Minutes of the Regular Meeting of November 6, 2008

(As amended and approved at the Regular Meeting of December 4, 2008)

The San Francisco Public Library Commission held a regular meeting on Thursday, November 6, 2008, at the Park Branch Library.

The meeting was called to order at 4:30 pm. 

Commissioners present:  Chin, Del Portillo, Gomez, Harris, and Munson.

Commissioner Kane arrived at 4:44 pm.

Commissioner Lee was excused.


An anonymous citizen said the Commission has been told the best way to run the Library Commission is to close your mind to outside information and to keep the focus on the bottom line and the only thing important is money.  He said the Commission should not allow themselves to be distracted by information, sympathy, process or other social values.  He said of the pain, bitterness and resentment he has seen the greatest source of that bitterness and resentment is from former Library Commissioners.  He recommended Commissioners speak with previous Commissioners.  He said it is the Commission that is the victim of the wall of lies.

Peter Warfield said he wanted to note that this meeting is being held in the Park Branch.  He said it is unfortunate that this branch will be closed for relatively minor renovations.  He said a more than year long closure for what are basically cosmetic things ought to be avoided.  He said the Park Branch was renovated with the first library bond, which was intended to build the new main library, but there was money set aside to fix all of the branches with respect to earthquake safety and ADA accessibility.  He said that was the bond measure of 1988 and the $5 million set aside for the branches was far too little.  He said only approximately four branches were renovated under that original bond.    He said the Park Branch is a lovely branch and he wished that it would stay open during the renovations.

Ellen Egbert said Monday, October 27, 2008 was proclaimed by the Mayor, Project Read Day in San Francisco.  She said one of the sponsors of Project Read for all 25 years has been Friends of the Library.  She said the 25th anniversary event was held on October 27 at the Main Library and she said it was a very special event.  She said everyone entered on a red carpet and it was a wonderful touch.  She said there were a lot of speeches and she said there were teams of tutors and learners, alternating with other speeches.  She gave the example of one learner who had problems and the encouragement that reader had from the audience.

Tess Wellborn identified herself as a neighbor and a Board member of the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council.  She said the Park Branch needs to be open on Sundays.  She asked that the branch be closed on Mondays and open on Sundays.  She said most working people want to come on a day they have off.  She said she is not persuaded that the remodel that will be occurring at the branch is worth a year to two years of closure for the branch.  She said there needs to be more discussion with the neighborhood about what changes can be made with a minimum of closure time.  She said the neighborhood should also have a say in the furniture and fixtures for the branch.  


Public Comment

An anonymous citizen said the minutes reflect a great deal of effort to improve them.  He said that improvement is in a very narrow framework.  He said there are instances where points were left out.    He said under public comment the first part of his comments were reported but after that point he went on to say that not only was it symbolic but that the suppression of the truth gets worse the more serious the issue is.  He said he invited the Library Commissioners to go on a snipe hunt.  He said none of those comments were included.  He said on the last page it says the meeting was adjourned for the Vice Presidential debate, he had assumed it was the very important issue of the Treasury bailout but maybe it was a snipe hunt.

Commissioner Kane entered the meeting.

Peter Warfield said in many respect the minutes are good.  He has requests for improvement and at least one correction.  He said the first page the last paragraph is confusing and suggested that the word Secretary be inserted to read “. . . the Library Commission Secretary sent to the Board of Supervisors. . . “He said in the last sentence the word “not” is missing which changes the whole meaning of what was being said.  He said there were additional comments about the Commission not being told about the changes and he said those comments should be included in the minutes.  He said on page two the Library Users Association is misrepresented as the Library Users Advocates and he would like to see that corrected. 

Commissioner Munson asked the secretary to check the motion on page four where the ayes are listed as 6-0 and only five commissioners are listed and to make the proper correction.

President Gomez asked that the word not be added to the last sentence on page one so that it reads “. . . that legislation changed in ways that did not follow what the Commission had approved.”  She said on page 2 the name Library Users Advocates should be changed to Library Users Association.

Commissioner Munson asked that the last two sentences by the anonymous citizen under Public Comment on page 1 be changed to read: “The anonymous citizen said this is emblematic of everything the Commission faces and he said this is the way the Commission . . .”   

MOTION: by Commissioner Chin, seconded by Commissioner Del Portillo, to approve the minutes of October 2, 2008 as amended by Commissioner Munson and President Gomez listed above.

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


An anonymous citizen said thank you for the corrections to the previous minutes.  He said his last sentence under Public Comment says “He said the Commission does not have any say in these issues because the would rather . . .” and the word the should be they.  He said he went on to make additional comments which are not included.  He said it makes no sense to include all of that detail at the beginning of his comments and then not come to the conclusion that he came too.  He said it is like taking away 100% of his rights and giving back 10%.  He said the law says you are supposed to include citizen summarizes in the minutes.  He said if you are willing to break the law on that matter what else are you willing to break the law on?

Sue Cauthen, Chair of the Library Citizens Advisory Committee (LCAC), speaking for herself, said on page 2 at the top of the page she had asked that the recommendation from the LCAC be included with the minutes and that they were not attached to the minutes.  She said the Sunshine Ordinance does require that summaries of 150 words or less be attached to the minutes.

Peter Warfield said the Sunshine Ordinance requires that Boards and Commissions include summaries of public comment if they are provided in writing and 150 words or less.  He said in the past he had submitted summaries that had not been included in the minutes.

Sue Blackman, Commission Secretary, said the LCAC summary had been included with the draft minutes posted on the website and unfortunately it was not included with the copies that were made so that would be corrected when the Minutes are finalized.

MOTION: by Commissioner Chin, seconded by Commissioner Munson, to approve the minutes of October 16, 2008.

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


Luis Herrera, City Librarian welcomed everyone to the Park Branch Library.  He said it is the oldest branch library in the system built in 1909.  He said at an October Commission meeting Commissioner Del Portillo raised a question regarding the type of materials the library is offering through the Citizenship Project.

Brian Bannon, Chief of Branches, said when there were changes made to the citizenship exam the library decided to update and enhance the citizenship resources. 

Alvaro Sanabria explained the work done by the Ethnic Services Committee on the Citizenship Project.  He said they had entered into a partnership with the Seattle Public Library.  He explained the process steps, the document update, local resources, translations and video, relevancy and credits.

Skye Patrick, Web Services Manager, showed the information available on the United States Citizenship Resources page of the SFPL website.  She said the information is available in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Russian.  She said there is a Guide to Naturalization, Study Questions for the Naturalization Exam, Organizations that can help with Citizenship, English as a Second Language Providers.

Joan Lefkowitz, Media Production Specialist, said the citizenship project is the library’s first use of video on the website.  She showed some of the video available on the website in the various languages.  She said media services are now in the process of producing Public Service Announcements. 

Brian Bannon, Chief of Branches, said the next steps on this program will be to explore making some of the content such as the questions and answers available as audio.  He said it makes it much easier for people if they can study in their own language prior to taking the exam in English.

Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said while other systems are looking at closing branches and services, there is good news in San Francisco being able to extend branch library hours for 2008/09.   

Jill Bourne, Deputy City Librarian, explained the continuing priorities for adding additional hours to the branches.  She said more permanent hours will be added on Sunday to Noe Valley, Presidio, Bayview, Merced and Ortega.  Monday hours will be added to Glen Park and Golden Gate Valley.  These hours will take effect Sunday, November 23 and Monday, November 24.  She said the BLIP bookmobile will begin service to Treasure Island on Thursdays.  She said the new hours will be promoted through public programs, marketing and outreach. 

Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said they are kicking off a pilot program of a Leadership Academy with 35 staff members participating.  He said the program is called Gen PL, the next generation of public library leaders.  He said there were approximately 100 applications and the 35 participants represent all divisions in the library.  He said part of the funding for the program comes from the Friends of the Library.

Toni Bernardi, Chief of Children and Youth Services, said the Early Literacy and Learning Program or Every Child Ready to Read is all about partnering with parents and caregivers to raise a community of readers.  She said the program consists of supporting staff, expanding collections, connecting with caregivers, strengthening partnerships and enriching environments.  She said the Play to Learn areas are now available in 11 branches.  She said the panels include languages other than English.  She said the height measurer tower has books, marbles, cable cars, Ghirardelli Chocolate Bar wrappers and SFPL library cards.  She said by the end of the BLIP program every library will have a Play to Learn area.  

Public Comment


Peter Warfield said there were two things that concerned him about the report by Toni Bernardi.  He said cupcakes were mentioned twice and Ghirardelli Chocolate was mentioned once.  He said it concerns him that if the library is going to get into the business of providing food, he said the library should get guidance with respect to nutrition and healthy eating habits for children.  He said he was concerned about brand naming the chocolate.  He said he is curious about what kind of arrangements have been made, but he said he does not think it is appropriate to show particular brands.  He said he is glad there will be increased hours at the branches.  He said the handout is missing a page for the year 2005-06.  He said he personally alerted the Commission and the Board of Supervisors that the emphasis should be on hours and books at the library in light of Proposition E.  He said there were no additional hours in 05-06.  

An anonymous citizen said he admired the citizenship material that was presented.  He said we should probably thank Commissioner Del Portillo for asking about this.  He said the report on hours is not a report on increased hours it is a report on branches.  He said there are no figures on total hours and no figures on closures.  He said a person from the neighborhood stated her concern about closures.  He said we learn from play at every age and he was mesmerized by the presentation.  He said play by nature is self-directed, independent and not graded or evaluated.  He said that is why public libraries are so valuable because you can come into them all by yourself and learn without being evaluated.    

Roberto Lombardi, Facilities Director, said that the Facilities Division consumed the vast majority of cupcakes and the chocolate.  He said they did not go to the children.  He said he would like to see employees eat more healthy food as well.

Melissa Riley said Ghirardelli is a famous local name and it is very significant to have it on the measuring column. 

Commission Discussion

Commissioner Kane said he enjoyed the presentation on the citizenship project and he congratulated the library on this very valuable and important service.  He said his daughter has enjoyed Play to Learn.  He said on open hours he continues to push for every day at every branch.  He said we are moving in that direction but he would like to encourage us to think creatively to reach that goal.  He said since we have libraries closed he would like to know what happens to the staff from those closed libraries.

Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said the policy is to extend hours in neighboring branches when a branch is closed for renovation.  He said staff is deployed to the neighboring branches. 

Jill Bourne, Deputy City Librarian, said they will report back to the Commission on a report on the status of temporary services relating to the BLIP.

Commissioner Del Portillo said congratulations to the staff on the citizenship project.  She said she was concerned that Commissioner questions have to wait to the end of the report and the end of public comment to be addressed.  She said it does discourage Commissioner participation and contribution.  She said many people do not have computers and do not have access to the information on the citizenship project.  She asked about the outreach for this program. 

Brian Bannon, Chief of Branches said printed information is also available on the citizenship program at each of the branches.  He said people have asked for the material in an audio version as well.  He said a lot of outreach has been done about the program.  He said they are working with schools and community service agencies.

Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said the marketing part of this is really an important part of what the library does day in and day out.

Alvaro Sanabria said the information is available in print and the library has bilingual staff who can assist patrons with the computer.  He said the Immigration Department now has appointments only set up through a computer.  He said the library offers classes on the computer as well.

Commissioner Del Portillo said she suggests that outreach be done through the local newspapers.  She said word of mouth and community based organizations are very important to help get the word out.

Commissioner Chin said the bilingual schools do take students to the library to learn to use the computer.  She said the citizenship project is a great service.  She said Play to Learn is phenomenal and she asked how it was funded.

Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said Play to Learn was paid by appropriations from the Library’s budget and additional funding came from the Friends of the Library.

Commissioner Chin said the Friends of the Library are important because they support innovative projects like Play to Learn.  She asked how the budget impacts would impact the Library’s level of service.

Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said there is no indication that there will be an impact on the Library Preservation Fund or level of service. He said he will report back to the Commission in December as the budget process begins to determine any impacts such as hiring freezes.



Donna Bero, Friends of the Library, said it was good to be at the Park Branch.  She said she is constantly struck by the high quality of programs by the Library.  She said other cities are closing branches and losing hours so she wants to commend San Francisco for continuing to add new hours to the branches.  She said she is thrilled the library takes so seriously an investment in early childhood development.  She said Friends have been looking very carefully at what the economy will portend for nonprofits.  She said they are cautiously optimistic that the support of public libraries will continue.  She said Wells Fargo Bank has offered a very low interest seed loan of $1 million at 2% to flush their cash flow needs.  She thanked Commissioner Munson for submitting nominations to California Association of Trustees and Commissioners (CALTAC).  She said Luis Herrera has been awarded the Librarian of the Year for Outstanding Work with a Board or Commission.  She said the Friends won an award for the Community Organization making a Significant Financial or In-kind Contribution to a library in California.  She said at the California Library Association (CLA) conference this year there will be a new effort to include private side partnerships in programming and strengthen ties in the community.  She said there will be a pre-conference just for Friends, Foundations and Trustees.  She said on Monday, November 10 will be the last of three Going Public programs where parents talk about choosing and improving public schools for kids.  She said on November 12 at the Friends’ office there will be a discussion on Schools and Libraries.  She said on December 8 United States Poet Laureate Kay Ryan will be doing a public reading at Fort Mason.  She said the Save the Date card is out for next year’s Library Laureates Dinner on April 17, 2009.

Public Comment

An anonymous citizen said the history the Commission has of frustrating public participation does not serve its self interest in the long run.  He said the poem he has been reciting at past meetings, “Elegy in a Country Churchyard,” continues to its most dramatic part and he recited the poem.  He said it is about how the common man faces death. 

Peter Warfield said he agreed with the Commissioner who spoke about the sequence of discussion.  He said he thinks Commission discussion would be useful during the reports.  He said Jill Bourne, Deputy City Librarian, and others have worked hard to add more hours.  He said the City Librarian in the past asked that no more hours be added.  He said fortunately he and others continued to advocate for more hours.

Commission Discussion

Commissioner Kane said the Friends are an important part of the library in raising money for programming and for the Branch Library Improvement Program.  He said he has asked the Friends for a full annual report to the Commission on the money raised and how it is spent. 

Donna Bero, Friends of the Library, said the Friends do an annual report and have just had an audit done this year.  She said they always make the findings public.  She said she is more than happy to provide the audit to the Commission.  She said they are in the process of creating an annual report and would like to present that to the Commission when it is ready.

Commissioner Kane said he would like to see an annual report given to the Commission.  

Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said in addition to the awards mentioned in the Friends’ report, CALTAC also gives two major awards each year.  One is the Members award and the other is the President’s award.  He said the President’s award is given to an individual or agency that has the greatest impact on improving and enhancing library services in the State.  He said this year’s recipient is Donna Bero and he wanted to congratulate her on that award.

Commissioner Munson asked the anonymous citizen if he could stay on topic when he speaks on each item.  


Brian Bannon, Chief of Branches, introduced Cathy Delneo, Branch Manager and Children’s Librarian for the Park Branch.  He said she is very active in many aspects of the library.

Cathy Delneo said she is very happy the Commission is visiting the Park Branch.  She gave a history of the Haight-Ashbury community and the branch itself.  She said the branch opened in 1909.  She said it is the oldest currently operating branch in the SFPL system.  She said while the branch looks like a Carnegie library it is not.  She explained the Park Branch service population demographics, economic data, the business district, schools, service organizations, community groups and hospitals and universities.  She said the Park Branch offers programs for children, teens and adults.  She said the branch will be remodeled as part of the Branch Library Improvement Program.  She said they will be remodeling the interior while maintaining the branch’s historic appearance. 

Public Comment

An anonymous citizen said it is interesting that the branches used to be numbered.  He said this is an inspiring neighborhood.  He said it is a politically active neighborhood.  He said this is the branch of a legendary local librarian by the name of Dottie Myers, who was here for years and years.  He said one of the things she did was take her role as the local librarian and become the archivist for the neighborhood.  He said the branch has a valuable archive of the counterculture years.  He said they do exhibits once in a while from the archive and it is one of the highlights of the whole San Francisco library experience.

Peter Warfield said the Park Branch is a wonderful library.  He said the historical materials have been occasionally displayed.  He said in the Haight there is not really a place for visitors to find out about the area, but the library fills in for that when it has exhibits and provides research materials.  He said there are many bookstores nearby.  He said Mayor Willie Brown attended the branch’s 90th birthday party.  He said the library is old, appreciated and loved by the neighbors and those who use it. He said the staff and the building are a pleasure to visit.  He said it is unfortunate that it is not a seven day branch and that it is not open on Sundays.

Commission Discussion

President Gomez said that was a wonderful and informative presentation with a charming delivery.    


Melissa Riley, Librarian’s Guild, said she is happy to hear that Luis Herrera and Donna Bero are receiving CALTAC awards.  She said it is interesting that at various times in San Francisco’s history they have tried to close branches.  She said the users of the library would rise up and keep them open.  She said it is nice to have branches in most of the neighborhoods and that they are continuing to open more hours.  She said there is a group of people consisting of every nonprofit in San Francisco that receives city funding.  She said that would be a great way to get the word out about our citizenship project.  She said personal relationships with librarians and the community can help to get the word out as well.  She said the meeting room in the Park Branch is the largest and most useful of all the branch library meeting rooms.  She said it is a great resource. 

Public Comment

Peter Warfield said there has been a number of instances where library branches were scheduled for closure and citizens did rise up and oppose those closures.  He said he is glad that we have the system we have and that there are branches in most neighborhoods.  He said it is nice there is public space open to everyone.  He said when the Main library opened there was concern that there would be corporate logos on everything.  He said that is an appropriate concern.  He said commercialization of any kind at the library concerns him.

Commission Discussion

Commissioner Chin said when they have looked at closing branches it has always been a budgetary issue.


MOTION: by Commissioner Munson, seconded by Commissioner Harris to adjourn the regular meeting of Thursday, November 6, 2008.

Public Comment


There was no public comment on this item.

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

The regular meeting of November 6, 2008, of the San Francisco Public Library Commission adjourned at 7:00 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).