My name is Annie Searle, and I have been a Seattle Public Library patron for over 30 years. I use the Northeast, University and Green Lake branches of the library. I am a small business owner, and a board member of the Seattle Public Library Foundation.
I testify each year at these hearings because I believe deeply in the mission of the library, and because it serves so many of our citizens as the most democratic of all our institutions. In the last several years, because of the depressed economic conditions in which we still find ourselves, the City’s services have had to be cut across the board. In 2009, the Library’s budget was cut by $974,000. In 2010, the Library’s budget was cut by $3,000,000, which would have been much worse if the Council had not intervened to restore $860,000.
The previous cuts have already caused the Library to streamline its operations, and to restructure the services it can provide in reduced circumstances – even though library usage is up 20% in the last two years. We understand that times are still tough. The proposed 2011 reduction of 8.5% or $3.7 M in this budget will cause further painful choices to be made, which have been elaborated in the mayor’s proposed budget.
We urge you not to make any further cuts to the proposed budget. There is no more room to cut. If there is any flexibility in the choices that you make, we urge you to restore any branch hours possible at some level. The library is used for many purposes past reading. It provides a safe haven for many. It offers job seekers the technology tools they need to find jobs. It provides story hours and homework help to our children. I’d like to finish with a quote from the historian J.A. Langford:
“The only true equalisers in the world are books; the only treasure-house open to all comers is a library; the only wealth which will not decay is knowledge; the only jewel which you can carry beyond the grave is wisdom.”
We understand the complexities of decision-making that the Council faces this cycle. Thank you for your work on behalf of the citizens of Seattle.