As I suspected, the one-week closure of the entire Seattle Public Library system earlier this month was just the beginning. This year the library was asked to cut 2% of its budget (about $1 million), and the system was shut down for a week (with all employees unpaid during that time) to save $655,000. For more on this and my objections to it, see my earlier post “Why shut down the entire Seattle Public Library system for a week?”
Yesterday Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels proposed $41 million in cuts (about 4.4%) from the city budget for 2010. The Seattle Public Library system has to make cuts to its 2010 budget of 5%, about $2.8 million. As noted in today’s post on the Friends of the Seattle Public Library blog:
This is a significantly larger impact than what Seattle experienced with the downward adjustment of the 2009 budget. What does this mean to you and your neighborhood? A one week closure of the entire system and 21 branch libraries that will close Friday and Sunday all year. In addition, according to the library’s website, the proposed 2010 capital budget is down 37 percent from the 2009 adopted budget which means delays in the maintenance and upkeep of our very busy, well used buildings…
12 million people turned to our libraries last year. Many are accessing critical services: job search resources, free computers, wi-fi efficiency, community meeting space, literacy support and so forth. Our blog stories portray these everyday uses and the impact on individuals and families. Closed libraries and abbreviated access creates hardships. In the recession of 2002 and 2003 our library system was closed for two weeks each year and library hours were cut. The Library hasn’t regained the operating hours lost almost 7 years ago.
In 1998, Seattle voters approved a $196 million bond measure (“Libraries for All”) to build the new central library and build or renovate branch libraries, and the last project was completed in 2008. The bond money could only be used for the construction of libraries. I don’t think it makes much sense to build lots of new libraries but not fully fund their day-to-day operations. They should have a dedicated funding source so that the libraries don’t have to close or reduce their hours every time Seattle tax revenues go down.
The Seattle Public Library website has details of the proposed 2010 cuts: about the budget; operational budget reductions; capital budget reductions; reductions in branch hours. The website notes: “While the council allocates the funds to operate the Library, it is the Library Board’s responsibility to decide how that money is spent.”
Here’s the Seattle City Council’s 2010 budget calendar. There will be public hearings on October 7, 14, and 26th.