Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sunnyvale Libraries - III

Last time I looked at the cost to increase Sunnyvale's library facilities to the size per capita of similar nearby cities by building branch libraries vs. tearing down the existing one and building a new one.  The numbers were:

Using $500/sq ft

1.   50K sq. ft more - branch libraries = 110K sq. ft. total = $25M = $1.5M/yr @ 2% bond interest (match Mtn Vu's space/person)

2.  87K sq. ft more - branch libraries = 147K sq. ft. total = $44M = $2.7M/yr @ 2% bond interest (match San Mateo's space/person)

3.  ABA 2007 proposal:   81K sq. ft more space in one main library = 141K sq. ft. total = $81M = $5.0M/yr @ 2% bond interest.   Since they proposed to tear down 60K sq. ft. the cost for the additional 81K sq. ft. would have been $81M/81K sq. ft. = $1,000/sq ft.

There is another option for expanding facility space.  We could form joint school-city libraries at any of the many school libraries in town.  This has been and is being done throughout the world.  Publications on how to do it include:

"Is a Combined School/Public Library Right for Your Community? A Guide for Decision Makers" by the State Library of Iowa available at:

"Combined School and Public Libraries Guidelines for Decision Making, Second Edition" by Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction available at:

The Iowa publication on page 24 shows a number of combined libraries and shows that they save money on a per capita basis, sometimes quite a bit.  In the Wisconsin publication they give brief descriptions of how selected combined libraries work (pg 18 ff).  There is sharing and collaboration along reasonable lines that are pretty much what you would expect.

There will be severe cutbacks in school funding if the tax measure doesn't pass this November.  The first to get cut may well be school librarians who are becoming an endangered species in some states.  The city already pays for some athletic coaching for the public schools, it could take on the library staff of say Columbia Middle School and perhaps an elementary school or two in return for having public access during non-school hours and school vacations.  This could be a real win-win with cheap public branch libraries for the public while helping out the public schools.

These are difficult economic times.  We should be creative.

Sunnyvale Libraries - II

I was looking at the cost estimates in the 2007 study.  They came out to about $450/sq ft (in the 3rd part of the study "3_r_sunnyvale_lof_building_program_070628.pdf") which seems in line with what I found elsewhere - specifically here:

Including everything else needed to equip a library, we're looking at around $500/sq ft. as the spread sheet available here shows:
(5th link down under "Resources")
Construction Costs for Recently Completed California Public Library Buildings (xls)

Here are a list of a few comparable Bay area cities (by income and house value) and their (sq. ft.)/person of library facilities.

Sta Clara - (88K sq ft)/pop 119K = 0.73 sq ft/person
Mtn Vu - (60K sq ft)/pop 76K = 0.79 sq ft/person
San Mateo - (106K sq ft)/pop 101K = 1.05 sq ft/person
Sunnyvale - (60K sq. ft)/pop 140K = 0.43 sq. ft./person

If we got one branch library sufficient to give us the sq. ft. per person that Mountain View has we would need 110K sq. ft. total or about 50K more space - almost as large as the existing main library.  That would be about $25M for the entire project.  Municipal bond interest rates are at about 2% for 20 years which works out to $1.5M/year, according to a mortgage calculator I used.  If we go for San Mateo's (sq. ft)/person we would need 147K sq. ft total or about 87K more sq. ft at $500/sq. ft = $44M.  At 2% over 20 years this would be $2.7M/yr.

By comparison, ABA's projected cost (page 17 of part 3) was $81M to tear down the existing library and build a new one of 143K sq. ft. = $566/sq. ft.   As it would still be only one library, it would not have solved the problem of accessibility that branch libraries address.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sunnyvale Libraries

(Updated 4/5/2014 with 2012 publication data - the most recent)
Prelude: Given it's education and income level, Sunnyvale residents may very well want a bigger main library and several branch libraries.  This can be acheived through expansion and renovation - not tearing down the existing building.  BUT, Sunnyvale's library is by no means worse than average within the state.  It is in fact, dead average in floor space, and above average in several other metrics.

1. Summary: I show (using CA state library data for all library systems in CA) that Sunnyvale's library size is bigger (sometimes much bigger) than most comparably sized cities (on a per person basis).  Sunnyvale residents may want an even bigger library than the average for California. This should be done in the same way that others have done it - by adding on and renovating the existing library and converting some park buildings into libraries.  We see that out of 10 library systems closest to Sunnyvale's size only 2 - Torrance and Pasadena - have bigger systems (per capita).  Out of 36 other library systems of comparable size to Sunnyvale, only 20% have bigger library systems.  They achieve this mainly with lots of little branch libraries similar in size to our park buildings.  Sunnyvale can certainly do this and far more cost effectively than by tearing down our current library.

2.  Sunnyvale Library Size Compared to CA Average:
There are a number of publicly available documents summarizing key data for libraries in the State of California.  One from the CA State Library web site is reached by going to

Clicking on
Key Ratios and Performance Indicators-FY 2010-11
gets you here:

This is a table which you can sort by clicking on any column heading to sort by that statistic.  If we choose square feet per person we get the following (click on image to enlarge):
This shows that when you compare Sunnyvale to the average for all of California you get comparable square feet per capita:

For all of CA:  (Total Sq. Ft. of All CA Libraries) / (Total CA Population) = 0.4348
For Sunnyvale:  (Sunnyvale Library Sq. Ft.)/(Sunnyvale Population) = 0.4309

This puts Sunnyvale at the State average to 2 significant figures.  Only the town of Hemet (in So. CA) is any closer to the average for all of California.

3.  Sunnyvale Library Size Compared to Same Sized CA Cities:
How does Sunnyvale's library "square feet per person" compare to comparably sized CA cities?  This is easy to find with the same online database (which is also downloadable as an Excel Spread Sheet).  Sorting by population we get the following (click on image to enlarge):
We see above that of the 10 library systems serving a comparably sized population, only Torrance and Pasadena (2 out of 10) are more than 10% above Sunnyvale in Sq. Ft. per person. Several systems are below, or far below Sunnyvale.  This screen image was captured with 10 cities per page but going to 20 cities per page doesn't change anything - only the same 2 library systems are more than 10% above Sunnyvale's.  That screen is impossible to get a screen capture of but you can visit the web site (given above) and try it yourself very easily.

Torrance: (listed here: )  If you look at the Torrance branch libraries using Google satellite and street views, you see they are little more than the size of our city park buildings (following are 3 examples).
Torrance El Retiro Park Branch Library

Torrance SE Branch Library
Torrance Henderson Branch Library
Which suggests we could do wonders for accessibility and materials space by converting and possibly enlarging our existing park buildings.

4.  How Other Cities Get More Library Space
Pasadena: (listed here: )
The Pasadena Public Library is a famous 1927 building on the National Register of Historic Buildings.  It was modernized and enlarged several times to it's current size of 130,000 square feet.  It is worth a view (click to enlarge):
Pasadena's Historic Library - Preserved, Enlarged and Modernized

Lovely old preserved interior
This main library has been enlarged to 130,000 sq. ft
Modernized interior of the preserved and enlarged library
Again, we have one main library with a lot of little branches, in schools, parks,and local neighborhoods.  None except the main library are noticeably larger than our park buildings.

As I mentioned you can download in Excel spreadsheet format many of the documents listed on the CA Library Website.  I downloaded "Public Library Survey Data (2010-11 Fiscal Year) (635 KB XLS)" and after sorting by size of the "Library Service Area" (LSA) got the following 38 library systems near Sunnyvale in population (click to enlarge):
Counting those with sq.ft. per capita greater than Sunnyvale's, you can see only 6 of the 37 have over 10% more sq. ft. per person than Sunnyvale's and many have much less.

So what can we conclude?  That if we want more library space comparable to other similar sized cities, we should enlarge the current library and convert neighborhood park buildings into branch libraries.  I showed how one library with the same square footage as ours managed to double their total space from 60,000 sq. ft. to 120,000 modernized sq. ft. in:

I covered library costs for expansion and new construction in:

I showed other library expansion plans in:

5. How does Sunnyvale's library compare in other regards?

I asked the City for a reference to the 2007 library needs assessment study and they promptly sent me this link:

The links to the PDFs are on the bottom of the page.  (Click on image to enlarge)

It mentions on page 90 of the "Community Needs Assessment" document a report compiled annually by the California State Library called "California Library Statistics".  The latest I could find is for 2012 (covering 2010-2011) located here:

This has page after page of tables comparing every community library system in California.  On page after page we see Sunnyvale either at or far above the state average for many items - FTE staff per person, etc., etc.

Here are some comparisons that didn't make it into the "Needs Assessment" study.  From "StatsPub11.pdf" available at the web site mentioned above.

Page 8 of the document: "Expenditures Per Capita FY 2009-2010"
-> CA avg: $32.70 <-
San Jose: $35.99
San Rafael $39.87
San Bruno $44.01
* Sunnyvale: $50.20 *
San Mateo $50.24
Santa Clara $61.32
Mountain View $62.70
Menlo Park $69.95
San Mateo Co $65.44
Santa Clara Co $79.91

(Not a comprehensive list)
Sunnyvale is well above the CA avg and towards the lower end of the middle range of local communities. But this has to be taken with some recognition of population.  You wouldn't take the average income of Richtown of pop. 1,000 at $200,000 and a working class Bigcity of 1,000,000 at $50,000 and then declare that average salary in the two cities is ($250,000 / 2) for the total population of the two cities.  That would effectively result in counting each Richtown resident as equal to over 1,000 Bigcity residents.  So not counting San Jose really skews the data.  Omitting San Jose as ABA ("Anderson Brule' Associates") did in their "Needs Assessment" document cited on the Sunnyvale web site is misleading.

Some more data from StatPubs12.PDF:
Materials Expenditures Per Capita:  CA Avg = $2.68, Sunnyvale = $4.27  (pg 13)
Circulation Per Capita: CA Avg. = 6.41, Sunnyvale = 17.89 (pg 17)
Visits Per Capita: Avg. = 4.41, Sunnyvale = 5.19 (pg 19)

There's a ton of other data more relevant to whether we need more library space which I'll get to later (I still think we should expand Sunnyvale's library space, just not by selling the Civic Center). 

- Michael Goldman