“The Library is a treasure to Seattle. It’s essential. Internet services are a lifeline for finding jobs. It’s a total bummer,” said Kosh Blackwell of Greenlake.
Today was the first day of a week long Library closure. It’s the first closure since the expansion and renovation of our library system. Conversations with library users discovering the closure today revealed how essential library services have become in this digital age.
Many people highlighted the library’s importance in a job search. “I’m trying to file an unemployment claim. I don’t have a computer so I came here,” said musician, Kurt Blomquist.
“We needed to use the job resources,” said Yoning Dong.
“Keep the libraries open. How can people find jobs if they don’t have access to computers?” asked Raneid Thibodeaux.
“I don’t have a phone or computer,” said another library user. “In a tough economy a week may not seem like a lot to some people but for a guy without a job on unemployment it’s a big thing.”
The loss of free Internet access was the chief concern for many people. “We came here to do what we needed to do on computers. To me this isn’t right,” said Jean Hunter.
“Now I have to go to all those coffee shops and pay money to access the Internet,” said another library user.
“My email has been down for days and I was going to email something really important today. If I filled out the form by the 31st of August I’d get a recommendation for college and now I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Xuan Ho.
“I’m shocked. It’s horrible. I can’t imagine this being a common decision of the American people,” said Steve Sendler.
“I’m from Louisville and the economy is awful but we never closed libraries,” said Allyson Cunningham representing a perspective we heard from several people outside of Seattle. Several groups of tourists left disappointed at the closure of our internationally celebrated downtown library. But library user John Ewing represented other patrons when he said, “They gotta do what they gotta do. It’s better than closing the library permanently.”
The entire Seattle Public Library system is now closed for one week. The website and database resources are unavailable and wi-fi is not accessible August 31 until Sept 8, 2009. As many people discovered today, the book drops are locked. There are no staff available to maintain incoming materials. The entire library staff is on a one week furlough.
The Friends of The Seattle Public Library understands that furloughs give the City of Seattle a way to save dollars in the current economy. However, in a tough economy, people need libraries more than ever. “In tough times, we come to the library as a sanctuary. Some people come to reflect. Others come to use computers,” said Delane Hill. Closure is a hardship. Furloughs are not a sustainable solution for the operations of the Seattle Public Library and they eliminate the critical services that the Library provides daily.