Two years ago, the Palos Verdes Peninsula Library District canceled its Board of Trustees election because no one challenged the incumbents.
This year, in a direct assault on its own obscurity, the board wrote to the local press, urging people to get involved.
The result? Four challengers, plus two incumbents seeking reelection.
One of the challengers, however, discovered after filing for the race that she has a time conflict and cannot serve if she is elected. So, in a rare turn for a candidate, Virginia T. Gardner of Rancho Palos Verdes is asking people not to vote for her.
The candidates who do want votes on Nov. 3 are Loren J. Crawford, a retired engineer; William R. Glantz, a certified public accountant; incumbent trustee Robert A. Rowe, who was elected in 1983; Anne F. Wittels, an appointed incumbent who has been on the board since June, and Wendy Yen, an educator.
Three seats on the board will be filled in November, including one that is open because trustee Don Dawson is not seeking reelection.
The five-member, unpaid board sets policy, hires the administrator and sets the library district budget, which is $2.6 million this year. Its three libraries serve 85,000 people living in Rancho Palos Verdes, Palos Verdes Estates, Rolling Hills Estates and Rolling Hills.
Although the affluent Peninsula is a library-conscious community where whole families are patrons, observers say many are unaware of the special taxing district that supports the system or the elected board that runs it.
For several years, the board's task has been to keep the library up to date with only two-thirds of the spending power it had before Proposition 13 devastated its budget a decade ago. The board has had to cut back on some materials, reduce hours and--in perhaps its most criticized decision--eliminate Sunday hours.
Although the challengers on the ballot generally give the current board high marks, they say they have something fresh to offer--including some ideas about reopening Sundays.
"I've been a library user for a long time and I take out a lot of books and I have to pay fines," said Crawford, explaining his involvement with the library over the years. He said his experience in aerospace management qualifies him to handle budgets and "get things accomplished."
Crawford, 72, has lived in Rolling Hills Estates for 30 years, and he and his wife, Patricia, have two adult children. He has been active in Boy Scout work.
Crawford said his biggest complaint about the library is the scarcity of research materials, which he noticed while doing design work for hospital burn equipment. "I want to see the library keyed more to adults, be more like a college library," he said.
Glantz, 44, owns a certified public accounting business. He said he was inspired to run by two of his three children who were non-voting student members of the library board.
Restoring Sunday hours, at least at the main library at Peninsula Center, is the focus of Glantz's campaign: "It would take reallocation of less than 2% of the budget, and with my business and accounting background, I feel I can figure out a way to make it happen," he said. He also said the library should launch a "public awareness campaign" to inform people about library services.
Youth Activities Adviser
Glantz has lived in Rancho Palos Verdes for 19 years. He and his wife, Phyllis, have three children, one at Rolling Hills High School and two in college. He is an adult adviser for youth activities, including Boy Scouts, youth soccer and student exchange programs.
Rowe, 65, said executive leadership and business experience are requirements for service on the library board and said he fills the bill. Among other things, the incumbent trustee is a retired Navy captain, manager of four investment trusts and a member of the Los Angeles County Veterans Commission.
Calling the present board outstanding, he said it has streamlined the budget system, eliminated what he calls "micro-management," or lengthy discussions about "little tiny things," and begun installing an automation system to computerize the card catalogue. But he also said the library needs better public relations and must increase its collection of books and other materials.
Hopes for Sunday Hours
He, too, said he hopes that Sunday hours can be restored at Peninsula Center.
Rowe and his wife, Mary Lou, have two adult children and have lived in Rancho Palos Verdes for 20 years. For the last two years, he has been spending much of his time researching a book on the 6,000 men who landed in the first wave of the D-Day Normandy invasion that led to the end of World War II in Europe.
Wittels--a member of Peninsula Friends of the Library for 25 years who was appointed to an unexpired board term in June--also said the library has to do a better job of promoting itself--even to the point of looking more like a library.