Tell the Library What’s Important to You!

As noted in our February 4 post, the Seattle Public Library is undergoing a strategic planning process to explore the future of the Library and how to prioritize existing resources.   In March, community members provided input at 5 open house meetings about possible new models, services and roles for the Library.   Click here if you want to find out more about the strategic planning process or to read the summary of  comments received at the open houses.

Now it’s your turn to tell the Library what’s important to you by completing the patron survey, which is available Monday, May 3 through Sunday, May 16.   I completed the survey, and found out a number of things I didn’t know that the Library offers — for example, did you know that you can make an appointment to get help from a geneology librarian if you’re trying to put together your geneology chart?  How about librarian assistance available 24 hours a day via online chat?

I also realized that I haven’t been taking advantage of some of the on-line resources offered by the Library, like e-books, e-audio, and video that can be downloaded, streaming content (music and video), and access to thousands of magazines, newspapers, journals, encyclopedias, indexes and other reference resources. 

The toughest question for me to answer was something like “if you had only $10 to invest in Library resources, how much (using whole dollars like $5 instead of $5.25) would you spend for each of the following”: 

  • Books and other print resources
  • Audio-visual resources (audio books, DVDs, CDs)
  • Online resources

So how would you spend that $10?  Fill out the survey and let your voice be heard!

Policymakers, Please Note: Libraries Are Nation’s Computer Stop

Are you at home looking at this blog? Are you at work?  We’re willing to bet that almost half of you are looking at this blog from your public library. Every time we walk into a library, we see full computer stations and laptops on desktops. “The computers are always jam-packed with neighbors of all ages, it is almost like the library functions as the South Park Computer Lab,” Shawna Murphy recently told us.

Now, a new study released this week from the University of Washington Information School, reveals exactly how many of us are relying on  library computer access for:  job searches (75% of respondents), health information (82% ), homework (42%), and staying in touch with family and friends (64%).

In the past year, one-third of our national population over the age of 14 used a public library to access a computer or to find wi-fi.

In the past year, 50% of the population between 14 and 18 used library computers – mostly for homework. 

What does this mean? It means libraries are indispensable extensions of our schools. They’re helping our kids with homework and college preparation and keeping our unemployed neighbors hopeful by offering a dependable and resourceful place to look for jobs. They’re bridging the digital divide that could separate us from one another.  They’re  a resource and investment that return exponential value to our communities-especially during periods of recession.

 “Policy makers must fully recognize and support the role libraries are playing in workforce development, education, health and wellness, and the delivery of government services,” Marsha Semmel of the Institute of Museum and Library Services said in response to the study’s findings.   Media headlines about the study also tell the story: “Web Usage up at libraries: many young, low-income people rely on public Internet access for research . . .” writes the Spokesman Review. “A third of Americans — about 77 million people — use public-library computers to look for jobs, connect with friends, do their homework and improve their lives,” writes the Seattle Times, citing the study’s findings. 

What can you do to help our libraries? Get involved with the Friends of The Seattle Public Library. advocacy@friendsofspl.org

Up Close and Personal at the South Park Branch Library

Shawna Murphy

“I feel so personal about the South Park library,” Shawna Murphy told us.  “In this library, the staff know me and my family. The  level of service is just unbelievable. We’re all on a first name basis at my branch!”  Talk to anyone from this close-knit neighborhood and you’ll probably hear about two things: the pending closure of the South Park Bridge and reduced hours at the South Park Branch library. “Without the bridge out of the neighborhood the community will depend even more on our small library branch,” Murphy pointed out.

“Our library always has a lot going on,” Murphy, a mother and child care provider explained. ” The older kids in the neighborhood use our library as an afterschool hang out. Our kids section is in the front ¼ of the library so it’s the focal point.  And the computers are always jam-packed with neighbors of all ages, it is almost like the library functions as the South Park Computer Lab. ”

Murphy and her small  child care group have been attending Story Time since the South Park branch opened three years ago, but reduced library service hours are impacting that routine.  “Our branch had to change the time of this offering,” Murphy said, “so story time is now offered at 11:15 instead of 10:15.  This new time frame will be a bit of a challenge because it will be cutting into our lunch & nap time and the children will not be at their best.”

In addition, the closure of the South Park branch twice a week, on Fridays and Sundays, cuts into Murphy’s personal routine. “Sunday was my personal day to go to the library, without the kids,” she confided.

When faced with dramatic budget cuts, the Seattle Public Library Board tried to equitably spread 7 day a week library service across the city.  Unfortunately, some of the neighborhoods where library service was reduced were in communities, such as South Park, where the library is greatly needed.  Driving to the next closest open library is sometimes difficult or impossible for families, and some report that it takes them two bus rides to find an open library.

Please help these communities by speaking out for restored library hours. Questions? advocacy@friendsofspl.org

A Young Boy’s Letter To Mayor McGinn

Ezekiel’s letter:

My name is Ezekiel B.  I go to the Northgate Branch Library and I’m in the 4th grade.  I’m almost 10 years old.

I like to go to the public library.  The selection of books in any one subject is very limited at the school library, and it’s impossible to get digital materials there.  At the public library, I get a higher selection of books, like Stephen Jay Gould’s the Book of Life, which covers evolution of all of life on earth, or the Eyewitness Guide to Religion or The Definitive Guide to Kendo, a martial art I’m taking at the parks.  I can order these online to pick up at Northgate.

In Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade, we used to take Field Trips on Fridays to the Northgate library.  We could walk there.  Now it’s closed on Fridays, so the little kids at my school can’t go there for field trips.  Lots of times my mom can’t get me to the library until after work or on the weekends.  Mostly we just go on Saturdays, now, because we can’t go Sundays or many weekdays. 

Some kids can’t use the computer at home, so they need to do it at the library.  Please restore branch library hours for me and lots of other kids.

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Children are among the hardest hit by reduced library hours in several neighborhoods. Ezekiel presented this letter to Mayor McGinn at the Youth and Family Commuity Engagement Meeting held at Northgate Elementary on March 1.  There are two more community engagement meetings on: March 15 and 22. Will you find time to join these small group discussions to support libraries and brainstorm the best futures for our children and families?

Youth And Family Participants in Seattle Community Engagement Meetings Cite Reduced Library Access As Challenge

Mayor McGinn addresses participants

Participants in Seattle’s Youth and Family community engagement meetings are asking for longer library hours and seeking solutions to other “issues and challenges” that face our youth and families.

People are realizing that reduced library hours means less community resources available to address these critical issues and challenges.  Library programs like Homework Help establish important “afterschool tutoring” and “mentoring relationships.”  Structured programs and resources for immigrants and refugees offered by our libraries are critical free services that lead to “cultural competency” and provide “afterschool support.”   The branch libraries offer programs and needed space for “community engagement” and foster neighborhood pride.  Teen programs nurture “youth leadership.”

Librarians provide “healthy, ongoing relationships” with students and families. Children’s librarians augment “early childhood education” through Storytime and structured programs.

Libraries model “cross sector communication” by establishing bridges between cultural communities and bringing organizations together. They partner with and augment schools and  are THE academic resource for  homeschooling families. Libraries with open doors provide a presence in our neighborhood t0 bring us together and enhance “safety.” Libraries build community, feed minds and foster potential.  Do you want to see library hours restored or increased? Do you want to influence the City’s policy toward our children and families? Please attend one of the three remaining meetings. Make sure your voice is heard!

For more information on what to expect: advocacy@friendsofspl.org

Speak Out For Libraries At Youth And Family Community Engagement Meetings

On Feb. 22nd, our elected officials began a civic process that will shape our city. The Seattle City Council announced their ambitious and action oriented 17 priorities for 2010 in the afternoon.  Then, in the evening, Mayor McGinn commenced the first  community engagement meeting on his Youth and Family Initiative.  Citizen input from this and four other community engagement meetings  will guide the development of Mayor McGinn’s important Youth and Family Initiative funding. The City Council will also be watching this input closely, so it will inform their actions as well!

The Youth and Families Initiative is a major initiative that will shape the Mayor’s agenda (and undoubtedly, funding) on issues affecting youth and families from a child’s birth to a successful career track.   We need your help in letting the Mayor and the City Council know what an important role libraries play in helping youth and families.

We know that libraries offer foundational support for youth and families.  Our young people depend on libraries for afterschool visits, study support, storytime, homework help, and afterschool computer access. The partnership between public libraries and schools is well documented, yet people might not think to mention what a critical role our libraries play in our community.  For example, the online form for Youth and Family input doesn’t  list full library access as a possible priority!

How can you help ensure that  our libraries are recognized as priorities for the City and for the Youth and Family Initiative?   Fill out the online form. In the answer to questions 1 and 2 please tell Mayor McGinn that free access (for all) to public educational support is critical and we need to restore library hours for children and families.  Then, please bring your voice for our libraries to a Monday meeting in March. These meetings will not only determine how libraries are perceived, they’ll also influence how the City addresses challenges in the education system.

This is a city powered by community input. These meetings are stimulating and well attended. Speaking out for libraries, right now, will help the Seattle Public Library weather the likely mid-year budget adjustments and help its position in the 2011 budget. Supervised childcare is available at the meetings, and translators are available on-site.   Please attend, and help us restore library hours for schools, families, and children.

These meetings start at 7 and end at 8:30 pm and are at:

March 1 – Northgate Elementary School
March 8 – Van Asselt Elementary School
March 15 – Denny Middle School
March 22 – Garfield Community Center

For more on the Youth and Family Initiative, go to the Youth and Families homepage.

RSVP advocacy@friendsofspl.org if you can attend or can help us rally support for libraries.

Children and Libraries Need Your Help

In community conversations last year, many of you told us how much you and your family use the Seattle Public Library.  Libraries are gathering places and  learning places, not just places to borrow books.  In our library value survey, 28% of you cited kids as the primary reason libraries will remain relevant.  From storytime to homework help, the librarians and volunteers at our Seattle Public Library branches actively help patrons (young and old) learn more about themselves and the world.  It’s time to include libraries in our conversations about youth and family initiatives.

During his inaugural address, Mayor Mike McGinn announced a Youth and Family Initiative.  He’s hosting five community engagement meetings.  Mayor McGinn acts on community input. Your voices at these meetings will make a difference. The first meeting is Monday, February 22nd, at Rainier Community Center, 7-8:30 pm. Can you help?  Please come.  Please tell the panel how libraries play an important role in our children’s lives.

There will be four more community engagement meetings on Mondays in March. But right now you can help by emailing Mayor McGinn about children and libraries.  Please encourage your friends and family to email too.

Sample emails:

Dear Mayor McGinn: My name is —-. I live in —–neighborhood. Children need libraries. Please include our libraries in the Youth and Family Initiative.

Dear Mayor McGinn: My name is—  My family and I use —-library. Children need to be able to use libraries after school, and it is harder to do that now that after school hours have been reduced at libraries in 15 neighborhoods due to budget cuts.  Please help by including libraries in the Youth and Family Initiative.

Dear Mayor McGinn: My name is—. I use the —library.  Libraries are important for families and kids. Please include libraries in the Youth and Family Initiative.

Questions? advocacy@friendsofspl.org

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