City officials are in the process of deliberating possible budget cuts which may result in a decrease of important and vital services provided by the Seattle Public Library. Just look outside of any of the library branches now and you will see people lining up in advance, waiting for the doors to open in the last part of the morning, many of them wishing they could gain access much earlier in the day. At closing, the patrons have to be ushered out of the buildings, often leaving before they want, before completing what they came for. With an already exploding usage of library facilities, and with heavy demands and long wait times for limited library materials and resources, a further restricting of access creates hardships for all.
Previous economic recessions were responsible for the austere library funding that is still in place. Libraries had already adopted more limited hours, but despite positive changes in the overall economic climate, Library funding was often overlooked. It took passage of a bond measure and the overwhelming support of residents throughout the City of Seattle, to secure necessary funding to rebuild and revitalize the entire Library system. Not until City Council acted to add 2 million dollars to the library budget in ’08 did the newly expanded Library system begin the process of procuring materials, media and equipment that had been critically needed.
As our city leaders decide how to prioritize precious resources during this difficult economic time, it is crucial to keep in mind the services that the Library provides to all residents. Everyone has equal access to these services and those with the greatest needs are turning to their libraries in greater numbers than ever before. We need to keep the doors open and staff in place to provide the support and assistance that our citizens expect. Any further limits on Library hours is essentially placing limits on how many (or how few) of the City’s residents will gain access.