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.