'Rinconada' chosen as new name for Main Library | April 11, 2014 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 11, 2014

'Rinconada' chosen as new name for Main Library

City Council agrees to rename Newell Road branch

by Gennady Sheyner

The final chapter in Palo Alto's epic debate over a new name for the Main Library concluded Monday night when city leaders agreed to rechristen the Newell Road facility the Rinconada Library.

In choosing the new name by a 7-2 vote, with Larry Klein and Gail Price dissenting, the City Council accepted on Monday the recommendations from the Library Advisory Commission, the Palo Alto Historical Association and roughly half of the speakers who attended the final hearing in the long, complex and divisive renaming process. Proponents of the name change have consistently argued that the name "Main Library" is a misnomer because it is neither the largest branch (that would be Mitchell Park, which is being renovated) nor the administrative center (the Downtown Library).

Rinconada, which is Spanish for "elbow" or "inside corner," was adopted for both historical and geographical reasons. The land on which Palo Alto was developed was part of the Rancho Rinconada del Arroyo de San Francisquito land grant, a historical detail that the city commemorated in the mid-1920s when it gave the name Rinconada Park to what was once known as "City Waterworks Park," according to a report from the Library Department.

Yet Rinconada proved to be a tough sell with the council, who in September sent the renaming proposal back to the drawing board. Some, including Klein, Price and Pat Burt, argued last year that the library should be named after a notable local person rather than a place. After more meetings, a reaffirmation by the library commission of its original choice and a deadlock by the council's Policy and Services Committee, the council found itself without a clear front-runner Monday aside from the initial proposal.

Price and Klein both lobbied for Birge Clark, the distinguished local architect who designed about 450 buildings in Palo Alto and Stanford University, including the 400 block of Ramona Street, the 300 block of Hamilton Avenue and the historic downtown post office. Klein argued that architecture is an art that "influences us the most" and said it was appropriate to recognize the city's beloved architect by naming the library after him.

"Architecture is always there," Klein said. "If you live in Palo Alto, it's pretty hard for you to go through a day without passing a Birge Clark structure. ... He helped create a very significant part of the community with which we relate day in and day out."

While other council members shared Klein's and Price's admiration for Clark, they were puzzled by the proposal to rename the Main Library after him. Though his Spanish Colonial style was deeply influential, Clark didn't have any special connections to local libraries. Furthermore, the Main Library building was designed by Edward Durell Stone, an architect with more modern leanings. For several council members, including Karen Holman, Liz Kniss and Greg Scharff, the idea of naming a building designed by one prominent architect after a different prominent architect would foster confusion.

"I don't think you can get further apart in terms of what these things look like," Scharff said, referring to the two styles.

Though the council voted to adopt Rinconada, there was little enthusiasm among members for this choice. Holman said she'd be happy with leaving it as Main Library, though quickly added that that's "not where the votes are." Of the options on the table, she said Rinconada is the best because of its historical significance. Burt, who last year supported naming the building after a person, concluded on Monday that no front-runner had emerged and that Rinconada is the only name that appears to have community support.

"It should be somewhat of a consensus in the community over that naming," Burt said. "The only consensus I'm hearing is around Rinconada."

The only other name featured in Monday's discussion was Doris Richmond, a longtime librarian at the branch and the first black employee hired by the City of Palo Alto's library system, according to Loretta Green, a retired journalist who frequently patronized the library in the pre-Internet days. Green was one of three speakers who lobbied for naming the branch after Richmond.

"She was hugely popular, deeply loved and respected by her co-workers," Green said.

The council didn't preclude the possibility of naming another facility for Richmond or another distinguished Palo Altan. Burt, for instance, raised the prospect of attaching a person's name to a building while retaining its geographical name. He cited as an example the Pearson-Arastradero Preserve, which the council had changed to recognize conservationist Enid Pearson.

"In the future, if the community coalesces around a particular person we want to recognize, I'd be open to that," Burt said.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.


Posted by The Rest of Us, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2014 at 3:22 am

It's ridiculous to rename a historic building. That library administration is elsewhere has been true for decades. So the whole rationale to rename is because another building is physically larger? Sounds more like petty jealousy.

Posted by Jean Libby, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 8, 2014 at 7:45 am

I support the name Rinconada Library and Rinconada Cultural Park for the public complex because I live here. My husband, Ralph Libby was a librarian at the Main Library for many years. He lived half his life at our home next to the Lucie Stern Community Center. Vice-Mayor Liz Kniss expressed my viewpoint when she said that Rinconada Library gives a sense of place. I hope that some will write a book about Birge Clark and photograph his buildings, which are historical and cultural treasures.

Posted by resident, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 8, 2014 at 8:24 am

I think Rinconada is a fine name and is already widely used in that neighborhood. I'm glad they didn't name the library after some obscure city employee or unpopular politician.

My only complaint is why is Rinconada Ave in a different part of town from Rinconada Park?

Posted by Dann disgruntled, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2014 at 8:41 am

I think it's confusing to people not in the know, because there is already a large new library right next to Rinconada Park, closer to the center of Rinconada Park, the children's library. I can already see this confusing new residents.

Hmmm... i'm glad the City is trying to buy the post office building, but wasnt there just a commentary about how the city favors the north for assets and not the south? They are awash in cash and yet won't buy the Maybell Orchard long enough to let the neighbors figure out how to buy their own park, the way they had to with Bol Park. And the City has first right of refusal for the Maybell Orchard. I guess they worked so hard to downplay the 100 established trees (no need to water) being bulldozed, they don't want to let on now. Or maybe they are still so focused on revengng themselves against those uppity residents who dared stand up to their overdevelopment plans. I think Nancy Shepherd has said as much. Or maybe it was Larry Klein. Residents' asking that if the property is going to be built on, please do it under existing zonng rather than exceeding the zoning, has been twisted to a demand to bulldoze the trees and put in Council's vision of what could go in under existing zoning (which neighbors constently argued against) - can you say "another impending development battlle" anyone? Well at least, there's no way for them to hide their true spots in the next election.

I'll tell you one thing, we wouldnt need to argue over the name.

Is Mitchell Park the largest by bulk or collection? I find it hard to believe that pathetic collection is the largest in town. Can we secede MPL into the Santa Clara County library system? I've complained about our circulation policies only to be told it's because our collections are too small for us NOT to charge money if, for example, someone doesnt pick up a reserved book in time. Well, what do I know, I only pay for the Palo Alto system, I use the Los Altos one (which I also pay to use).

Let's name it Arrillaga Library why not? Or for some other developer? It would be a great reminder of all the rest of the City assets this Council likes to give away to their developer friends.

Posted by library, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 8, 2014 at 9:08 am

Useless exercise. Waste of time and money.

Posted by What-Good-Is-A-Library-When-You-Have-The-NET?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2014 at 9:26 am

Does it really matter what you call a building that serves little or no purpose in a world where virtually everything is accessible on the Internet?

It is a scandal that a city that claims to be the home of Silicon Valley is spending this much money on a facility that will become less and less relevant in the coming years.

This whole episode is another example of why democracies eventually fail.

Posted by Agree, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 8, 2014 at 9:27 am

Since the rest of the libraries are named by location, the choice of Rinconada makes complete sense. Thanks to the City Council for finally making a good decision!

@Dann: There is no way anyone will confuse it with the Childrens Library. Everyone always refers to the Childrens Library by its name since there is only one in town.

Posted by Dann disgruntled, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2014 at 9:29 am

Actually, people still read books and libraries are important meeting places. You apparently don't have young children.

Posted by Dann disgruntled, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2014 at 9:36 am

You're not confused because you live here. You are not thinking of the people for whom the place name would actually be useful, people who need to find the library and arent already familiar. The whole Rinconada park situation is already confusing to visitors. Putting the name on another library way on the edge when there's an existing library right there is going to confuse people, especially since most towns dont have multiple new libraries so close to each other. But then, our council probably secretly loves the idea of frustrated cars driving around and around the neighborhood. What better to say Welcome to Palo Alto?

Posted by Agree, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 8, 2014 at 9:42 am

@Dann: With all the one-way streets and illogical street connections (Ross connects to Louis, Churchill connects to Embarcadero, etc.) it's already too difficult for visitors. If they are going to the Childrens Library, they are going to look up the address anyway, not simply roam around town. Even if it's named Rinconada, they have to know where Rinconada is. And then what? Drive the streets of Community Center until they find the library? And since when does any city think about the convenience of visitors?

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2014 at 10:08 am

The Birge Clark facade on University at the former Medallion Gallery, a significant architectural feature, lost all its character and context when the oversized 317 University Ave office project which wraps around it was approved by the ARB. The Council's concern for architectural heritage, aesthetics, Birge Clark and all the rest is empty rhetoric when it matters. Just drive around town.

Posted by DGN, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 8, 2014 at 10:34 am

I like it when the city council spends lots of time on less important matters. At least that way, they have less opportunity and time to make disasterous decisions for our town.
I have great admiration for Birge Clark, and would like something important named after him. If the city council truly cared about Birge Clark and his contributions to our city, they would PROTECT his buildings from demolition!! We are losing his buildings at an alarming rate.

Posted by What-Good-Is-A-Library-When-You-Have-The-NET?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2014 at 10:37 am

> people still read books and libraries are important meeting places

Of course people still read books--but increasingly they read them in a digital format, rather than a paper format. Easier, cheaper, and access to millions of books is now possible, rather than the limited number of books available even in a large library.

> meeting places ..

Really .. go into any Starbucks, or other coffee shops in this, or any town, and you will see people meeting up a storm. They can talk about what they want--such as business deals--which would doubtless drive all of those using libraries bonkers.

And as to children in libraries--many are playing games on the computers, or whooping and hollering--making it difficult for older people to use the facilities for whatever they want. Increasingly, public libraries are just high cost providers of videos. Libraries in California now claim that their circulations include about 25% videos--which can all be obtained on-line these days from any number of video providers: Amazon, Netflix, HULU, etc.

Children need to understand that everyone should buy their own books and videos--rather than come to the belief that growing up believing that books only come from a public/school library--rather than a books shop, or increasingly sources like Google, or other on-line repositories.

One day, all of the books in the world will have been digitized. No need for those big, expensive, buildings and expensive caretakers then.

Posted by Anciana, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 8, 2014 at 10:52 am

I am delighted that the refurbished Main Library will now have the name Rinconada Library.

The idea that libraries are becoming "irrelevant"to me is very sad. I am still firmly attached to paper books, as I dislike reading from a screen for any great length of time, even though I am on the internet every day and appreciate everything I can find there. And what can I say? If it isn't a library book, I often like to underline particular passages or write a comment in the margins. The books become good references for me, and their colorful presence on my book shelves is a warm addition to the appearance of my livingroom.

Posted by Main Library user, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 8, 2014 at 11:14 am

Now that the library's new name is decided upon, could the City Council get some serious business done?

Posted by library user, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 8, 2014 at 11:18 am

Totally agree with library: Why does the City Council have to decide everything? There are capable city employees. After this entire dust up, the city council decides on (gasp!) exactly what the library folks recommended.

How many hours did the city council spend on this?

Posted by KP, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2014 at 11:44 am

DUH! Rinconada was a common sense name...Heaven forbid the city council use frickin common sense!!!
What a waste of time, money and our taxpayer money!

Posted by KP, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2014 at 11:47 am

I meant time, effort, and our taxpayer money! LOL! So irritated by stupidity, it's rubbing off!

Posted by Martha, a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 8, 2014 at 12:32 pm

As a resident of Palo Alto for twenty years, I have to agree with the decision to re-name the "Main Library". It will take years for everyone to adjust to the new name, but they will. Given all the information about the library, it just makes sense.

Posted by paly parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 8, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Thank you for NOT naming it after somebody who donated a lot of money!! I held my breath as i started the article waiting to see if P.A. was going to do what has become so common. Naming buildings after people who donate lots of money makes the rest of us feel unappreciated and unrecognized for the many other ways we try to help.

Posted by Dean, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Once again in the interest of full disclosure, I am a former Midtowner (left 43 years ago).

For anyone who grew up in Palo Alto in the 1950s, (a dying breed I suppose), "Rinconada" evokes memories of a great public pool (something my wife from the East Coast disdains), learning to play Marco Polo, and the always affordable 15 cent fee for a day's worth of fun and entertainment.

Now the bame continues with a library where so many of us PAUSD grads did research on high school projects in the 1960s.

BTW, my wife who has never swam in a public pool, learned what "Marco Polo" was from me --- a proud Rinconada rat! (Yes, we have a private pool now in our backyard, as do most in the desert southwest).

If we name everything after people, I suppose the Rinconada Pool should be the Rowdy Gaines pool or some other SU swimmer.

A great way to link two great Palo Alto institutions.....

Posted by What-Good-Is-A-Library-When-You-Have-The-NET?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2014 at 1:39 pm

> I often like to underline particular passages or write a comment
> in the margins. The books become good references for me, and
> their colorful presence on my book shelves is a warm addition
> to the appearance of my livingroom.

And there is no reason that you should not continue to do so. Even though books and other materials will be increasingly digitized, there will continue to be a market for paper books for a long time--for folks like yourself. If having books in your living room floats your boat--buy lots of books and fill up your walls to the ceiling!

The question is: why should the public be buying books for people who don't want to buy them themselves? Particularly since most of the books circulated in public libraries are of classified as fiction.

Posted by businessdecision, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 8, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Why? to help those too poor to buy books or too poor to maintain internet activity or too poor to live in a place big enough to house all the books they want to read.
But that's yesterday.
Now we have an amenity-less world for all the 99%.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2014 at 2:22 pm

I love the library and one of the reasons is because I love to read and don't want to own all the books I read. I have bought some ebooks and they are more expensive than they should be and I don't like that, I haven't yet worked out how to borrow an e book from the library. Perhaps someone could help on that issue.

But, one thing I have noticed over the past few years is how disgustingly dirty some of the library books are. It used to be that people would respect something they didn't own by being more careful about keeping it clean. Nowadays it seems to be the opposite and people disregard something that they don't own. Recently I have had books with coffee stains, grease marks, crumbs, stickiness, and general other dirt on various pages of a great many of the books I have borrowed. This never used to be the case. I would like to see library users endeavor to keep food, beverages, and other things from staining library books and remember to use reasonably clean hands while reading.

In this day and age, is that too much to ask?

Posted by Judy, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 8, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Why are you spending so much time on a name - - - how about spending some time
seeing that the Mitchel park library gets finished.

Posted by Self interest maybe, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2014 at 2:39 pm

While it doesn't explain the bizarreness of the suggestion to name for Birge Clark a building designed by someone else, it might help to understand Gail Price's motivation when you know that she is employed by architects.
She is Executive Director at American Institute of Architects Santa Clara Valley.
A little self-interest, maybe?

Posted by Dann disgruntled, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Gail Price has the most bloated ego of any of the councilmembers - which is saying a lot - and thinks her background in the soulless and oddly center-less renovation of Sunnyvale means she knows better about what our City needs and should be than any of us pitiful uninformed peons who live here. Got it from the horse's mouth, so to speak (I am paraphrasing from this peon's perspective).

Posted by Oldman, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 8, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Please note, the City council is not wasting time" but they can't do anything else.

Posted by Ed, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 8, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Rinconada is a great name for the library, which is still needed in this day and age and will be for a long time.
Whining about the "cost" of this decision is just silly.
Where is the marginal cost?

Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2014 at 3:39 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Jean, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 8, 2014 at 5:43 pm

What a waste of taxpayers money. The library has been known as the Newell library for generations. Now, people will be going over to Rinconada looking for a library when it is really on Newell Road. Cmon' Palo Alto council members....grab your Starbucks, take a sip, and wake up!!!!!

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2014 at 9:01 pm

The whole discussion by the Council, the tone, was so abstract, the concern
for aesthetics, architectural heritage, city character, spearheaded by
Klein and Price, was the antithesis of everything that has happened here in the last ten years. There is no substance behind this posturing for the majority of the Council. Their concern for aesthetic values started and ended with that discussion.

Posted by So, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 9, 2014 at 8:23 am


The cost of the replacing the direction signs when you approach the library, each one is over $100.
The cost of fixing the web site. They don't have the resources to fix errors in the online card catalog, so why this?
What's it cost for an hour of the councils time, plus the staff, etc. no one is working for free.

I figure tis was over $10,000 easy. Now please document $10,000 worth of value that we got from this decision.
This town wastes money, no wonder why they want more tax revenue.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 9, 2014 at 9:04 am

OK ... fine with me.

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