Get to Know Your City Council Candidates – Jean Godden

Jean Godden – Candidate for Position 1 (Incumbent)

When you reflect on the Seattle Public Library system, what three things first come to mind?

  • Knowledge
  • Service
  • Empowerment

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? 

The Seattle Public Library is one of the greatest assets of this city and the envy of cities around the world. I would certainly place it in the top tier of city priorities and, throughout my years at the council, have endeavored to do so.  Making such a resource available to the public is not only beneficial our city’s culture and prestige – it is also a social justice issue.

In a time of economic recession, it is imperative that our citizens, especially those who are economically disadvantaged, have places to go to access computers, to type resumes, and to search for jobs online. It is imperative that children whose families cannot afford luxuries such as encyclopedias and the latest books of fiction have a place to go to do research projects and enjoy the wonders of reading a great novel.

I was thus disturbed when, at a candidates’ forum, one of my opponents stated that funding libraries was a “low” priority. In contrast, funding libraries has been, and will remain, a priority for me. My reelection will ensure that the Friends of the Seattle Public Library will continue to have a friend and ally on the Council.

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?

One of the greatest challenges we face is to keep the Seattle Public Library and its services strong. I am well aware that the library has sustained huge budget cuts since the beginning of the recession, as have most areas of city government. The city and library are presently exploring some innovative means of ensuring strong financial support for the library system in the future.  We will need input from the public and from supporters of the library system to determine the best pathway to preserve and enhance our library system.  You have my commitment to work tirelessly to ensure that funding for Library hours, staffing, collections, programs, and services remains in place, and to work to increase funding when this recession turns around.


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?


The library of the future undoubtedly will look very different as we move toward more electronic services. Already, our collections may be almost as digital as they are now paper and print. The ability to keep abreast of the immense changes and advances in transmission of knowledge will be reflected in the library system. As more materials are accessible electronically, hopefully our libraries will be able to more effectively offer access, both at the library and remotely, to the vast store of resources that we have. As the Seattle Library continues to move into the future, we must join and celebrate the evolution, keeping abreast with services, resources, and access to all.

This will require investment and resolve on the part of a city that loves its libraries and endeavors to ensure predictable long-term support. We must ensure that our technology remains ahead of the curve. We must ensure that, through innovation and excellent customer support, libraries remain relevant and essential for the next generation. However, we cannot forget that serving all members of the public remains our focus. As technology advances, we must be cognizant not to “leave behind” citizens who are unfamiliar or unskilled with new technology. To this end, I want to expand the ability of our libraries to offer training classes that will teach people how to utilize technological advancements. And I want to ensure that wonderful library employees are always available to assist those who have questions or need help locating a resource.


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