Local teens may reap the benefits of two initiatives on the June 8 primary ballot – a bond measure for the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District and a parcel-tax increase for the Los Altos Library.
“If you want to give to the future, you want to give to education – and, for me, the libraries go hand-in-hand with education,” said Elayne Dauber, a volunteer on the library parcel-tax campaign committee.
While many elections usher in a season of competing causes and ideologies, the two local committees engaged in campaigning for the June election see eye to eye and support each other’s overall mission – enhancing education.
Measure A, a $41.3 million bond that would extend but not increase the current tax rate, is designed to mitigate projected overcrowding and support educational programs at Los Altos and Mountain View high schools, according to backers.
In addition to funding construction of new classrooms and updating current facilities, the bond would finance the installation of solar panels and other environmentally conscious features that could save the district $400,000 annually.
The library parcel tax, Measure L, which requires approval from two-thirds of voters, would levy $76 annually per developed parcel. The current tax, approved in 1990 and set to expire in tax year 2011-2012, totals $52 annually. The new tax would begin July 1, when the old one lapses.
Library supporters claim the tax increase is necessary to maintain current hours at the Los Altos main and Woodland libraries. Woodland, located at 1975 Grant Road, underwent renovation earlier this year and celebrated its official reopening Friday.
In short, the libraries and schools need more money to maintain and supplement their services.
“It seems natural that libraries and education go together,” said Julia Rosenberg, Measure A campaign chairwoman.
The two campaigns are collaborating by sharing details and informing each other when one makes a strategic move, such as posting lawn signs.
“We pay taxes for so many things we hope to never need, such as disaster relief,” Dauber said. “Isn’t it wonderful to support things we use and really give us quality of life? By supporting libraries and schools, we are supporting the future.”
In addition to campaigning alongside each other, the library and the high schools have developed a mutually beneficial relationship over the years.
The Los Altos main library, located at 13 S. San Antonio Road, provides a variety of educational resources and entertainment options for local teens, including T-shirt designing, movie screenings and video-game nights.
Librarians post fliers at the high schools promoting their programs. Recently, teen librarian Sarah Neeri and Mountain View Los Altos district librarian Ben Lundholm teamed up to bring library programs to Mountain View High School.
“I thought if the library comes and interacts with the students here, that is worth 10,000 fliers,” Lundholm said.
Neeri said the library is attempting to familiarize students with its services.
“The library can sometimes seem like a scary and authoritative place,” she said. “We want them to feel OK coming here and doing things at the library.”
Approximately 50 students attended a lunch period last month that featured creating do-it-yourself wallets out of duct tape, Neeri said.
“We thought we would take one of our programs to the high school,” she said, adding that the project offered the library the chance to introduce its librarians and resources to students.
Although the school and city libraries work in tandem to serve students’ needs, they extend different benefits.
Lundholm said the school libraries provide a place for students to receive help with homework and to get to know an authority figure on campus that isn’t a teacher, enabling them to communicate with a librarian and know they aren’t being judged academically.
“It is important for the students to connect to an educated person besides a parent or teacher,” he said. “I feel my job is mainly preparing the students for when they leave high school.”
Lundholm said he wants to help students develop good judgment and discern the difference between good and bad information.
“I think establishing a relationship with the public library is a good thing,” he said. “It won’t help everything (in the face of budget cuts), but it can help lessen the impact (of cuts to the school library) if students know other places to get the resources.”
And providing those resources that schools can’t – both academic and recreational – is Neeri’s niche.
“We have a larger budget than the school libraries, and we have things that they might not have that students can use but might not know about,” she said.
Lundholm said he frequently refers students to the public library to access electronic academic journals to assist with their research.
The public library can help teens academically through electronic journals and a host of other resources, said Neeri, who added that the library requests required-reading lists from the schools so that it maintains a well-stocked classics section.
But offering students academic help isn’t the library’s only specialty.
“I feel there is a lot of stress on kids in this community,” Neeri said. “I want them to be able to come to the library and get fun books.”
The graphic-novel section of the library is Neeri’s purview, an area that has expanded dramatically over the past few years. Graphic novels tell stories using sequential artwork and words, similar to comic books.
One of the more popular sections in the teen department hosts an array of video games.
To make the library more accessible, the library has designated a room especially for teens, stocked with tables and comfortable chairs. The room is not a quiet zone.
“It’s the Teen Room, or the Talking Aloud Room,” Neeri said. “It’s good for teens to have a place where no one is going to tell them to be quiet.”
The room boasts wireless Internet access, enabling students to complete their homework. On some afternoons, students work together on group projects in the Teen Room.
Neeri, however, said she envisions the public library as adding to, not taking from, the services of school libraries. She said she disagrees with recent cuts to school library programs, acknowledging the unique value of such services.
“I think school libraries need to be open to the students to familiarize them with libraries early on,” she said. “If you are really worried about the future of literacy, cutting libraries isn’t going to help that. I think there are people who are comfortable in the school libraries, and if you cut that space, it is just going to be a devastating blow.”
Overall, Neeri said, she wants to ensure that students have myriad choices.
“It’s for the teens,” she said. “We want them to feel comfortable at school and at the library. We want them to have options.”