Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The library belongs to all of us.

I'm never too busy to help keep library branches open. KING-TV covered the city council budget hearing on Monday, in which the library offered up 5% or $2.8 million in cuts that the mayor requested. Reporter Linda Brill got right to the heart of the matter with her story, which you can click on here to read:

Here's my testimony in full:

Honored Council Members –

My name is Annie Searle, and I am a member of the Seattle Public Library Foundation Board. I have used the library for over 30 years, in particular the University, Green Lake and Northeast branches. The Mayor requested cuts to the Library’s 2010 budget of 5 per cent. That’s $2.8 million for a public institution that provides basic services to the entire community and is our most democratic of institutions. I do not envy your deliberations, but think it is as important to present a full case for not making these cuts as it is to maintain our public safety budget.

We have now completed work on 27 new or expanded libraries, including the Central Branch. Citizens, as we saw last month, expect their libraries to be open.

Every essential service is stretched thin in this economic climate. When I was last here, I talked about those who are out of work and their dependence upon the library to prepare resumes and perform job searches. Since then, the branches have begun to feel the impact of students whose school library services have been reduced in the current climate. In this environment, library services like the homework center become even more important as teachers and parents are stretched.

Susan Hildreth will explain the calculation that she and library board made on reducing hours past a one week closure. To me, these reductions are as unacceptable as any cuts to the library’s materials budget. It would be a different story entirely if we had seen use of the libraries decrease, or if we had not invested heavily in the library’s infrastructure so as to serve greater numbers of people.

I ask the Council to decline the Mayor’s request for these cuts, and to restore the budget so that the citizens of Seattle, especially those out of work, can depend upon the tools and resources that the library offers to each of us. Thank you.