Support Seattle Public Libraries This Budget Season

The City Council is in the process of reviewing Mayor Mike McGinn’s proposed 2012 city budget. Despite financial challenges to the city, the Mayor has avoided directing additional funding cuts at libraries. Under the mayor’s proposed budget, The Seattle Public Library would be able to continue offering current levels of services and hours at all branch locations.

As the City Council reviews the Mayor’s budget, please show your support for funding libraries. You can do so in the following ways:

1) Email the City Council. You can contact the Council via this online form intended for 2012 budget feedback. Create your own message or use the sample letter at the bottom of this page.

2) Contact councilmembers individually. Make your support for libraries known to individual members of the City Councity. A list of phone numbers and email addresses for councilmembers can be found here.

3) Join the Friends at a public hearing. Show your support for libraries in person at a City Council Budget Committee Public Hearing. Hearings are scheduled for Tuesday, October 4th at 5:30 p.m. and Wednesday, October 26th at 5:30 p.m. Meetings take place on the second floor of City Hall, located at 600 Fourth Avenue. If you would like to stand up with the Friends, email 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?

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.

Concerned Library Patrons Ask Questions At Citizen’s Budget Conference

Thank you to the library supporters who joined us at the Citizen’s Budget Conference at The Seattle Center House today, Sunday 31 January 2010.  Your voices were heard!

More than half the questions for Councilmembers, in the afternoon panel, regarded the upcoming reduction in hours at many of our neighborhood libraries. “We’re very committed to having the right kind of  budget funding” to support Library collections and provide open hours, Councilmember Conlin, Council President, said. Library operational funds come from the City’s General Budget and, “once you fund safety, which is over 50%,” he said, the library has to compete with other departments for remaining resources.

“We’re starting a 2-3 year process” to “find the way out of this dilemna,” Conlin said, referring to work that will be done in his committee to explore alternate funding sources for our libraries “that can keep [the library] going for the long run.” Councilmember Mike O’Brien added, “We have [library] buildings, we have books, and when we don’t have money to keep the doors open that’s problematic for me.” His remarks drew applause from the audience.

Councilmember Godden noted, “It was difficult for us to find the money {over $800,000 the Council voted to restore in the 2010 library budget}.” She said that people who came to public hearings and emailed and talked to her in public made a difference for the library. Your voices of support helped Council decide to restore funds.  “We heard you. If you care deeply, tell us,” she urged.

Each Councimember gave the audience one tip on how to impact difficult 2011 budget decisions.

Licata, nick.licata@seattle.gov Organize and reach your Councilmembers with concerns.

Rasmussen, tom.rasumssen@seattle.gov Bring your requests to Council but also ask the Mayor to support your cause.

Godden, jean.godden@seattle.gov Participate in the upcoming Spring Roundtable and  come to the Fall budget hearings.

O Brien, mike.obrien@seattle.gov Bring a financial solution with your request.

Conlin, richard.conlin@seattle.gov Tell us the story and show us how our funding makes a difference. Keep in touch.

Please Email Mayor Mike McGinn with library support and urge your friends and family to contact him. He is thinking about budget issues for 2010 and 2011 right now!

Proposed 2010 budget impact: One week furlough and 21 branch libraries closed two days a week

The downward adjustments to the 2010 City Budget were announced today.  Library collections will be kept at the support level of 2009.  However, The Seattle Public Library was asked to identify approximately 5 percent in cuts — about $2.8 million.

This is a significantly larger impact than what Seattle experienced with the downward adjustment of the 2009 budget. What does this mean to you and your neighborhood? A one week closure of the entire system and 21 branch libraries that will close Friday and Sunday all year. In addition, according to the library’s website, the proposed 2010 capital budget is down 37 percent from the 2009 adopted budget which means delays in the maintenance and upkeep of our very busy, well used buildings.

Please help us preserve our library access. City Council can change this budget. This budget includes some new spending and there is room for adjustment, but without your voice and presence at upcoming hearings City Council may not re-evaluate. Can you help? Contact advocacy@friendsofspl.org

12 million people turned to our libraries last year. Many are accessing critical services: job search resources, free computers, wi-fi efficiency, community meeting space, literacy support and so forth. Our blog stories portray these everyday uses and the impact on individuals and families. Closed libraries and abbreviated access creates hardships.  In the recession of 2002 and 2003 our library system was closed for two weeks each year and library hours were cut.   The Library hasn’t regained the operating hours lost almost 7 years ago.

  • The Friends of The Seattle Public Library believes any further reduction in hours of operations isn’t a rational choice given the substantial increase in patrons using The Seattle Public Library and with the difficulties facing the citizens of Seattle who are turning to The Seattle Public Library for support and information in the current economic crisis.
  • The Friends of The Seattle Public Library believes furloughs are not a sustainable solution for the operations of The Seattle Public Library and that furloughs eliminate the critical services provided daily by The Seattle Public Library staff and collections.

The citizens of Seattle have increased their usage of The Central Library and the 26 branches by astounding numbers.  Door counts have continued to rise across the system. With all this usage there is wear and tear that requires timely maintenance to prevent deterioration of the interior and exterior of Central and the 26 branches.  The Library’s capital budget for 2009 was reduced from $1.646 million to $694,000.

  • The Friends of The Seattle Public Library believes there must be an ongoing baseline of support for The Seattle Public Library to protect the investment the citizens of Seattle have made in the building and renovation of The Seattle Public Library System.

Please stand up for the library and for our neighbors who need everyday access. You can help : advocacy@friendsofspl.org

Supporters Share Stories

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As people across the city are learning of the library’s budget challenges, stories of the library’s community importance are coming forward. In these hard economic times anyone walking into a branch library can see more people using the computers or plugging in their laptops. In fact all aspects of library service are up at least 10% over last year. Friends of The Library members who participated in the petition drive that wrapped up on Sunday, April 19, heard many stories about the particular ways patrons use their libraries. In this testimony,  library supporter and freelance artist, Kevin Wildermuth, tells Councilmembers how the library is important in his life and the lives of people he met outside Douglass Truth.

“I’m a freelance photographer and web designer working out of my home not far from the Douglass-Truth branch. I rely on the library for many of the books that I read to stay competitive in my business. They are expensive and it’s helpful to have access to those that I don’t buy.

I am concerned about the library budget and that’s why I’m here today and why I was on the sidewalk in front of my library last week collecting signatures for this petition. I was gratified with how easy it was. Everyone signed without hesitation, few refused, and I collected 47 signatures within an hour and a half. People from all walks of life really appreciate and rely on their libraries. I’d say we consider it an essential government service.

I talked to mothers with small children, a city attorney, high school students, job-seeekers, all kinds of people. One patron said that the library system was key to his faith in government. One woman told me that she believes money spent on libraries is leveraged to help people more than almost anything the government does.

People love their libraries. So I urge you to continue to preserve funding when you deliberate the budget in the fall so that we have the staff, the hours, and the acquisitions budget to serve these patrons and all the others that I did not get to talk to.”

 

 

Looking toward a lean 2010 budget

Last week’s announcements of budget reductions to the library’s capital and operations budget drew both sighs of relief and concerns for the future. Our mayor’s support of day to day hours ensures that people who are turning to the library now for computer access, budget relief, and needed resources will continue to enjoy the benefits of a strong library system. However, the announcement of a one week closure of the library system in August ’09 drew concerns from several citizens at today’s City Council budget meeting.

library-0091The  President of the Seattle Public Library Foundation, Susan Adkins,  said, “The Seattle Public Library has proven itself to be an incredibly important resource to the citizens of Seattle in the past six months. During this difficult economy the number of people using the Library has increased even more than the high numbers we have experienced since the rebuilding of Central and all the branches. Patrons are using our services to seek employment, get help with taxes, research opportunities for job training, and enjoy free programs and classes for children, teens, and all ages.

The Central Library and all the branches provided a warm safe haven during the severe snow events in December. Our doors remained open for students, stranded workers and homeless to find shelter.

Now the Library System is challenged, along with all city funded entities, by budget cuts for both 2009 and 2010. We are grateful to the mayor for preserving our branch hours in 2009 by restoring $500,000 to our budget. However we are very concerned about protecting brach hours in 2010.

It is quite likely that our City will continue to face economic challenges next year. Our staff needs to meet the growing and diverse needs of our customers. They count on our Library, they count on our staff, they count on our resources and they count on our open doors.”

 

The City Council cannot change or impact the Mayor’s budget reductions in ’09, but, in a discussion among councilmembers, Council determined that they can provide a forum for public comment and can consider current public feedback as they look ahead to the 2010 budget process. Today’s morning meeting was the last of three morning meetings scheduled by the Budget committee for public comment. A hearing for additional comment begins at 5:30 p.m. Wed, April 22, in City Council Chambers. Please show your support for  preservation of the library’s budget in 2010. Can you join us at the Wed evening hearing? RSVP advocacy@friendsofspl.org