Busy Libraries Close

Waiting for Ballard library to open
Waiting for Ballard library to open

Seattle Libraries are closed this week, Aug. 31-Sept 6, but they had been very busy. ”When the library opens there is almost always a line of people waiting to get in,” said Marcia Sheckler of Garfield Community Council.

“When I go there’s always 20-30 people waiting for the doors to open,” said a Lake City patron.

Reports are similar throughout the city. More than 80% of Seattle carries a library card, according to the Library’s 2008 annual report, and, with a visitor count of 12 million last year, it seems like those cards are being used.

People visit the Library for a broad spectrum of reasons. Books, of course, are still in high demand. Circulation is up 12% over last year. The 1,200 computers throughout the system are almost always in use and laptops scattered across tabletops attest to the popularity and need for Wi-Fi access. Families gather, neighbors meet, groups convene at the library. ”Libraries are a drawpoint for the community,” said Fremont patron, Kirby Lindsay.

“I see neighbors as I walk to and from the Library and I often see folks in the Library.  It’s something that we share, like the street we live on,” said Douglass-Truth Branch patron, Paul Fedorowicz.

The last time our libraries closed was in 2002 and 2003.  However, the majority of Library expansion and renovation had not occurred at that time. The closure of our Library system today involves shutting down a system vastly larger and busier then most of us could’ve imagined in 2002. This is the difference between less than 7 million people served and more than 12 million people being served.  This is an information difference between a pre-ipod, pre-you tube world and a post podcast, Facebook reality.  Library closures were difficult in 2002. Today, Library closure means a fundamental interruption in free public access to the  essential 24/7 world online. During a library closure we can build up our supply of books but Internet access is simply lost.

In the spring budget hearings, a staff member of The Seattle Public Library testified that at The Central library alone 14, 650 computer hours would be lost in a one week closure. If you’re reading this blog you probably aren’t experiencing the heavy impact of the Library closure. Please join us in doing something for people who are. Support vital library funding by speaking to elected officials during the 2010 Budget hearings. Be a friend. Get involved. Mail us at advocacy@friendsofspl.org

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