Viewpoint - July 13, 2011

Letter: Build library at existing site, not in park

How fortunate we are to have the money and energy to build a new, efficient, and seismically safe library for our town. How tempting it is to overbuild the facility just because we can. A sincere "thank you" to those who are working diligently on planning.

As almost 40-year users, supporters and observers of both the existing library and Holbrook-Palmer Park, here are our thoughts. From listening and learning at the two informational meetings this past week, we are fearful that the library consultants are envisioning a new facility which is too big and too complex for us.

The term being used for the new library is "community center," encompassing meeting rooms, indoor-outdoor study spaces, teen gathering areas, possible food and drink amenities as well as comfortable seating, acoustic separations, computer and laptop facilities, enhanced collection areas, efficient staff work spaces, etc. Atherton is a unique, sleepy little town of fewer than 8,000 residents, many of whom live in gated and walled residences; Atherton has no commercial venues by choice. Atherton does not have the same requirement for a "community center" as perhaps Menlo Park or Belmont. In the current planning, are we perhaps seduced by the mentality of "If we build it, they will come"?

Having overheard an Atherton library staffer tell a group of patrons this week that the new library will likely be built at Site B, Holbrook-Palmer Park, we wonder if the two meetings this past week were for appearances rather than substance. Since 1972 we have witnessed improvements to the park (with attendant wear and tear) and remember well a multitude of "improvements" which were fortunately not allowed: swim club, putting green, bonsai garden, art gallery, etc. Our judgment is that it would be a huge mistake to locate a new library/community center at Site B, Holbrook-Palmer Park, because it would be yet another attraction for increased auto traffic and parking, wear and tear, maintenance and expense to our already strapped budget. Far more appropriate, in our opinion, would be to build at the existing library location, Site A, because a new library would continue to be an asset to the adjacent neighborhood rather than a diminishment to the inherent natural ambiance of Holbrook-Palmer Park.

Stuart and Bill Awbrey, Rittenhouse Avenue, Atherton


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