That Library Levy…

It’s no secret I love the library. But let me make myself clear, just in case some people didn’t hear me.

I LOVE THE LIBRARY.

I love the librarians. They are amongst the most amazing and under-appreciated people on the planet. They were the people who, when I was agonizing over never being able to remember the name of a favorite childhood picture book, found the book, based on my description of a story about a dog that suddenly begins talking and wants to take French cooking lessons (the story is Theodore and Mr. Balbini, and I still love it. I intend for my nephew to love it as well).

I love when I put in a purchase request, say, for Kimberly Derting’s Desires of the Dead, which hadn’t shown up in the catalog by the time it was released, and I’m placed on the hold list once they do purchase it.

And I love getting those emails telling me I have a hold to pick up. There’s confetti and sparklers and balloons. Very exciting.

The Seattle Public Library system, like every other service that takes a chunk out of the city budget, has been dealing with the recession, same as everyone else. The last few years, they’ve closed for a week in August, and by closed, I mean everything. Their catalog isn’t even available, because the tech support crew is on furlough along with the librarians. To combat this problem, there’s a proposed levy to help fund the day to day operations.

I had massive panicky feelings when I read The Seattle Times opinion piece urging voters to vote no.

Their reasoning is by saying yes, voters are telling the city council it’s okay to take funds away from an essential service (I love that the Times thinks the library is an essential service, much like police and fire fighters are an essential service) and funnel them elsewhere, which is what the council intends to do.

What scares me is if voters say no, the city council will take the money away anyway, and patrons will be facing more than just a week with no library services. There could be staff cuts, acquisition cuts, program cuts. The library is about more than just books. They offer tax help. Resume and job seeking help. Story time, and if the straggling line of tiny children is any indication, the downtown branch’s story hour is popular.

I don’t have a lot of faith in elected officials. The longer they’re in office, the less they listen to their constituents. Maybe the writer behind the Times opinion piece is right, and us voters ought to vote no, to send a message to the city council. Unfortunately, I think by voting no, we’ll be sending a different message. A message that says we don’t care about the library. And The Stranger agrees, quoting library board member Marie McCaffrey as saying “We would have to start closing branches”, after having lost “the equivalent of four branch libraries’ worth of funding in five years”. That makes me want to cry. South Park just got their first branch a few years ago. The neighborhood was so excited to finally be getting their own branch, so they wouldn’t have to travel to Beacon Hill, Rainier Beach, Delridge, or places farther afield to get their books. What if they lose their library?

To those of you who live in Seattle, you can educate yourself and come to your own conclusion by clicking here. But please, for the love of all things holy, vote yes. Don’t trust the city council to do the right thing and not take away funds for the library.

To those of you outside of Seattle, support your local libraries.

They are about reading, which is about education, personal achievement, and democracy. (Source: The Seattle Times)

Pretty sure those are all good, important things.

4 thoughts on “That Library Levy…

  1. As much as I love the Northgate branch of the SPL, I think it’s the decentralization that’s biting us in the ass. The funding for the neighborhood libraries came about during boom times, and now we’re trying to make an idealized picture fit with much more restrictive budgetary realities. That said, it would seem to me that if Seattle can find funding for a THIRD new mega-sports-arena, we can figure out a way to keep the libraries open.

    1. I think the funding for building new branches was actually a separate tax thing, and personally I think it was necessary. But that’s just me 🙂 I just don’t have any confidence that the city council won’t take away the funds anyway, even if the levy doesn’t pass. They could promise up the whazoo they won’t touch it (for the next fiscal year it’s $5 million), but you know they will.

  2. When I check in at our local branch, I see a diverse number of patrons. I can’t imagine where some of these people would go or how they would have basic internet access if the branch were closed. Even though we may try to remain politically neutral, politics affect every aspect of our lives. It’s important to speak up on something like this. Thank you.

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