The Seattle Public Library (SPL) system has a chance to snag a levy package from the City Council to improve SPL’s hours, technology and materials.
To develop such a levy, SPL is holding three community meetings throughout the city to gather input from the public about what they most valued and needed from the libraries.
The second meeting took place on Jan. 14 at the Beacon Hill branch, with approximately 70 people in attendance. The meeting featured a basic question/answer format with City Librarian Marcellus Turner facilitating the conversation, along with a PowerPoint presentation.
The segments of the meeting were devoted to enhancing the library system’s collection of books and materials, increasing operating hours, upgrading computer and on-line services and improving building maintenance, among other issues.
Access to books for all
At the Jan. 14 meeting, library patrons noted how it was difficult to get computer use, how there was too much emphasis on offering digital books instead of regular books and how library-hour cutbacks made the library branches difficult to access.
“When I was in the Beacon Hill Library in the afternoon, I would see people with their children,” said Patti Quinn, a patron of both the Beacon Hill and Columbia branches. “It was very touching to see children at the Columbia City library and then realize that the hours don’t allow this.”
Jennifer Patterson, director of public services at SPL, addressed this concern.
“How do we select which branches should hours be reduced? It’s not an easy question,” she began. “We looked at how to reduce hours to maximize our facility and the buildings that had the largest capacity, computers and collections, and maintain open hours there.”
The facilitators and SPL staff were all receptive of the feedback.
Near mid-meeting, Turner read a letter from a patron: “When you reduce, it cuts into the heart and soul of what we do. We can’t get books, iBooks, CDs and the many items that make up our collection. People want digital books. The size of the digital collection did not increase enough.”
Conversely, Turner read another letter regarding SPL’s digital collection: “I like books. I do not have an eReader or DVD player…. The public library was established to provide access to books for everyone — let’s keep it that way.”
In response to technology concerns, Turner said that SPL is dedicated to improving library technology and access.
Near the end of the nearly two-hour meeting, comments got lighter, and laughter even broke out a couple of times amongst the audience.
Attendees brought up how “gorgeous” the Columbia Branch is and how “the staff are amazing,” according to one participant.
A man commented on how he used to live in Spokane and “you’d be surrounded by books, but it was dark and dingy,” he said. “I like the fact that the libraries are open, with high ceilings, and are inviting places to go.”
He was also pleased that the library buildings are environmentally friendly.
“There are more things I get out of the library besides the books,” he said.
Still time for input
These public meetings come at a time when the Seattle City Council is considering putting together a levy package to fund the libraries.
“We have a opportunity to improve our program of services with the potential levy,” said SPL communications director Andra Addison. “We are talking with the public to see which services are most important to them and what they value.”
After years of cuts to the libraries, the levy would be a substantial reprieve.
“The package needs to develop before it’s recommended to the City Council,” Addison said, which will ultimately determine whether a library levy goes on the ballot.
The third meeting, which was rescheduled because of the snow, will take place on Saturday, Jan. 28, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Northeast Library, 6801 35th Ave. N.E.
The public is encouraged to submit input to the Seattle Public Library about issues to be addressed; visit www.spl.org and select “Libraries for All: A Plan for the Present, A Foundation for the Future.” Or call (2060 386-4636.