Friends of Seattle Public Library Blog

The goings on of the Seattle Public Library.

Get to Know Your City Council Candidates – Sally Clark August 16, 2011

Sally Clark – Candidate for Position 9 (Incumbent)

When you reflect on the Seattle Public Library system, what three things first come to mind?

The first three things that come to mind are the Columbia City Library, the Friends of the Library Book Sale, and our need to care for what we’ve built.

The Columbia City Library is “my” branch library. It’s a place that looks like a classic library, hosts community events, provides a safe and constructive place for young people to engage with information and each other, and it’s a branch where I think the levy did a great job adding space.  I’ll cheat here and say I also think of the Rainier Beach branch (we live in between the two). I appreciate the way the branch has become even more of a community focal point for kids. Whether it’s a homework club or Ofcr. Cookie’s Chess Club, that branch saves lives and broadens horizons.

I have worked the Friends Book Sale in the past. I associate the event with the late, great Doug Lorentzen, a long-time volunteer who was a true evangelist for Seattle’s libraries. Doug made sure I had an invitation to work a shift and, more importantly, made sure I took advantage of the opportunity. Seattle is lucky to be a city of people who care about books (in all their forms) and about how information can empower and change lives. Doug was a great evangelist for the role the libraries and library volunteers play in our system.

Finally, I think often in my job about how we must care for what we’ve built both in terms of the physical buildings and in terms of what people find valuable inside the buildings. In this economy we have had to make tough decisions involving the collections budgets, capital spending and staff schedules. I’m committed to ensuring we have a great system. I appreciate the partnership with the Friends of the Seattle Public Library and the Foundation in making this commitment come true.

Given the myriad of essential human services provided by the City of Seattle, where do you rank funding for the Seattle Public Library?  Would you put it in the top, middle or bottom tier of priorities? 

I have joined colleagues on the Council in consistently ranking libraries as a high priority for funding under the umbrella investment area of safe, healthy neighbors and safe, healthy neighborhoods. Healthy, high-functioning social capital machines like libraries work hand-in-hand with youth violence prevention programs, anti-poverty programs and police to make Seattle a great place to make a life.  After basic food and shelter, services like libraries, community centers and education support must be present to help people not just survive but advance.

The Seattle Public Library has sustained budget cuts of nearly $10 million from its annual budget since 2009, resulting in Friday closures at 15 branches, employee furloughs, lay-offs, and a decrease in the collections budget. Given the City revenue shortfalls projected for 2011 and 2012, what are your views on maintaining funding for Library hours, staffing, collections, programs and services?

The Seattle Public Library has done the best job of any city entity of stepping back to assess priorities in service and management, making tough decisions, and presenting the context and rationale for these tough decisions.  Staff have weathered difficult changes in service; difficult not just because of the impact on paychecks, but also because of the impact on their mission. We invested minimally in collections and must return to a more robust level if we are to keep pace with demand and the pace of change in formats and sources of information.

I believe we face another 2-3 difficult years before the city budgets have breathing room. It’s my hope that we can maintain steady funding this year and then begin serious discussions of long-term funding strategies (e.g. a special taxing district).

As the Library’s new strategic plan states, “changes in how people access and use information, interact with one another, and in the resources, tools and capabilities needed to operate effectively in today’s society require new approaches to the services and resources that the library provides”.  What is your vision for the library of the future, and how would you support SPL’s evolution over the next 5 years?

This is a great question – both fun and a little scary to think about. Over the long-run, no matter how much information moves to the web or the net or the cloud, I believe we will still want and need libraries in our neighborhoods. I believe there’s something gained via the interaction with the librarian, other patrons, and the value-added programs of libraries. Changes in technology have already changed our libraries’ internal design and staff functions. And yet the library is still about helping people access, use and re-configure information to yield greater knowledge, confidence and connections. Over the next five years I hope to be involved with the next chapter of the Seattle library system as a new librarian arrives and we slowly emerge from the recession.  In five years we will have successfully found a steady long-term funding source and lead in the evolution of libraries. In five years Seattle will remain a leader in information access and community value.

 

Get to Know Your City Council Candidates – Dian Ferguson August 15, 2011

Dian Ferguson – Candidate for Position 9

When you reflect on the Seattle Public Library system, what three things first come to mind?

The availability of a world of information and culture, free of charge, to anyone who wants it; the budget cutbacks and funding difficulties of recent years; and the wonderful new neighborhood branches made possible by last decade’s levy.

Given the myriad of essential human services provided by the City of Seattle, where do you rank funding for the Seattle Public Library?  Would you put it in the top, middle or bottom tier of priorities? 

I would put it as a four on a scale of 1 – 10 with one being the highest. This makes it slightly more than a middle priority. It is not as critical as some of the literally life and death human services the city funds, but it is an essential part of the quality of life of many Seattle residents and should be recognized as such. Many low-income people, students, elders and immigrant and refugee citizens are dependent on the library for access to computers and technology. As we continue in a recession individuals seeking employment opportunities rely on the library system to job search, update resumes and complete online applications for employment.

The Seattle Public Library has sustained budget cuts of nearly $10 million from its annual budget since 2009, resulting in Friday closures at 15 branches, employee furloughs, lay-offs, and a decrease in the collections budget. Given the City revenue shortfalls projected for 2011 and 2012, what are your views on maintaining funding for Library hours, staffing, collections, programs and services?

I would work hard to maintain the current staffing, hours, and service levels, recognizing that the library system has already endured many painful cuts. If possible, should the city’s revenue improve in future years, I would look to restore lost funding. Should further cuts need to be made, I would look to minimize the additional impact on building hours and public access to services.

As the Library’s new strategic plan states, “changes in how people access and use information, interact with one another, and in the resources, tools and capabilities needed to operate effectively in today’s society require new approaches to the services and resources that the library provides”.  What is your vision for the library of the future, and how would you support SPL’s evolution over the next 5 years?

SPL must have sufficient funding to do what public libraries have always done: serve as free gateways of ideas, information and culture for whoever wants it. Regardless of the medium – whether it is printed, bound books and periodicals, e-books, video, the Internet, or social media, SPL must have the resources to not only provide access in the medium of a client’s choosing, but to provide training and guidance in how to use the new technology to find information.

More and more, Internet access and familiarity with new communications technologies are a near-prerequisite for most jobs and many basic daily life functions. Particularly for citizens who don’t have the personal equipment or training to utilize these media, SPL is not just a gateway but a resource to ensure that lower income or less technologically adept citizens are not left behind in the 21st Century economy. As such, I would work to ensure that SPL has the funding, staffing, and accessibility to not only preserve its existing functions, but also help user’s access information and culture across new and emerging media platforms.


 

Get to Know Your City Council Candidates – Michael Taylor-Judd August 14, 2011

Michael Taylor-Judd  - Candidate for Position 1

When you reflect on the Seattle Public Library system, what three things first come to mind? 

  1. City budget cuts to library funding
  2. Friends of Seattle Public Library Book Sale
  3. Two-thirds of Seattle residents hold a library card; and one-third say they use it at least once a year

Given the myriad of essential human services provided by the City of Seattle, where do you rank funding for the Seattle Public Library?  Would you put it in the top, middle or bottom tier of priorities?  


I would not hesitate to say that libraries are in the top tier of my budget priorities; and I group them with our parks and community centers as necessary services to provide our residents.

The Seattle Public Library has sustained budget cuts of nearly $10 million from its annual budget since 2009, resulting in Friday closures at 15 branches, employee furloughs, lay-offs, and a decrease in the collections budget. Given the City revenue shortfalls projected for 2011 and 2012, what are your views on maintaining funding for Library hours, staffing, collections, programs and services?

Maintaining its vast collection and the continued demands of new technology are important, but what is most critical for me is that our lowest-income and least-educated residents turn to our libraries for access to computers and the internet. For many in our community, our libraries are the only place to turn to research a school paper, search job listings and print a resume, or learn how to use e-mail to communicate with their grandchildren. In tough economic times like these, the free or low-cost activities provided by libraries and community centers are some of the only fun and educational opportunities families can afford. If we continue to cut operating hours, where will these residents turn to?

As the Library’s new strategic plan states, “changes in how people access and use information, interact with one another, and in the resources, tools and capabilities needed to operate effectively in today’s society require new approaches to the services and resources that the library provides”.  What is your vision for the library of the future, and how would you support SPL’s evolution over the next 5 years?

The Seattle Public Library must continue to transition to being a place to learn about and utilize new technologies for accessing information. It should also continue to explore new ways to offer services through its website, such as through video and audio streaming and borrowing of e-books.

 

Get to Know Your City Council Candidates – Jean Godden July 26, 2011

Jean Godden – Candidate for Position 1 (Incumbent)

When you reflect on the Seattle Public Library system, what three things first come to mind?

  • Knowledge
  • Service
  • Empowerment

Given the myriad of essential human services provided by the City of Seattle, where do you rank funding for the Seattle Public Library?  Would you put it in the top, middle or bottom tier of priorities? 

The Seattle Public Library is one of the greatest assets of this city and the envy of cities around the world. I would certainly place it in the top tier of city priorities and, throughout my years at the council, have endeavored to do so.  Making such a resource available to the public is not only beneficial our city’s culture and prestige – it is also a social justice issue.

In a time of economic recession, it is imperative that our citizens, especially those who are economically disadvantaged, have places to go to access computers, to type resumes, and to search for jobs online. It is imperative that children whose families cannot afford luxuries such as encyclopedias and the latest books of fiction have a place to go to do research projects and enjoy the wonders of reading a great novel.

I was thus disturbed when, at a candidates’ forum, one of my opponents stated that funding libraries was a “low” priority. In contrast, funding libraries has been, and will remain, a priority for me. My reelection will ensure that the Friends of the Seattle Public Library will continue to have a friend and ally on the Council.

The Seattle Public Library has sustained budget cuts of nearly $10 million from its annual budget since 2009, resulting in Friday closures at 15 branches, employee furloughs, lay-offs, and a decrease in the collections budget. Given the City revenue shortfalls projected for 2011 and 2012, what are your views on maintaining funding for Library hours, staffing, collections, programs and services?

One of the greatest challenges we face is to keep the Seattle Public Library and its services strong. I am well aware that the library has sustained huge budget cuts since the beginning of the recession, as have most areas of city government. The city and library are presently exploring some innovative means of ensuring strong financial support for the library system in the future.  We will need input from the public and from supporters of the library system to determine the best pathway to preserve and enhance our library system.  You have my commitment to work tirelessly to ensure that funding for Library hours, staffing, collections, programs, and services remains in place, and to work to increase funding when this recession turns around.

 

As the Library’s new strategic plan states, “changes in how people access and use information, interact with one another, and in the resources, tools and capabilities needed to operate effectively in today’s society require new approaches to the services and resources that the library provides”.  What is your vision for the library of the future, and how would you support SPL’s evolution over the next 5 years?

 

The library of the future undoubtedly will look very different as we move toward more electronic services. Already, our collections may be almost as digital as they are now paper and print. The ability to keep abreast of the immense changes and advances in transmission of knowledge will be reflected in the library system. As more materials are accessible electronically, hopefully our libraries will be able to more effectively offer access, both at the library and remotely, to the vast store of resources that we have. As the Seattle Library continues to move into the future, we must join and celebrate the evolution, keeping abreast with services, resources, and access to all.

This will require investment and resolve on the part of a city that loves its libraries and endeavors to ensure predictable long-term support. We must ensure that our technology remains ahead of the curve. We must ensure that, through innovation and excellent customer support, libraries remain relevant and essential for the next generation. However, we cannot forget that serving all members of the public remains our focus. As technology advances, we must be cognizant not to “leave behind” citizens who are unfamiliar or unskilled with new technology. To this end, I want to expand the ability of our libraries to offer training classes that will teach people how to utilize technological advancements. And I want to ensure that wonderful library employees are always available to assist those who have questions or need help locating a resource.

 

Get to Know Your City Council Candidates – David Schraer July 21, 2011

David Schraer – Candidate for Position 7

When you reflect on the Seattle Public Library system, what three things first come to mind? 

  • “Library culture” – welcoming to all, civil relationships without coercion, staff interested in the visitors interests, furthering the visitors self‐improvement, joy in learning and pure selfentertainment.
  • Efficiency – no other government institution provides so much, to so many, for so little, and with less bureaucracy or more civility.
  • Self‐improvement – the library is a place where the least among us can find educational resources and refuge from a hard life at no cost and without enduring the bias they experience in other areas of life.

Given the myriad of essential human services provided by the City of Seattle, where do you rank funding for the Seattle Public Library?  Would you put it in the top, middle or bottom tier of priorities? 

The Seattle Public Library is on a par with Public Health in the top tier of essential services. The Free Public Library is one of the great American inventions. The inventor, Franklin, was the founder whose life best captures the combination of independence of mind, curiosity, self-improvement and civil development embodied and institutionalized in free public libraries. The culture that has developed around libraries strives to welcome and serve all people equally.

The Seattle Public Library has sustained budget cuts of nearly $10 million from its annual budget since 2009, resulting in Friday closures at 15 branches, employee furloughs, lay-offs, and a decrease in the collections budget. Given the City revenue shortfalls projected for 2011 and 2012, what are your views on maintaining funding for Library hours, staffing, collections, programs and services?

I believe in expanding library services – because libraries are the most cost effective way to put resources in the hands of those who need them most. Libraries are a wide ranging prevention service – helping all people make good choices about health and juveniles to make good choices about their future, among many other examples, by being a place to come for nonjudgmental help in the access of good information, directly and, more importantly, indirectly through literary and other arts.

As the Library’s new strategic plan states, “changes in how people access and use information, interact with one another, and in the resources, tools and capabilities needed to operate effectively in today’s society require new approaches to the services and resources that the library provides”.  What is your vision for the library of the future, and how would you support SPL’s evolution over the next 5 years?

Especially in low‐income neighborhoods or those where juvenile crime is high and services low, libraries should be open from very early in the morning to very late at night. Residents in these neighborhoods often work two jobs. Children who are left to fend for themselves have few free places to go where they will find something constructive to do.

The book is not dead but many other vehicles for the transmission of information are very much alive. From what I can see, the Seattle Public Library has done a good job keeping up with technology change and providing a bridge to advanced technology for people who would otherwise not have access. This tradition must continue.

 

Get to Know Your City Council Candidates – Brad Meacham July 13, 2011

Brad Meacham – Candidate for Position 3

When you reflect on the Seattle Public Library system, what three things first come to mind?

Public libraries are important pillars of our city and play a particularly critical role in disadvantaged communities:

1)      Libraries provide a gateway to new worlds. No place encourages serendipitous learning like a community library. For young people, libraries serve as an important educational environment and can be a place to go after school and on weekends. Libraries can be a source of stability and a ticket to places beyond the day-to-day world.

2)      Libraries provide access to technology and information. Access to computers and the internet can be the difference that helps a disadvantaged person get a job or turn their job into a career. Libraries are an essential source for news and information about the community for people of all ages.

3)      Libraries aren’t open enough. My local library in Columbia City is closed all day Friday and Sunday and is only open 7 hours a day the other days. That isn’t enough for people who have busy and irregular schedules – the people who need the services the most. We should encourage library usage and learning, not discourage it by cutting hours.

 

Given the myriad of essential human services provided by the City of Seattle, where do you rank funding for the Seattle Public Library?  Would you put it in the top, middle or bottom tier of priorities? 

Funding for the SPL is a top priority. Public libraries played a critical role in my life and I want to ensure that they can serve the young people of today and the future equally well.

 

The Seattle Public Library has sustained budget cuts of nearly $10 million from its annual budget since 2009, resulting in Friday closures at 15 branches, employee furloughs, lay-offs, and a decrease in the collections budget. Given the City revenue shortfalls projected for 2011 and 2012, what are your views on maintaining funding for Library hours, staffing, collections, programs and services?

Libraries are a basic city service so we must find ways to maintain hours, staffing, collections, programs and services. We should identify a stable funding source for libraries, for example by changing state law to allow creation of a library district in Seattle. The King County library district has been able to raise additional funds directly and citizens have shown consistently that they are willing to invest in libraries. The city of Seattle is among the most literate places in the country so there should be widespread voter support for a mechanism to provide dedicated funding. Libraries shouldn’t have to compete with other city priorities.

 

As the Library’s new strategic plan states, “changes in how people access and use information, interact with one another, and in the resources, tools and capabilities needed to operate effectively in today’s society require new approaches to the services and resources that the library provides”.  What is your vision for the library of the future, and how would you support SPL’s evolution over the next 5 years?

Even more than today, the library of the future is an information center and a hub for the community. Everywhere I go people ask “what can the City Council do to improve education?” I believe securing funding to improve libraries would represent great progress. Libraries should be a place to find information, regardless of the medium. This means funding collections as well as providing more computers and internet access. For young people, it means ensuring librarians, tutors and staff are available at all hours and that there is plenty of space at each library facility for users. It’s impossible to know exactly what shape the future library will take but we must be prepared with stable funding and strong leadership. On the Council, I would ask the professional SPL staff and board to provide innovative recommendations and I would be the strongest possible supporter.

 

Get to Know Your City Council Candidates – Maurice Classen July 7, 2011

The Friends of The Seattle Public Library have sent a questionaire to all of this year’s City Council candidates.  We’ll be posting each candidate’s responses here. Keep an eye on this blog to see each candidate’s position on the Library.

Maurice Classen – Candidate for Position 1

When you reflect on the Seattle Public Library system, what three things first come to mind?

The Seattle Public Library system is (1) a shared source of community knowledge and home for education; (2) a system that provides opportunities for all across economic and social backgrounds; and (3) a strong source of civic pride.  The role that the library plays in our community is multi-faceted and is critical to both our shared community identity and our future.  The library has gained national recognition both for the buildings that house its activities and the repository of information contained inside its walls.  Having spent countless library hours during law school and as a reader within the Capitol Hill and downtown branches, I fundamentally believe our library system is critical to our sense of identity as one of the most educated cities in America, and for the future of our community.

Given the myriad of essential human services provided by the City of Seattle, where do you rank funding for the Seattle Public Library?  Would you put it in the top, middle or bottom tier of priorities? 

As much as I value the library system and believe it is critical to our future as a city, I believe city officials must be as transparent as possible in dealing with the budget and I cannot prioritize the SPL system above public safety or public health.  Therefore, I would list funding for the Seattle Public Library in the middle tier of priorities for the city.

The Seattle Public Library has sustained budget cuts of nearly $10 million from its annual budget since 2009, resulting in Friday closures at 15 branches, employee furloughs, lay-offs, and a decrease in the collections budget. Given the City revenue shortfalls projected for 2011 and 2012, what are your views on maintaining funding for Library hours, staffing, collections, programs and services?

As I stated above, the paramount duty for a public official in budget negotiations is transparency and open dialogue.  I believe that a leader should state his or her principles up front and move forward with all parties in an open dialogue about the particular facts of a budget.  While none of us yet have an understanding for the coming budget, it is likely that we will face further deficits in our city and all departments will be required to sacrifice.  However, I remain committed to protecting as many branch and staff hours at the SPL system as possible.  In addition, I would engage the employees in the library system in the budget process by ensuring dollar-for-dollar credit toward budget cuts for any cost savings or efficiencies that the system can find.  Obviously, we are all forced to deal with incredible challenges given the nature of our current economic state, however, I will do everything in my power to protect the library system from further cuts.

As the Library’s new strategic plan states, “changes in how people access and use information, interact with one another, and in the resources, tools and capabilities needed to operate effectively in today’s society require new approaches to the services and resources that the library provides”.  What is your vision for the library of the future, and how would you support SPL’s evolution over the next 5 years?

 Libraries are critical to the exchange and dissemination of information in the coming decades.  As access to information becomes more stratified by economic status, libraries serve all members of our community equally and can become a “great evener” of system delivery.  The library must continue to provide access to information to all citizens equally.  Further, given that more and more information is available via the internet and non-written formats (DVDs, audio files, etc.), the library system must continue to focus on changes in the way that information is delivered and that could include prioritizing non-written formats on the same level as written forms.  My support for the library system will be steadfast over the next five years and I am committed to returning the system to its full capacity as soon as possible and moving toward greater investments as our economy improves.

 

 
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