Minutes of the Regular Meeting of January 15, 2009


(As amended and approved at the Regular Meeting of February 19, 2009)


The San Francisco Public Library Commission held a regular meeting on Thursday, January 15, 2009, in the Koret Auditorium, Main Library.


The meeting was called to order at 4:36 pm.


Commissioners present: Del Portillo, Harris, Lee and Munson


Commissioners excused:  Gomez and Chin.


Commissioner Kane arrived at 4:39 pm.




An anonymous citizen said the Commission makes up lies and laughs at people while they are speaking.  He said if anyone speaking says something reasonable that is even funnier because of the ridiculous implication that reason might carry some weight.  He said it is a wall of secrecy that insulates the Commission from the truth.  He said it creates barriers of ridicule and contempt to prevent participation.  He said there have been a number of books and studies on how these cheap tricks work.  He said in a public society the Commission would want to put institutions and processes in place in order to empower people and create something that might be called a democracy.  He said knowledge should be power and the reason it should be power is to prohibit the lies and the contempt.  He said it should be made illegal to give money to a public library because that might benefit a small class of citizens only.  He said the lies cost more than the money.  


Sue Cauthen, Chair of the Library Citizens Advisory Committee (LCAC) said the LCAC passed a Resolution at its last meeting regarding the SFPL Revenue Bonds.  She said she had distributed a copy of the resolution and asked that a summary be included in the minutes.  She said the LCAC is concerned about when the Revenue Bonds are sold because other major cities have been cancelling their bond sales until they get a more favorable interest rate.  She said LCAC urges the library and the controller to carefully monitor the bond market and consider postponing the bond sales.  She said she understands that the earliest the bonds will be sold is in February. 


Wynship Hillier, said he has been a patron of the library since 1990 and he said it has been a very enjoyable experience until the last year and a half during which he started to experience problems coming to the main branch and also several of the branches.  He said he has turned in 29 complaint forms in the last month and has received one response.  He said there is something wrong with the air.  He said he believes it is some sort of psychiatric medication distributed through the library’s ventilation system.  He said the reply card says anti-psychotic or other drugs are not in use at the library.  He said he is not necessarily accusing the library of doing this but it shows a lack of responsiveness of the administration.  He said the administration needs to be more aware and more in control.


Peter Warfield said the sequence of today’s agenda has the approval of the minutes at the end of the agenda and he said previous practice and Roberts’ Rules provide that minutes should be heard at the top of the agenda.  He said a previous speaker mentioned that the LCAC passed a resolution regarding the revenue bonds and he supported that as a member of the LCAC.  He said the preceding speaker had multiple complaint forms and received only one response.  He said responsiveness is one of the things that is sadly lacking in this library.  He said it is dismaying to hear that there is so little response.  He said there is an interesting book entitled “Library” by Steven Akey and he read a portion from page 97 of that book.




Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said last December the first budget discussion was brought to the Commission.  He said they talked about the budget shortfall, the budget climate and budget priorities.  He said staff has responded to the Commission’s priorities and today he would like to present the FY 09-10 Budget Proposal.


Maureen Singleton, Budget Manager, gave some background on the FY 09-10 budget climate.  She said the Mayor’s office has projected a shortfall of $460.4 million.  She introduced the new budget analyst from the Mayor’s Office, Manish Goyal.  She said the Mayor’s office develops instructions every year, which tells the Departments how to build their budgets.  She said the Library is a Non-General Fund Department and it was asked to absorb all cost increases in the FY 09-10 budget and to consider one time efficiency investments that result in future savings.


Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said it is a pretty bleak budget climate.  He said it is good that we are protected by the set-aside.  He said we are taking a very prudent budget approach.  He said there are nine budget change proposals.  He and Jill Bourne, Deputy City Librarian explained the changes including:  1) enhancement to library collections and access at $1,176,298; 2) public service hours at $110,422; 3) public safety and emergency preparedness at $675,082; 4) enhanced access through use of technology at $59,529; 5) library outreach and programming at $25,000; 6) services to 50+ active adults and seniors at $49,604; 7) environmental library initiative at $65,000; 8) main library reference desk re-design and replacement at $115,000; and 9) lease revenue bond debt service payment at $2,669,749.  He said the budget change proposal grand total is $4,945,684.  


Maureen Singleton, Budget Manager, gave more detail on the items presented by Luis Herrera and Jill Bourne.  She gave an overview of the proposed expenditures for next year and said the total estimated expenditures are estimated at $84.75 million.  She said what is still unknown are additional labor cost adjustments and work order adjustments. She said the total revenue estimate is $86,128,940.  She said comparing estimated budget expenditures to estimated budget revenues leaves a balance of $1,393,466.  She said the next steps include solidifying revenue numbers with the Controller’s Office; determining other work order changes; updating labor cost figures; budget data entry; Commission approval of final budget proposal on February 5, 2009; submitting the budget to the Controller’s Office on February 20, 2009; and analysis with the Mayor’s Office on the Library proposed budget.  She said the revenue bond sale has been pushed back to February 24, 2009.   


Public Comment


An anonymous citizen said the item on budget priorities estimates on the upcoming fiscal year shortfall is a little over twice what it was when this was presented to the Commission in December.  He said that should give the Commission serious pause.  He said the point is that some real serious long range planning needs to take place.  He said because of the way the property tax set aside is structured in the Library Preservation Fund and the way it operates under Prop 13, it has always been assumed that in normal economic times that would protect the library from reductions.  He said assessed valuations fluctuate dramatically.  He said if the City’s budget goes down and the set aside goes down with it he has called it the cold day in Hell.


Peter Warfield asked why there aren’t more books in the budget.  He said he doesn’t just mean glitzy new things at the new branches, but what is the budget for the basic fundamental collections including filling holes in the collection.  He said there doesn’t seem to be a serious increase for books and materials in the budget.  He said the previous speaker made some excellent points.  He said he wondered how the assumptions at the end of the presentation were made.  He said he has read about San Francisco property values being in a decline.  He said there is a huge proportion of this expenditure going to the bond repayment that the Library Citizens Advisory Committee and others are concerned about.  He said you have not worked it out if the so called revenue bonds have to be paid at 12%. 



Commission Discussion


Commissioner Del Portillo asked about maintenance to the buildings and Luis Herrera, City Librarian responded that the Library goes through the Department of Public Works (DPW) for building repairs.  She asked about the additions to the collection and the issue of equitability.


Luis Herrera said the collection has been increased over 56% over the last few years.  He said the proposed amount for the collection is $11 million and that is an amazing amount for an urban library.  He said it represents almost an 11% increase and it is 13.6% of our overall budget.  He said the Library is very aware of equity.  He said every year we look at languages and the targeted communities that we serve.


Maureen Singleton said sometimes maintenance of the libraries is done by DPW staff and sometimes it is contracted out.  She said if DPW determines that the work cannot be done in-house then it is bid out.


Commissioner Lee complimented staff on the Budget Proposal report.  He asked about unknown costs on work order adjustments and additional labor cost adjustments.  He said he would like to see a figure put on those items if possible.


Maureen Singleton said that the Mayor’s office is working with the labor unions to see what concessions could happen so labor cost adjustments are hard to determine.


Commissioner Kane said without the set aside we would not be having this conversation.  He said on the revenue stream he would like staff to double check those numbers based on this year’s financial status.  He said the book budget has gone way up and he would like to see more hours and more access to the branches.  He said there is a lot of money proposed for the power generator and the power supply. 


Jill Bourne, Deputy City Librarian, said that 190 9th is the back up operations center and that is why the generator is important.  She explained the power supply to the data center.


Commissioner Kane said it is important to know what the bond payment will be and making sure there is a reserve.


Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said they will go back and revisit some of the big ticket items in light of the fiscal climate.  He said he is aware that there may be a reduction in State funds and that has been factored into the budget.  He said the Department is looking at deficiencies.  He said Department’s have been told to not increase staff so they are looking at the impacts of increasing hours on staff needs. He said the opening day collections are not built into the budget.  He said regarding the revenue bond they would never issue bonds at 12% and they are looking at approximately 6.3%.  He said anything over that amount would impact our debt service.


Vice-President Munson asked about the projections and how current the numbers are.  He said he would like to see the most updated information.  He asked about the Homeless Outreach Team enhancement of service with no extra personnel costs. He also asked about the closed circuit televisions and was told there would be three and they would be located in branch libraries to allow patrons to access documents that are too small for them to read.  


Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said the amount listed goes to Department of Public Health for a social service worker, the Homeless Outreach Teams and monitors.


Vice-President Munson said the budget is still a significant increase and he would like to see further cuts that would not unduly harm the library’s capabilities.




Jill Bourne, Deputy City Librarian, said they will be presenting to the Commission several segments on Trends in Library Use and this report is the first segment.  She said the current economic climate has shown increases in areas such as the Jobs & Careers Center, the Small Business Center, the Government Information Center and recreational use.  She said the Library’s capital improvements including the Main Library’s first floor renovation and the 8 new or renovated branch libraries.  She said circulation, registration and visits are used to measure the increases in library use.  She listed the top circulating titles for FY 2008 by fiction books, non-fiction books, DVDs, cds, spoken word sound recordings, and cd music recordings.  She said upcoming trends topics include: programs and outreach; service enhancements; information/digital resources and services to target audiences.


Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said that staff also reports that people are asking about resume writing, classes on “how to”, financial aid, and other financial issues.  He said the Library is providing a key role in these economic times. 


Marcia Schneider, Chief of Communications, Collections and Adult Services, said there are some exceptional exhibitions and programs coming up in the next couple of months.  She said upcoming exhibitions include Celebrating Our Urban Wildness: Coyotes to Quail; Visual Aid Presents Hedgehog Boy: A Graphic Novel; Abraham Lincoln: A Man of His Time, A Man for All Times; Dishing it Out: Career Waitresses Across the U.S.A. and the San Francisco Black Panther Party.  She said upcoming programs include:  Presidential Inauguration, January 20; Alzheimer’s Care with Dignity January 20 -22; Dreams from the Monster Factory with Sunny Schwartz, January 22; and Chinese New Year Celebration, January 24.  She said additional programs include Writers Remembered, January 31; Book talk by Yiyun Li, author of the Vagrants, February 7; and San Francisco Black Independent Film Festival on February 15. She said the Library’s website now has a link to NextReads which links to exhibitions and Adult Programming and San Francisco Interest.


Public Comment


An anonymous citizen said he wished the presentation had been a little longer on the library trends in the current economic climate because it is an important subject.  He said we are just at the beginning of a coming storm.  He said there are other factors that library usage goes up during bad economic times including increased leisure leads to greater chances for creativity and allows people to explore new areas of economic interest so they need the full resources of the library.  He said this is a chance for the library to rise to the occasion of serving the citizens when they need it most. 


Peter Warfield said it is generally understood that almost any attention that is paid to things like materials will result in an increased usage of those particular materials or facilities.  He said a new facility is always, regardless of the merits, going to get hoopla and attention and curiosity and more visits.  He said featuring certain books or putting orange stickers on those books usually cause a rise in their circulation.  He said he would have liked a longer report including branches that have not had any capital improvements.  He said he would like more information on the various statistics and an explanation on the reasons for some of the differences in increases in visits for the various branches.


Commission Discussion


Commissioner Del Portillo said if you build it they do come.  She said the neighborhoods are changing so usage changes as well.


Commissioner Kane asked how visits are counted.  He also asked for a future report on how the library responds to complaints.


Jill Bourne, Deputy City Librarian, said they are installing counters in the new branches.


Commissioner Kane left the meeting.




Lena Chen, Bond Program Manager, said there are no informational or special reports this month.  She said as of 10/16/08 the approved budget was $153,110,196.  She said the schedule report shows the schedule for all active projects approved by the Commission in September.  She said there is no change to the schedule this month for the 16 active projects.  She said the schedule format has been modified slightly to make it more readable.  She gave the status of the program and said that 6 property acquisitions are complete and 1 is pending for the Bayview Branch; 8 projects are complete and open; 6 projects are in construction and 9 branches are in planning and design and 1 branch, Parkside was awarded to LC General Engineering & Construction, Inc.; and currently awaiting the Notice to Proceed.  She showed photographs and gave reports on projects in construction including Richmond at 97% completion which will open two months ahead of schedule in May, 2009; Portola, is in the final stages of construction and the opening is scheduled for February 28, 2009; Ingleside; Bernal Heights, Eureka Valley, and Potrero.  She said Parkside is waiting for its Notice to Proceed.  She gave an update on projects in design including Visitacion Valley; Anza; Ortega; Merced; Bayview; Park; Presidio; Golden Gate Valley and North Beach.  She gave the summary of public outreach and said upcoming community meetings include: Presidio on January 21; and Park on January 22 and 27.  She said the Parkside Closing Party will be February 7 and the Portola Opening Celebration will be February 28. 


Public Comment


An anonymous citizen said he was happy to see that the bar charts are now in color and the handouts are printed two to a page.  He said it concerned him that in the upcoming months 9 branches will be closed at the same time.  He said when the Branch Library Improvement Program was initiated the public was told that only 3 or at most 4 branches would be closed at any one time.


Peter Warfield said he was happy to see that the presentation is now more legible.  He said he is also concerned about the number of branches being closed at one time.  He said the cost of the Park branch has gone from $1.3 million to $1.6 million and that is a great concern.  He said the branch should not be closed for a year for basic renovations.


Commission Discussion


Commissioner Lee asked about the renovation of the Park Branch and said that a year is too long for the Park Branch to be closed.


Luis Herrera, City Librarian said there is significant work to be done and it includes the mechanical system and electrical wiring.  He said in addition you have to move the collection out of the library and move it back in addition to the actual renovation time.


Lena Chen, Bond Program Manager, said the total budget for the Park Branch is $1.6 million and they are hoping to keep the branch closed no longer than a year.  She responded to Commissioner Lee and said they would look again at the amount of time the branch will be closed.


Luis Herrera said there was some very good news in the report, because we are always concerned about schedule and budget.  He said the Richmond branch is a couple of months ahead of schedule and the bids for the Parkside branch came in under budget.




Public Comment


An anonymous citizen said these minutes have a few flaws.  He said the minutes that were mailed out did not have all of the pages and he said he understood that was a mistake and he did have the minutes mailed previously.  He said under public comment Item No 1 the person he was referring to was Richard Rothman not “Richard Watham”.  He said it is important to spell his name correctly.  He said his point he was making about Commissioner Chin was that she was an educational professional and not used to the business ruthlessness of this institutional ethos.  He said the virtues of a democracy come from public funding and none of that is mentioned. He said the point that Peter Warfield was making in his comments was that the Library did not follow through with expanding hours and it was necessary to go back to the Board of Supervisors to increase the hours.  He said it has always been the practice to bold items that require follow up  as is the case under Item No. 2 when Commissioner Kane asked to have a report once a year on the audit.


Peter Warfield asked the Commission not to approve the minutes because they were mailed out with odd pages only.  He said he appreciated the inclusion of Commissioner Lee’s comments about the Park Branch and the amount spent on soft costs and that it seemed to be exceedingly high.  He agreed with the anonymous citizen about his comments on page 2.  He said the minutes did not reflect that he said it was his efforts and other citizen efforts and supervisorial efforts that overcame the Librarian’s objection to the Board of Supervisors for the additional hours that finally led to allocation a second time for the funding of an increase in hours.  He said that should be included in the Minutes.


Motion:  By Commissioner Harris, seconded by Commissioner Lee to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of November 20, 2008 with a correction to the spelling of Mr. Rotham’s name from “Richard Watham” to “Richard Rotham” on page 2. 


Action:  AYES 4-0: (Del Portillo, Harris, Lee and Munson).


Vice-President Munson said Item No. 6 approval of the minutes of December 4, 2008 would be trailed to the next meeting.


The meeting adjourned at 6:38 pm because the Commission lost a quorum.


Sue Blackman

Commission Secretary


Please note:    Copies of commission minutes and handouts are available in the office of the secretary of the San Francisco Public Library Commission, 6th floor, Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102-4733.


Explanatory documents:  Copies of listed explanatory documents are available as follows:  (1) from the commission secretary/custodian of records, 6th floor, Main Library; (2) in the rear of Koret Auditorium immediately prior to, and during, the meeting; and (3), to the extent possible, on the Public Library’s website  Additional materials not listed as explanatory documents on this agenda, if any, that are distributed to library commissioners prior to or during the meeting in connection with any agenda item will be available to the public for inspection and copying in accordance with Government Code Section 54954.1 and Sunshine Ordinance Sections 67.9, 67.28(b), and 67.28(d).