Few people have celebrated the Morgan Hill Library as a hub of community activity and information resources as much as former mayor Steve Tate.
Not only is Tate a longtime patron of the local library, dating back to when it was housed where City Hall offices are located on Peak Avenue now. He led the effort in 2006 to secure funding, work with partnering agencies and gain the approvals the city needed to build a new library at 660 West Main Ave.
This past Saturday, current and former local officials and fellow longtime community members recognized Tate’s public service career and his commitment to Morgan Hill by dedicating the building as the newly renamed Morgan Hill Steve Tate Library.
Tate said he was “deeply honored and very proud” of the recognition and the intangible value the library has brought to local families and residents over the years.
Appropriately, the Oct. 9 ceremony also celebrated a new expansion of the library’s children’s area—a project that was completed in 2020 when pandemic-related restrictions largely kept the general public from visiting.
“We had a facility that opened in 1973 that was getting very ragged at the edges,” Tate said. “We built a new facility (in 2006) with extended square footage, more books, more computers. It was something the community really needed and really supported.”
The “new” library was, in fact, planned for future expansion as Morgan Hill grows.
“(Tate’s) support, involvement and leadership has ensured that our library has access to ongoing parcel tax funding that has kept the libraries open during dire financial times, providing the Morgan Hill library with over $10 million over the last two decades,” Morgan Hill Community Librarian Heather Geddes said at the Oct. 9 ceremony. “Currently, we are receiving over $600,000 dollars per year that are used for collections and staffing. This has allowed us to give our community access to library services up to seven days a week and provide a stellar collection of materials.”
Tate served 12 years as the mayor of Morgan Hill. Before that, he served as a planning commission appointee and was elected to two terms on the city council. His public service career in Morgan Hill totaled about 27 years, before he retired from the mayor’s seat in 2018. He still volunteers with local nonprofit organizations that serve South County in a variety of ways.
Morgan Hill’s current mayor, Rich Constantine, noted that as a public official, Tate’s priorities were always on efforts that serve the city’s children and senior citizens—both groups that uniquely benefit from the library’s offerings.
“The fact that he was instrumental in getting the library there shows not only Steve’s longevity in politics in Morgan Hill, but it also shows his commitment to our city—specifically our youth and seniors, who use that library more than anybody,” Constantine said.
The city council voted to rename the library in honor of Tate at the Dec. 2, 2020 meeting. The concept was proposed by a group of long-time residents who have known Tate since shortly after he and his wife, Jennifer, moved to Morgan Hill in the late 1970s.
“When Morgan Hill needed to rebuild our library, we turned to Steve Tate to create a budget and political plan to gain support and get the job done,” Morgan Hill residents Roger and Janie Knopf wrote in a letter to the council. “When the county’s library district needed to seek new funding, it was Steve Tate who stepped up and ran a countywide campaign to raise much-needed tax dollars to rebuild libraries across the county.”
The Morgan Hill Steve Tate Library is part of the Santa Clara County Library District. The district operates libraries in each city in the county, under the management and coordination of a joint powers authority.
Nancy Howe, who served as County Librarian from 2010-20, said in a statement, “I held Steve in the highest regard. His commitment to the library was absolute and steadfast, from the high-profile jobs like chairing the tax measure campaign twice to working behind the scenes to expand access to reading materials to incarcerated youth and high-risk students.”
In a letter from Mike and Mary Cox to the city council in support of the library’s renaming, the couple praised Tate for advocating construction plans that bring a variety of community enhancing features to the new facility. These include large spaces available to the public and local groups for lectures, meetings and events; more computers and wifi for patrons who might lack such resources at home; and other modernizations.
Since it opened in 2006, the Morgan Hill library has been much more than a place to check out books. It has been the scene of hundreds of puppet shows, musical performances and other kids’ programs; educational seminars offering free legal and financial advice; gatherings with groups such as the AAUW and youth clubs; and brainy competitions like Silicon Valley Puzzle Day which used to bring patrons from all over the region.
“Even when it was closed (during the pandemic), it was a focal point where food was distributed, and groups met outside,” Constantine said. “It’s always been a focal point of our community and it is so great to be able to have it expanded so more people can use it and continue to enjoy the library. It is part of our community and will always be part of our community.”