It is highly regrettable that Palo Alto is losing an outstanding library director, Paula Simpson, at least in part because of friction from the Friends.
The Friends of the Palo Alto Library deserves enormous credit for its monthly volunteer-run book sales, which generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for our libraries. The book sale is a first-class operation that promotes recycling and culturally enriches our community.
When it comes to politics, however, the Friends are not necessarily friendly to our libraries. As a newcomer three years ago, Simpson devoted considerable time and energy to meeting with Palo Altans and trying to spark a community-wide conversation about the future of our run-down, behind-the-times libraries.
In this regard, she was thwarted at every turn by activists from the Friends, whose board is dominated by zealous advocates of our current five-branch system. Rather than trying to help foster a genuine, open-minded discussion about what our libraries could become, this group organized to block that discussion and to insist on preserving the current branch configuration no matter what.
Ultimately a city survey appeared to confirm that Palo Altans are fairly satisfied with the libraries as they are and any forward momentum generated by Simpson was stalled. Thus we are losing an energetic, talented and dedicated library director who did her best to spark open discussion and move us forward.
She deserves our thanks and she will be difficult to replace.