Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The library is the most democratic of institutions

I'm testifying this evening on behalf of the Seattle Public Library's budget for 2012.  Here's a copy of what I plan to say.

"I am Annie Searle.  I’ve had a library card for over 30 years, and I use the Northeast, Green Lake and University branches. And I am a member of the Seattle Public Library Foundation board.

First of all, I would like to thank you for your consistent and thoughtful funding of the Seattle Public Library and its branches over the past several tough years.  We all know how tough the choices are that you have, especially this year.  I’d also like to thank the mayor for recommending no cuts to the Library budget this year.

The Library seems to have led the way over the past several years as it reduced its branch operating hours and staff in branches by 13% or over 9,000 hours per year.  Library staff took a 2% reduction in pay.  And today, 15 of our branches are open only 5 days a week, 7 hours per day.  That’s tough on the neighborhoods they serve.  The Library’s $5 million proposed budget for books and materials is down 14% from the 2010 budget that was adopted.  And, as each of you knows from your own library use, the Library’s 27 heavily used buildings are now in the peculiar position of having both increased traffic  and sorely needed upkeep and maintenance from that traffic.   

Despite the reduced hours and lower investment in books and infrastructure, the library currently has over 500,000 card carrying borrowers.

Especially with the cuts to Seattle schools library programs and in light of reduced operating hours at community centers which are often in close proximity to branches, I ask that you consider restoring some of the collections budget in order to serve what continues to be an increasing number of users at a time when we are still carrying the impacts of prior reductions."

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