Get to Know Your City Council Candidates – Brad Meacham

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.

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