Get to Know Your City Council Candidates – Dian Ferguson

Dian Ferguson – Candidate for Position 9

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

The availability of a world of information and culture, free of charge, to anyone who wants it; the budget cutbacks and funding difficulties of recent years; and the wonderful new neighborhood branches made possible by last decade’s levy.

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? 

I would put it as a four on a scale of 1 – 10 with one being the highest. This makes it slightly more than a middle priority. It is not as critical as some of the literally life and death human services the city funds, but it is an essential part of the quality of life of many Seattle residents and should be recognized as such. Many low-income people, students, elders and immigrant and refugee citizens are dependent on the library for access to computers and technology. As we continue in a recession individuals seeking employment opportunities rely on the library system to job search, update resumes and complete online applications for employment.

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?

I would work hard to maintain the current staffing, hours, and service levels, recognizing that the library system has already endured many painful cuts. If possible, should the city’s revenue improve in future years, I would look to restore lost funding. Should further cuts need to be made, I would look to minimize the additional impact on building hours and public access to services.

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?

SPL must have sufficient funding to do what public libraries have always done: serve as free gateways of ideas, information and culture for whoever wants it. Regardless of the medium – whether it is printed, bound books and periodicals, e-books, video, the Internet, or social media, SPL must have the resources to not only provide access in the medium of a client’s choosing, but to provide training and guidance in how to use the new technology to find information.

More and more, Internet access and familiarity with new communications technologies are a near-prerequisite for most jobs and many basic daily life functions. Particularly for citizens who don’t have the personal equipment or training to utilize these media, SPL is not just a gateway but a resource to ensure that lower income or less technologically adept citizens are not left behind in the 21st Century economy. As such, I would work to ensure that SPL has the funding, staffing, and accessibility to not only preserve its existing functions, but also help user’s access information and culture across new and emerging media platforms.


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