Library leaders and city officials join together in support of levy for The Seattle Public Library
Seattle Public Library Board President Marie McCaffrey, City Librarian Marcellus Turner, Mayor Mike McGinn and City Councilmember Richard Conlin announced support for a Library levy to restore cuts and improve core services at a noon press conference at Seattle's Central Library. City officials and Library leaders were joined by scores of Library patrons at the event.
The Library levy would fund increased Library hours, build the collection of books and materials, enhance computers and online services and improve building maintenance. The plan grew out of a two-year process that involved comments from more than 39,000 residents through public meetings, open houses, surveys, focus groups and forums. There were more than 14 million visits to The Seattle Public Library last year and over 11 million books and materials circulated.
The City Council is expected to vote on legislation that would authorize an Aug. 7, 2012, ballot for a Library levy at 2:30 p.m. today.
The seven-year Library levy of $17 million annually would stabilize the Library budget after four years of cuts that have eroded services. The Library has been closed for one week each year since 2009, 15 of 26 branches are closed two days a week, and the budget to buy books and other items has been cut by more than 13 percent since 2009. The levy would also provide an estimated $5 million to address anticipated cuts in 2013. The Library would continue to rely on the city's general fund for the majority of its budget. At about 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, the levy would cost the median homeowner approximately $52 a year.
"We owe a huge thank you not only to the mayor and council for their collaboration and support, but also to the people of Seattle who helped shape the plan over the past two years," said McCaffrey. "This is an important step toward completing the vision of the 1998 'Libraries for All' bond measure, which resulted in new and improved libraries across the city."
McGinn said people depend on libraries for access to information and resources they need to succeed. "Libraries are the great equalizers for people of all ages," he said. "A strong Library system contributes to the economic, educational and cultural vitality of our city." He noted that libraries are key partners in supporting his initiatives for youth and families and to bolster civic engagement. "Libraries support our residents looking for work, students needing homework assistance, and people who cannot afford a computer," he said. "Our libraries are educational centers in every community and gathering places for neighborhood meetings and activities."
Conlin initiated a study of alternative funding options for the Library in 2010 after recognizing the city's fiscal challenges and declining tax revenues were affecting services. A levy package grew out of that effort.
"At the City Council's April 3 public hearing, Library patrons spoke to how they have been impacted by the cuts and how critical it was that our libraries be open with the resources and assistance they need," Conlin said. "Libraries are particularly important in challenging economic times and it just doesn't make sense to cut services when people need them the most."
City Librarian Marcellus Turner said the plan was built to reflect the priorities of the community. "Libraries are the city's classrooms for both individuals and the community," he said. "The Library levy will help ensure we can provide essential Library services now and for the next generation of users."
Ninety-one-year-old Eleanor Owen and local mystery writer Kathrine Beck also spoke about how the Library has helped them, and their families and friends, throughout their lives.
For more information, visit www.spl.org and select "Libraries for All: A Plan for the Present, A Foundation for the Future," or call 206-386-4636.
For more information contact:
Andra Addison, communications director
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