News - March 3, 2010

Study: Atherton Library needs to double in size

by Andrea Gemmet

Atherton's quaint little branch library needs to more than double in size, expand its collection and make a number of improvements, according to a recently completed study.

"Clearly, we need to enhance our library," said Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis after hearing a presentation on the library's needs at the Feb. 17 council meeting.

The library is housed in a renovated home near the Atherton train station, behind the Town Council chambers.

Pamela Brule and Brad Cox of Anderson Brule Architects, the firm hired by the San Mateo County Library, presented the 100-page needs assessment report to the City Council. The library should be expanded from its current 4,790 square feet to approximately 11,100 square feet in order to better accommodate its patrons, according to the report.

At its current size, the library can't accommodate an adequate collection of books and materials, according to the report. It should also increase seating areas and the number of public computers, provide a separate area for events and programs, and create dedicated spaces for children, teens and quiet study, report said. Handicap accessibility improvements are also needed, as well as a reconfiguration of staff offices.

While such grandiose improvements may sound like a pipe dream, the Atherton library has a large pot of "donor city" funds at its disposal. The Atherton branch library is one of three in San Mateo County that receives more income from property tax revenue than it costs to operate. The excess money goes into a dedicated fund for library improvements. By June, the Atherton library's fund is expected to reach $4.6 million, said Louise Ho, Atherton's finance director.

In researching the library's needs, the consultants met with focus groups and conducted a survey of people who use the library. Ms. Lewis said she was concerned about the small sample size, with just under 150 survey responses. Councilman Charles Marsala pointed out that the survey failed to mention that there was money available for library improvements.

Councilman Jerry Carlson expressed concerns about the library's parking constraints and the possible impact of the planned high-speed rail line.

The library study is certain to be the topic of more public meetings and debate before any decisions are made about expanding or improving it.

Go to and scroll down to item No. 7 to see the full needs assessment report online.


Posted by Charles Marsala, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 2, 2010 at 9:52 pm

One idea I would like to hear the residents' comments is to turn over the existing council chambers to the library and use part of the Donor City surpluses to renovate (bring up to seismic code), increase (remove the back wall and increase capacity to 90 people), and and convert that building to a community center to host the events of the library. Currently the San Mateo County Library System has created a program of concerts, lectures, and movie nights.

The town would still need to use the building for Council, Commission, and Committee meetings, which would be 7-10 days a month. These meetings are on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays.

Currently the events are held in the computer area of the library.

Charles Marsala
Council Member

Posted by Cut it out, a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 3, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Stop the shenanigans with the library Charles. As a counoil member you should be working on the police issues and preventing the Johns lawsuit from continuing to escalate into costing taxpayers a fortune. Egos need to be checked in at the door to solve both of these problems.

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