Library Supporters Bring Library Into Council Chambers

Library supporters packed City Council Chambers on April 3 and presented a diverse and articulate case for placing the Library Levy before voters in August. City Council will likely decide the issue at its April 9 meeting. Councilmember Tim Burgess suggested the decision would be easy and told the large audience, “You brought the library into Council Chambers by talking about its impact on your lives. It’s had an impact on me.”

The audience, ranging from grade school age to ninety, testified for nearly 1 1/2 hours on a wide spectrum of ways the library is relevant to their lives and to our city. “The library is the #1 resource in the city for addressing the Digital Divide…[it is] a window for attaining employment, job training, getting a GED, and even getting your taxes done,” explained businessman and realtor, Dr Gary Kunis.  Expressing his “100% support”  Dr. Charlie Walker 3rd, said, “Victory of education is in the classroom as well as the library.” School teacher/librarian Craig Seasholes further expanded the idea pointing out that libraries and schools work closely together to educate and that large numbers of public school students spend their afterschool hours in public libraries. He added that the library’s summer reading program ensures that students experience no loss in reading ability over the summer break.

Several people explained how the library empowers people with low vision through LEAP (Library Equal Access Programs) at Central Library. Becky Bell said large text and audio speech technology has “enabled me to reach out to my blind community and my community in general.” Jean Jacobs called the library her, “home away from home.” Janice Hufty credited LEAP with helping her to start a Muslim resource center and launch the Warm For Winter Foundation. Camille Jassny, board member of Vision Loss Connections, talked about the importance the Low Vision library book group holds in her life.

Many aspects of library services were cited as enhancements in the lives of people testifying. Paul Michaelson was impressed by library meeting rooms that “affords a unique opportunity for people to come together.” Katherine Beck attended as representative of five generations of library users and talked about using the library for literary research. Paula Becker spoke enthusiastically about the historic collections in The Seattle Room and their excellent digitized offerings.

Two cautionary testimonies from representatives of the City Neighborhood Council (an umbrella group of district councils) and the Seattle Community Council Federation  urged levy authors to establish a levy oversight council to secure voter trust. They also recommended a levy amendment which commits City Council to maintaining existing levels of general fund support for the library if and when the levy passes and commits the Library Board to act on the public’s wish to restore library hours. The levy promises to do four things: restore library hours, enhance books and services, improve computer and online services, and maintain the buildings.

Thank you to those of you who attended the hearing. If you didn’t attend, enjoy the April 3 hearing recorded at Seattle Channel and consider joining Friends of The Seattle Public Library in future events for library support.


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 if you can attend or can help us rally support for libraries.