Keep Libraries Open – Eileen Gunn

On August 7, Seattle Proposition 1 will be on the primary ballot. The seven-year, $123-million levy addresses four essential priorities: keeping libraries open, adding more books and materials, improving computer and online services, and maintaining buildings. Learn more about the levy and how public libraries help Seattle patrons like author Eileen Gunn.

I grew up in a town that had no bookstore, just a wire rack of cheap paperbacks at the local newsdealer. A block from that store was the public library, built in 1874 with donated money. It was a small wooden building with high, rounded Queen Anne windows on the second floor, and it was filled with fascinating books — the latest best-sellers, newly published science-fiction and fantasy, romance, historicals, everything I couldn’t buy at the store.  

I sampled it all: history, science, archeology, humor, art, and, of course, sexy novels. I discovered Robert Heinlein’s juveniles and read my way through the entire adult SF section.  Left alone to roam the shelves, I formed a very personal relationship with books new and old. I once took out a volume — the speeches of Wendell Willkie, if I recall correctly — simply because nobody else ever had: I felt sorry for it.  
That was fifty years ago. The world is very different now, but public libraries like the SPL, with open stacks that encourage browsing and discovery, and with enticing branch libraries that put books out in the neighborhoods, where kids and passersby can drop in, still bring the world to the people, and people to the world.  
The active presence of the Seattle Public Library, its branches open and accessible to the public, not shuttered and dark most of the time, is essential to the quality of life of Seattle. For the well-being of writers and researchers and people to don’t have easy Internet access, for the enrichment of the children who will be the future of this city and this country, vote on August 7 to support, maintain, and improve the our libraries. Keep the libraries open!  


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