Libraries For All – What’s The Impact?

Just thought I would share a little piece about the central library, explaining further the capitol campaign. Every time I mention I work with the Friends, I see people’s eyes light up and they literally gush about the architecture of the Central Library. On Nov. 3, 1998, Seattle voters overwhelmingly approved the $196.4 million “Libraries for All” bond measure to upgrade The Seattle Public Library with new facilities, technology, and books. The bond money, which can be used only for construction of libraries, is funding a new central library and new and improved branches. The “Libraries for All” Web site includes detailed information about the entire building program. For information about individual branch projects, see Neighborhood Branches.

(photos taken from flickr)

Related links:

          The Friends Flickr account

          Flickr photos on Central Library

          Each month we feature a local branch and feature the great librarians that work there


3 thoughts on “Libraries For All – What’s The Impact?

  1. The citizens of Seattle & especially the Friends of the Seattle Public Library,

    As a lover of libraries AND as an architecture buff I want to thank all of you for building the new Central Library – and I don’t even live within a 1,000 miles of the building! But, in a way, that’s the point.

    The investment by the Seattle community screams ‘we think reading is important’. I think it spoke volumes (excuse the pun) about the kind of people who live there. And, more importantly, it set a great example for other cities and towns everywhere.

    But the kicker was that you didn’t just build any library, but rather a temple to books, and put in smack in the middle of the city. That, too, set a great example for cities everywhere. When Baltimore built Camden Yards for the Orioles it started a new wave of urban-friendly, human scaled baseball stadiums. I hope the Central Library will ultimately be seen to have done something similar.

    Lastly, when a colleague & I were in Seattle a few years ago on business visiting the new library was something we both had on our otherwise very short “must-do” lists. And we weren’t disappointed in the least.

  2. The voters of Seattle have vision. This is a city that clearly values free and equal access to information. I hope everyone that believed enough in libraries to take on the Libraries For All bond measure will get involved in talking to elected officials (who provide the collections budget and operating cost) about the ongoing value of these neighborhood resource hubs. Voting in the expansion of the system was only half of the project. The other half is making sure the shelves stay full, the buildings stay clean and safe, and the doors stay open.

  3. I voted for it. I campaigned for it. I believed in it. And knowing what I know now, after both observation and direct experience with the changes wrought by this “Libraries For All,” if only I could, I would go back in time… AND VOTE AGAINST IT.

    Yes, I would. I would VOTE AGAINST IT, and I would campaign against it. And you’d be surprised at how many I speak for.

    Yes, we got some lovely neighborhood library buildings.

    And we got The Emperor’s New Library, that glitzy fiasco downtown – all coked-out glassy excess on the outside, and a glaring, tainted, industrial pit of misery on the inside.

    And we got misery, sickness, and despair in the heart and soul of our library. In my horrified opinion, we got a bad deal.

    From pages, to clerks, to librarians, to maintenance staff, to techies and even to some administrators, in the branches and downtown, working conditions have changed for the worse. And for some, for too many, the changes have been tragic.

    Throughout the system, overwork, stress, and robotic devaluation of traditional library work has taken a terrible toll on people’s lives, spirits, and health. When the understaffed, overstressed, viciously-designed, sickening reality became clear downtown and in many of the busier branches, those who could leave for other jobs fled. Of those remaining behind, EVERY PERSON on the front lines, actually DOING THE INCREASED LABOR REQUIRED by this new system, has suffered ill effects. These ill effects vary, but the damage is horrifying.

    I have heard the despair and I’ve seen the pain of those who retired early, or resigned, or broke down and quit, or simply broke down. If only I could upload what I know. If only.

    I would love to see some hard statistics on rates of serious illness in SPL workers after Libraries For All. What I know from my own sources and my own observation is that people caught more flu and colds, immediately. And then came the inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. Arthritis surged, exacerbated by nasty concrete flooring IN THE NEW, FACTORYLIKE WORK AREAS. Treatment for depression and anxiety disorders skyrocketed. Too-frequent “Happy Hour” gatherings after work took on an air of desperation, as more workers self-medicated with alcohol, while others turned to unprecedented use of doctor-prescribed anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs. Oddly enough, this new zombied-out factory-library was not a bit less stressful. Funny how that works.

    A great cry went up from SPL’s collective liver. What do they call “nervous breakdowns” these days? I’d like to know, because Libraries For All was a factor in too many of them.

    Do you know how many diseases are made worse and perhaps even caused by stress, overwork, and loss of joyful participation at one’s job? Name a disease, and stress makes it worse. High blood pressure. Arthritis. Fibromyalgia. Loss of vision. Heart disease. Cancer.

    And here I stop while every illness I named, and more I could not name, brings up names, and faces, and human beings damaged by this FACTORY.

    If you knew what I know, if you’d seen what I’ve seen, I believe there’s a good chance that you’d join me in travelling back in time and VOTING NO on Libraries For All.

    If only I could heave the words into my keyboard. If only I could write out everything I’ve seen, everything I’ve heard, everything I’ve lived, everything I know. If you could see the library as I have seen the library. If you could see the damage done to our library, to its culture, to its staff, and to its users by the way this Libraries For All has turned our library into a factory, a showpiece for downtown developers.

    Before you give Seattle’s downtown boys one more dollar to feed this sick, class-polarized, industrialization of our libraries, GO INVESTIGATE FOR YOURSELF. Stay and look.

    Skip the slick tours, or slip away and poke around for yourself while the tour guide burbles on with the sales pitch. Hang back. Slip around the corner. Wait. Go look again at the sign on the airless “staff room,” the one about MACHINE NOISE. Imagine yourself working in that windowless, fume-filled machine room. Is this a library?

    Now go on your own tour. Spend some time observing the librarians at work. Are these librarians, or factory workers being ordered about by a machine?

    Take a good look at the desks, all of them, at different hours. Would you feel safe? Would you feel stressed? Is this the library you knew? Is this the library you want for Seattle?

    And as a user, how does this FEEL? Is this a library, or is this a factory? Look up at the ceiling, again. Is this a library? Look at the faces of the workers. Do you remember the library ten years ago? Fifteen years ago? Do you feel the difference?

    Then find a place to sit, and close your eyes. Feel the air, and listen to the noise and the silence. Maybe I’ll pass by you while your eyes are closed. And you’ll know what this cursed place, this hideous factory pretending to be a library, has done to me, and what it has done to others, what it has taken from us, and why I would go back in time and vote NO, if only I could.

    I would vote NO, and I’d still leave the polling place weeping with horror and regret that I ever voted “yes.”

    Horror and regret. That’s what I know, that’s what I see now behind all of these library puff pieces. I see the horrible factory which has taken over what used to be our great library, which has hurt those who work there, and which scoffs at its users and at us voters for handing over our faith so easily.

    Thank you for your time. Please go and look around for yourself. See who’ll talk to you off the record. And listen.


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