At the end of a long school day, many students head to the locations they have determined to be their most productive environment for studying, such as local libraries around town, coffee shops or their desks at home.
However, some students don’t have this luxury, due to a lack of transportation, disruptive living circumstances, or evening activities on campus that they must stay for.
Generally, the most convenient location for these students to study is the makeshift library, currently held in the student center. However, this space closes at 5 p.m, forcing students to find a different location.
The Campanile believes the hours of the newly renovated library, scheduled to open in January 2019, should be extended in order to provide an adequate after-school study space for students. In addition to funding for extending the daily library hours, The Campanile believes funding should also be budgeted to cover popular programs like Food for Thought.
Before the library renovation started, many Paly students stayed until the library closed. Even with the temporary library in the student center, Paly librarian Rachel Kellerman estimates an average of 20-30 students stay until closing at 5 p.m., which demonstrates that students still value the study space, even in the makeshift location.
Members of The Campanile staff attest to the fact that the Rinconada Library, one of the two main libraries in Palo Alto, is used by Paly students after school, to the point where the teen room, private study rooms and desks in the main area are often crowded.
On Monday through Thursday, the Rinconada Library is open until 9 p.m., a resource many students utilize to study late. If the Paly library were to extend its hours, students would likely opt to use this more convenient and likely less crowded space. While keeping the library open until 9 p.m. likely isn’t feasible, a good compromise would be to extend library hours until 6 or 7 p.m.
According to Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson, the new Paly library is estimated to cost $10 million. We believe it would be a waste to spend this much money on a building without allowing students to take full advantage of its utility, as the purpose of renovating the library was to serve the students and provide them with the best opportunities possible.
Berkson said if the hours were to be extended, the library would be staffed with a “classified employee,” meaning a non-teacher. The cost would be approximately $25 per hour with 25% benefits, which is a tiny fraction of the total cost of the renovations.
According to Berkson, in order for Paly to acquire additional funding for this purpose, administrators would have to go to the District to request the money from the chief academic officer or the director of fiscal services.
Berkson said gaining these additional funds would likely not be easy. The District receives a budget from the government every year, which often includes one-time funds that the District can then allocate in a variety of ways. Berkson said it would be difficult to use the District’s current budget to add another expenditure right now.
We strongly urge Paly administration to request additional funding from the District for extended hours, or to work with the District to redirect funds in order to make the extended hours a priority.
Kellerman said the library staff is there to serve the students, and if the library is able to get the funding to staff the library for extended hours, they are happy to do it.
The issue of funding longer library hours extends even farther than the wish for a later closing time on a day-to-day basis. Food For Thought, a popular program held in the library during finals week that provides students with hearty, free dinners and teachers available to answer questions, is also facing funding problems.
According to Mary Bena, the founder and organizer of Food For Thought, last year’s program was funded by a generous donation from a Paly parent. However, Bena said the program will not be able to run this year without additional funding, whether from the District or from parents.
To fund the first year of Food For Thought, Bena went around Palo Alto to organizations such as churches to raise the necessary funds. While Bena said she is willing to do that again, she would prefer an alternate source of funding.
Around 250 students attended during first semester finals in the winter of 2017. Given the popularity of the program, The Campanile believes it would be a worthwhile investment for the District to fund both the Food For Thought program and extended hours for the library.