Planning the NEW Los Altos Library Building and Programs

Los Altos Library circa 1960s
The 1960's building can't support a 2nd tear down and rebuild.
Written by lalahpolitico

Here are the highlights of a Sept. 7, 2018 public meeting hosted by the Community Coalition of Los Altos, CA. The meeting was  about the effort to build a brand new Los Altos Library building on the footprint where the current one stands today.

Listen to the 60 minutes of silky streaming audio of presentions and snappy audience Q&A. Or click on the Podbean logo to go to the hosting site for a download of the .mp3. You can download the file and listen on any of your devices.


Marlene Iwamoto

Marlene Iwamoto, head librarian at the SCCL library, Main Los Altos Library.

Marlene Iwamoto, our Head Librarian at the Los Altos branch of SCCL,  spoke for about 30 minutes. She spoke  about the history of library facilities in Los Altos, about the current library programs and about gaps in programs and facilities at the main library.  There is only one community room – the Orchard Room built in the 90’s.  One is not enough. Teens don’t have a dedicated space in which to be noisy.  The children’s room often spills out into the main library.  There are no separate restrooms for families and children. These are needs that can be addressed by a new Los Altos Library building

In the future, the new Los Altos Library building would like to provide more for all those age-groups. It would like to add services like a passport applications desk, a 3-d printer and tools check-out in some kind of a maker space. 

In the coming year, the “New Los Altos Library Building” committee will be setting up community ‘listening’ meetings. These are intended to learn what residents and NCLA voters would like to see in a new library. 

Remodel is OUT, Tear down & Rebuild is IN

Cindy Hill, community volunteer, librarian Federal Reserve of SF.

Cindy Hill, a community volunteer, spoke for 30 minutes about the research the “New Los Altos Library” committee has conducted over the past year.  They learned that the available footprint for a new building was limited to EXACTLY the one where the library is now.  The big constraint is the large conduit full of every kind of utility which runs in between the library and the orchard, under the sidewalk there. 

The group learned that only the newest part of the existing library, the front portion which was added in the 90’s, is strong enough for a 2nd story.  They learned that the old portion’s electrical and network wiring capacity is totally tapped out.  [So much for a more for a digital library.] Thus, the committee came to the conclusion that at 40,000 sq. ft. brand new two-story new Los Altos Library Building was the path forward.  Remodel approaches were not adequate for providing modern program services. 

Initial Bond Measure Survey

Lack of a dedicated, sound proof, teen room for just teens is a need. The desire for enough room for a Maker Space is also a popular idea.

A couple of months ago, the group and the NCLA hired Godbe Research to test a potential bond measure to pay for a new Los Altos Library building. [The Measure election would be held in the North County Library Authority (NCLA) area.  That is the City of Los Altos and the City of Los Altos Hill, but excludes the unincorporated areas which enjoy the same town addresses and zip codes! ]


About 60% of survey respondents were supportive of a bond at some of the lower bond levels tested.  The volunteer group feels ‘optimistic’ because 60% were supportive without any ‘educating’ of the voters about the library needs. With community outreach, they believe YES voters can exceed 66.6%.

The volunteer group feels ‘optimistic’ because 60% were supportive without any ‘educating’ of the voters about the library needs.

Audience Input & Q&A at the meeting

The audio tape [above] of the meeting includes lots of audience input and Q&A about the new Los Altos Library building.  

Several people suggested raising private matching funds in order to lower the size of the bond needed to pay for a new Los Altos Library building. 

One person asked what SCCL thought of Los Altos Measure C.  Ms. Iwamoto said she could not have an opinion but would be watching because SCCL does have leases with the City.  Per audience comments, Woodland expires in the 2020’s and the main library lease expires around 2032. 

re: Los Altos Measure C…Ms. Iwamoto said she could not have an opinion but would be watching because SCCL does have leases with the City

One person asked why the 40,000 sq. ft. 2 story new Los Altos Library building has about the same estimated cost as the 28,000 sq. ft. single story City Community Center from Noll & Tam. ANSWER:  Because the Santa Clara County Library System is paying for all the “soft costs” which boils down to the interior decor, finishes, library electronics, etc.  [Lalahpolitico: Also since the building is staying on the same footprint, there will be smaller “site preparation” costs.]

One person asked about whether a temporary library will be provided during construction of the new Los Altos Library building. ANSWER: Yes, but the location is for now unknown.  What’s known is that the cost of providing a temporary library is paid for by SCCL. [Unincorporated areas do pay SCCL property tax}

Friends of the Library runs the used book sales where you have probably shopped picking up some bargain oldies. The Friends were instrumental in urging the library to circulate the New York Times top 100 bestseller list books.

Speaker BIOS as provided by the Los Altos Community Coalition

……Marlene Iwamoto

Beginning her library career with the Santa Clara County Library District over 25 years ago, Marlene Iwamoto has worked in numerous library positions over the past two decades, gaining a thorough understanding of the multi-faceted workings of a library. From Library Page to Clerk, Library Technician, Graduate Intern, Librarian, and most recently as the Supervising Librarian of Adult and Teen Services at the Campbell Library.

While at the Campbell Library, she successfully fostered partnerships with the City of Campbell as well as local schools and community groups.  She was instrumental in developing Campbell Library’s Teen Advisory Board, helping foster leadership in local young adults; launching the California Department of Education grant-funded ESL classes and the ESL Conversation Club, and implementing the Get Tech Grant of fourteen science-based programs. Along with fellow librarians, Iwamoto also implemented and presented the Silicon Valley Grows Project, funded by a sustainability grant, at the California Library Association Conference in 2014 and the American Libraries Association Conference in 2015. Most recently, Iwamoto was awarded a Santa Clara County Employee Excellence Award as well as a County Top 10 Outstanding Employee for 2016 Award.

Marlene and her team are currently working on library projects to help enhance services and improve accessibility for Los Altos and Los Altos Hills communities.

……Cindy Hill

Cindy Hill is the manager of the Research Library and Bank Archives at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and has worked as an information professional in a variety of industries including environmental, engineering consulting, and executive recruiting and high technology.

Cindy is active in her profession and is a past-president of SLA (Special Libraries Association), an SLA Fellow and in 2014 received SLA’s highest honor, the John Cotton Dana Award. She frequently speaks about the information profession, innovation and the impact of technology and its potential. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from San Jose State University.

Her favorite country is Iceland because its rugged terrain was once used by astronauts to train for their Moon landings. Cindy has been to US NASA’s Space Camp twice.

These are the volunteers in the new library building group

About the author


Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past several years.