Thursday, August 27, 2009

When the Library System Shuts Down

From August 31--September 7, 2009, all Seattle Public Library branches will be closed due to budget cuts. No employees will be paid during this enforced furlough. Seattle is supposed to be one of the most literate cities in the United States. Library closures mock this claim.

While there used to be equal reciprocal borrowing between Seattle Public Library and King County Library System, that is no longer the case. Seattle residents may use KCLS databases and borrow KCLS materials when they go to a specific branch, but Seattle residents may not place holds on KCLS items. This change was implemented because more Seattle residents borrow from KCLS than KCLS borrows from SPL. This makes sense: KCLS has more money, and can purchase more materials. The reciprocal borrowing agreement states why Seattle residents can't buy KCLS library cards and why the two systems can't merge. KCLS gets much of its funding from property taxes while SPL gets its funding from the city's general fund.

The SPL website reciprocal agreement page says:

We deeply regret any inconvenience this change causes. Both KCLS and SPL look forward to continuing our long history of cooperation and commitment to excellent library service to all residents of King County, regardless of jurisdictional boundaries.

I am not interested in regrets unless they spur us on to fix what is broken. I want full reciprocal borrowing privileges reinstated. I want my elected officials to recognize libraries as providing core services relating to literacy and education. I want my libraries to remain open. If the current funding plan doesn't work (obviously it doesn't), then fix it. If KCLS can remain open by being funded by property taxes, then perhaps Seattle should get on board as well. As KCLS director Bill Ptacek said in 2004, "The primary thing a library does is be open." ("Libraries for All, Except When They're Closed" by Susan Byrnes)

6 comments:

Lone Star Ma said...

How awful! I'm sorry.

Beth Kephart said...

I was just yesterday thinking about you and hoping a certain book arrived, and there you were on my blog.

Thank you for that, and I'm sorry to discover here what you are now facing.

Philly is going through this sort of thing—libraries were hugely targeted with the mayor's original suggested budget cuts. Many are rising up against this. It does break one's heart.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

I understand your fury and hope that you and other literate citizens make your voices heard loud and clear. From this distance, I would have thought the citizens of King County enjoy Seattle's many amenities. Without Seattle, King County would be nothing. So what's needed is some kind of marriage between the two library systems for the benefit of all. How do we measure civilisation ... by the bucks you have in the bank or by the humanity, understanding and knowledge that can easily be associated with libraries and the arts. Good luck!

adrienne said...

I read that this was going to be happening. These are tough times indeed.

Vivian said...

This is sad news! I go to the library every couple days and can't imagine not having it available. Thinking of you...

Saints and Spinners said...

Thanks,everyone. Unfortunately, this is not the first time the library system has gone on furlough. The whole state is in bad shape in terms of finances. I just read an article in UTNE about how students need school librarians more than ever to help them figure out which online resources are viable, and yet school librarians' positions are always the first to be cut.

Libraries are so much more wonderful and helpful than when I was a child. Internet has made it possible for patrons to obtain full-text articles from databanks. Patrons don't even need to own computers. They can go on site to libraries and use their library cards to obtain access. It's unlikely that my daughter's peers will ever need to look at microfiche or microfilm, at least while they're in grade school. Still, they're going to need guaranteed access, and furloughs like this one do not inspire confidence.