-time regular members, who think that they know more about the library than librarians and community members do. You appear to feel the same way.

In fact, it's the paranoia that exists in the minds of some members of the FoPAL board that has resulted in ideas about conspiracy. Every time the LAC or Paula Simpson brought forward any kind of plan there were always words about how Ms. Simpson or some other phantom was 'conspiring to close the downtown branch', or 'conspiring to destroy the mandate of Children's Library, and on, and on.

Lastly, I find your wish for a more 'visionary' survey to be enlightening. Perhaps you, like Bob Moss – who thinks that he knows more about libraries than librarians, can start a club. You appear to want to claim that you knwo more about creatig surveys than survey consultants. How about calling it "The We Know More About Everything Than The Professionals Do Club". That should sit well with your present role as gadfly about town who comments on many things, and appears more than occasionally to get it 100% wrong, as you do here, and cause – like Mr. Moss – more community confusion and dissension than this community needs.

At least you just get it flat wrong, Mr. Moran. Bob Moss and his pals at FoPAL will continue to disingenuously distort what has been going on for years here, making it look like FoPAL is just contributing money, but hiding the fact that he and his pals at FoPAL meddlessome ways have probably cost our library more than FoPAL has contributed.

FoPAL needs a serious administrative overhall, and soon. I don't want to see another library director saddled with the weight of interference and personal attack that Ms. Simpson had to put up with.

Either that, or have our City Council set some firm, healthy limits to contributions that permit funding specifically to general categories, with setailed deployment of funds left to the professionals - as it should be.

I want our library back in the hands of the community that pays for it, and the librarians who run it. It's as simple as that.









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