Midpeninsula Post

Palo Alto libraries expand hours

Mitchell Park Library in July 2023. (Josh Scheinman)

Mitchell Park Library is now open on Sundays, and the Palo Alto City Library is on track to continue expanding library hours for all locations.

In 2020, Palo Alto experienced a budget cut that resulted in libraries losing 30% of their staffing and 25-28% of their services, according to Library Services Director Gayathri Kanth, which led to severe cuts in opening hours.

Since then, the city council has consistently allocated more library funding each year. The library budget for the 2024 fiscal year is $11,993,392, representing a 17.5% rise from the 2023 budget.

“What has happened is after [2020], every year, the council has been giving back all the hours that we’ve lost,” Kanth said. “So with this year’s budget, we’re almost close to what we had before COVID.”

Last year, the Palo Alto City Council approved the three smaller libraries — Children’s, College Terrace and Downtown — to be open four days a week. The city’s two larger libraries, Mitchell Park and Rinconada, were approved to be open six days a week. Mitchell Park resumed Sunday hours on July 9, and as of this month, all Palo Alto libraries have hit this target.

The city council approved seven days a week for the larger libraries, six days a week for the Children’s Library and five days a week for Downtown and College Terrace libraries at its June 19 meeting. The libraries will continue expanding hours as the libraries fill staff vacancies, Management Analyst Sarah Wilson wrote in an email.

“Already, we are seeing people coming back, but we want to really expand even more and do more,” Kanth said. “For example, we really like working on students and services for students. One of the things that we are definitely interested in is providing programs that help students succeed, especially in the area of mental health.”

The libraries recently reached 650 programs this year. Prior to the pandemic, however, the libraries offered almost double that number, at 1200 programs a year. Kanth said that library staff members are working on ways to increase the number of available programs and further support community needs.

“I really think [Palo Alto is] a community that really really values the importance of the library, and they fully support the libraries,” Kanth said. “We’re very happy that we’re able to go back to the open hours.”

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