Minutes of the Regular Meeting of October 2, 2008

(As amended and approved at the Regular Meeting of November 6, 2008)

The San Francisco Public Library Commission held a regular meeting on Thursday, October 2, 2008, in the Koret Auditorium, Main Library.

The meeting was called to order at 4:32 pm. 

Commissioners present:  Del Portillo, Harris, Lee and Munson.

President Gomez and Commissioner Chin arrived at 4:41 pm.

Commissioner Kane was excused.

Vice-President Munson announced that Item No. 8 2009 Library Commission Meeting Schedule would be trailed to the next meeting.


An anonymous citizen said the controversy over the word “hornswoggle” is the most important controversy the Commission will face.  He said there is a reason why hornswoggled means hoax or fraud.  He said it is a trick to see if some tinhorn knows what the term swoggled means.  He said Commissioner Munson asked that the word be changed but a fraud was placed on top of the original fraud and the word was not corrected.  When Mr. Munson started to complain the President of the Commission cut him off.  The anonymous citizen said this is emblematic of everything the Commission faces and he said this is the way the Commission is trained to accept the denial of the truth. 

Peter Warfield said the discussion about a word is indeed an opportunity to illuminate how things sometimes work around here.  He said this began when he made a comment about the fact that the Commission had probably been hornswoggled by the Library Administration because the legislation the Library Commission sent to the Board of Supervisors had differed from what the Commission had approved.  The larger issue is that the Library Administration brought the Commission material for discussion and approval and that wording was to be presented to the Board of Supervisors and that legislation changed in ways that did not follow what the Commission had approved.


Public Comment

An anonymous citizen said these minutes in some respects are not too bad. He read the comments attributed to him on page one and said that is pretty much what he said.  He said his comments on the North Beach issue did not include a number of details about the history of the North Beach branch before the current City Librarian came on board.  He said a deal had been made with Ortega so that there would be advantages to the Ortega branch in return for sacrifices in North Beach.  He said the pressure was so extreme that other locations were looked at.  He said those details should have been included.

Peter Warfield said in general these are good minutes.  He said there is one portion that needs correction.  He said his comment about an article that appeared in Scientific American relates to an issue that reached this Commission prior to the time that most of the current Commissioners were on the Commission.  He said that issue is the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) issue.  He said in 2003-05 the Library was pushing to adopt RFID at this library.  He said it was through the vigorous efforts of Library Users Association, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and several other organizations that this implementation was stopped.  He said for two years the Commission voted unanimously to approve RFID.  He said this had to go to the Board of Supervisors to get the issue turned down.  He said he would like to ask the Commission to make a correction to the minutes to the middle of the top paragraph on page 2 to change it from “highly privacy threatened technology” to “highly privacy threatening technology.”  He said he was sure he mentioned the ACLU and the EFF and other serious groups and said that should be included in the minutes.

Sue Blackman, Commission Secretary, responded to Commissioner Munson that the minutes are a summary of what is said not a verbatim account.   

MOTION: by Commissioner Lee, seconded by Commissioner Chin, to approve the minutes of September 4, 2008.

AYES: 6-0 (Chin, Del Portillo, Gomez, Harris, Lee and Munson)


Luis Herrera reviewed a memorandum to the Commission and said staff is recommending that the Commission approve a resolution determining to utilize a lease financing transaction involving the issuance and sale of lease revenue bonds to finance a portion of the Branch Library Improvement Program and associated financing costs; and requesting the Mayor to recommend and the Board of Supervisors authorize such lease financing transaction and related actions.  He said the issue was discussed by the Commission at the September 18, 2008 Library Commission meeting.  He said the requested authorization of not-to-exceed $36,000,000 in principal amount is $2,045,000 or 6.0% more than the expected sale amount of $33,955,000 to allow for fluctuations in market conditions from the date that the Library Commission requests the Board of Supervisors to issue the Bonds to the date of the proposed sale of the Bonds.  He said a summary of the estimates is attached to the memorandum. 

Public Comment

An anonymous citizen said it would have been nice to hear from the Bond Counsel prior to taking public comment.  He said there were some questions at the last meeting about the effect of state law on how this bond issuance is being handled.  He said he would like to hear the response on this.  He said it appears that $2 million has been added to allow for fluctuations in market condition.  He said there have been dramatic changes in market conditions and there is stress on municipal bond issues across the country.  He said what if bond conditions are abnormal and the set aside amounts go down.  He said it underlines the point of how rich do you want to be when everyone else is poor.

Peter Warfield said within the last few weeks the President has commented on the serious difficulties our country is facing.  He said there are concerns about credit all over.  He said he is concerned that the bond repayments could conceivably cut into the base period budget that the library has had and which the legislation was designed to protect.  He said only increases in the library budget could be used for bond repayment.  He said if there is a drop in the library’s income, there would be an impact on the library’s operating funding.  He said this is a 25 year bond, which obligates the library to pay this $2.7 million per year regardless of what happens with the library’s income.  He said he would urge the Commission to make some kind of effort to assure that library operations funding will not be affected adversely for the next 25 years of paying off this bond.

Donna Bero, Friends of the Library, said there are very clear protections to the library’s operating expenses and other expenses under Proposition D.  She said that the concept for this was developed in concert with the Mayor’s Budget Office, Board of Supervisors, the City Administrator and the entire team of City Department heads who developed the City’s 10-year capital plan and the importance of the library branch improvement program.  She said the revenue bonds undergo vigorous scrutiny and oversight.  She said this is an appropriate solution to the Branch Library Improvement Program.  

Commission Discussion

Commissioner Munson said these are turbulent economic times and these are times when people are concerned.  He said there are needs for rescue techniques.  He said this will all unfold over the next several weeks and we are not planning to sell any bonds until December.  He said the Board of Supervisors and the financial people have an opportunity to take a good look at where we are at that time. 

Ron Lee said he is a private practice attorney assisting the City with this issue.  He said he agrees with Commissioner Munson’s statements and the flexibility that the library has in moving forward with this bond sale.  He said if market conditions are not favorable to the City at the time of the sale and if the City feels it can wait to go into the market, it will have the ability to do so.  He said the municipal bond market has been somewhat turbulent for about a year.  He said being able to borrow money at a true interest cost of 6 or 6 ½ percent is a pretty good deal, but that is up to policy makers to decide. 

Commissioner Lee said we have a 12% cap and he wondered whether 6.3% was reasonable.

Ron Lee said market rates fluctuate daily and 6.3% is not a guaranteed rate.  He said the Board of Supervisors make a practice of putting in the legal maximum rate of 12% as the outside boundary.  He said under Proposition D the intent is that the Library Commission would request the Board of Supervisors to issue the bonds.

Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said staff will keep the Commission apprised of the timeline of the issuance of the bonds.

Commissioner Munson said this is like a baseball game and we have to approve this to get in the game and get things moving.

Motion:  By Commissioner Harris, seconded by Commissioner Munson to approve the Resolution determining to utilize a lease financing transaction involving the issuance and sale of lease revenue bonds to finance a portion of the Branch Library Improvement Program and associated financing costs; and requesting the Mayor to recommend and the Board of Supervisors to authorize such lease financing transaction and related actions.

Action:  Ayes 6-0 (Commissioners Chin, Del Portillo, Gomez, Harris, Lee and Munson).


Luis Herrera, City Librarian said there has been a lot of discussion about the impact of the State budget.  He said two sources of revenue for the library have been affected.    The Public Library Fund (PLF) had a 10% reduction built into the budget approved by the Commission, however, there was an additional 5% reduction, so there was a reduction of about $46,000 bringing the total to about $264,000 from last year’s total of about $310,000.  He said they had been concerned about the potential elimination of the California Literacy Program.  He said that elimination did not occur and the library will still be receiving about $75,000 with a reduction of about $3,700 from last year.  He said the vast amount of funding for that program comes from the City’s General Fund. 

Marcia Schneider, Chief of Communications, Collections & Adult Services, said there was a presentation last March on the Collection Development Plan and said many people were involved in the development of that plan but Laura Lent, Collection Development Manager was the person responsible for putting it all together.

Laura Lent, Collection Development Manager, said the Collection Development Plan policy statement was approved by the Commission last spring.  She said the Plan is an excellent overview of collection development at the library.  She said today’s presentation is a more nuts and bolts description on how the staff selects adult materials.  She said SFPL is the envy of many other library systems.  She said the book and material budget has more than doubled since the year 2000.  She said this year’s budget is over $10 million.  She explained the key factors used in assessing collection priorities.  She said overall circulation is also used.  She said public and staff surveys are used.  She said format changes affect the budget and she listed the major budget categories.  She explained some of the key selection criteria.  She introduced several staff members in attendance including Jason Honig, Kathy Hunsicker, Trent Garcia, and Sherry Wang and she gave recognition to Jo Trotter who could not attend the meeting.  She said there are various committees contributing to the collection selection process.   She said they try to find the right balance.  She explained the NextReads opt-in page for notifications by interest.

Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said the Library is participating in the Mayor’s Civic Center Sustainable Resource District.  He said the entire civic center area will be emphasizing sustainability and the Main Library is very much a part of this program.  He said there will be a committee that will be looking at very specific goals and Roberto Lombardi our Facilities Director will be participating.  He said the Commission is invited to the 30th anniversary party for City Guides to be held in the Main Library on Monday, October 20 at 7:30.  He said City Guides is an affiliate group of the library.  He said they provide free tours of the city led by volunteers and the library provides office space for them here at the Main.  He said the Commission is also invited to attend the Project Read adult literacy program’s 25th anniversary on Monday, October 27 from 6:30 – 8:00 pm also here at the Main Library.  He said it is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the learners who participate in the program along with the volunteer tutors who teach adults to read.     

Marcia Schneider, Chief of Communications, Collections & Adult Services, said Robert Sabuda: Travels in Time and Space is currently on display through November 9 in the Jewett Gallery.  She said the Afghanistan photographic exhibit 1970 – 1975 Images from an Era of Peace will be opening in the Skylight Gallery on October 11.  She said there are also several exhibits opening this week on the 3rd and 4th floors.  She said there was a rally for banned books this week at the Main Library.  She said the Litquake Off the Richter Scale Readings will be on October 4 and 5 at the Main Library.  She said award winning author David Macaulay will be speaking on October 14.  She said there will be several One City One Book programs and a number of programs celebrating Hispanic Heritage month which began in September and continues through the month of October. 

Public Comment

An anonymous citizen said during the City Librarian’s report on August 21 the Commission was asked to review a response letter to the Civil Grand Jury.  He said he was in shock that the Commission did not take responsibility for this response.  He said the library administration added a sentence before it was sent to the Board of Supervisors.  He said the two letters have the same date.  He said the Library Commission has never approved a comprehensive redesign of the website as stated in the letter.  He said the Board of Supervisors has been told that you approved something you did not approve.

Peter Warfield said it sounds a little like when the Commission was hornswoggled just a few months ago.  He said the Civil Grand Jury report had the word accountability in the title and accountability was an issue.  He said it seems the Commission would be concerned that their action was reported as something it was not.  He said the Collection Development Report mentioned missing title reports  He said there has been questions with respect to this general subject as to how the collection is selected and maintained and is one of the most important things that the library can do.  He said there have been questions about whether the missing books are researched in a systematic way. 

Ellen Egbert said one of her great joys is coming to the library on Thursdays to meet for two hours with her Project Read learner.  She said she is so enthusiastic about that program.  She said there is no group of people who are more appreciative of the library than the Project Read learners.  She said they are all adults and are people who recognize that there is a lack in their life because they have not mastered reading.  She said they are appreciative of participating in reading.  She encouraged the Commissioners to attend the Project Read event on October 27.

Commission Discussion

Commissioner Del Portillo said the citizenship test has changed, so she wondered if the material the library is offering is consistent with the changes.

Brian Bannon, Chief of Branches, said there is a staff working group working in partnership with another library system on this issue.  He said all of the information is included in 5 languages.  He said it includes information on the old exam and the new exam.  He said the changes go into effect later this month.  He said in addition they are doing an audio introduction in 4 languages.  He said they are also working on a larger public information program.

Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said the letter to the Civil Grand Jury incorporated the comments made by the Commission.

Commissioner Chin said she wanted to commend staff on all their hard work and specifically on One City One Book.  She said the kids at her school are knitting hats for kids in Afghanistan and will be showing them at the library.


Donna Bero, Friends of the Library, said congratulations to CityGuides and Project Read on their anniversaries and exceptional work.  She said the purpose of the Banned Books event was to share titillating and provocative works that are available at the library and to bring attention to the possibility that their protection could erode at any time.  She said it was an important and moving event.  She thanked President Gomez for participating and the library for holding the event. 

Byron Spooner, Director of Book Operations, Friends of the Library, said the 44th annual Big Book Sale, which just concluded, was the largest sale ever.  He said there were 10,000 boxes of books or 250,000 – 300,000 books in 64 different categories.  He said the sale was open for 42 hours over 4 ½ days.  He said the Member Preview party was attended by 2500 people.  He said 1350 people were waiting in line to get in at 4:00 pm.  He said some of those people had waited since 6:00 am.  He said about 8,000 more people attended on the following days.  He said there were about 250 volunteers.  He said $265,000 worth of books was sold this year as compared to last year at $237,000.

Donna Bero, Friends of the Library, said the final Poets Eleven reading was on September 21 in the Koret.  She said nearly all of the 33 chosen writers were able to participate.  She said there were three times as many submissions this year as last year.  She said Litquake kicks off on October 3 in partnership with Porchlight.  She said on 10/16 there will be a 4-day series on warrior writers, who are veterans of the current wars and have chosen writing and art to work through some of their experiences.  She said bricks for the Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk branch library are available for $250 and anyone who buys a brick will be entered into a lottery for tickets to the premiere of the movie Milk.  She said there will be a series in the branch libraries entitled “Going Public” where parents will be talking about choosing and improving public schools.  She said at Book Bay Fort Mason the theme this month is I Love New York and in November it is Wars and Battles.     

Public Comment

An anonymous citizen said there was not a word about the public comment fund.  He thought it was inspired when he hit upon the idea of reading “Elegy Written in a Country Courtyard”.  He said it is an indictment of everything the public comment fund stands for and everything the Friends and Foundation stand for.  He said the theme is that the poet is walking through a cemetery and starts to meditate about the common man.  He said the poet realizes that the virtues of humanity and civilization are what we owe those citizens.  He quoted the poem.

Commission Discussion

Commissioner Munson suggested that the Commission trail Item No. 6 (Focus on Hormel Center) and Item No. 7 (Labor Union Report) and adjourn the meeting early because of a possible loss of quorum due to the Vice-Presidential debate.


MOTION: by Commissioner Munson, seconded by Commissioner Chin, to trail Items 6 and 7 and to adjourn the regular meeting of Thursday, September 4, 2008.

Public Comment

Peter Warfield said the motion was a sensible one and he would support adjournment.

AYES: 6-0 (Chin, Del Portillo, Gomez, Harris, Lee and Munson).

The regular meeting of October 2, 2008, of the San Francisco Public Library Commission adjourned at 6:11 pm.

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).