Books

Not Keeping Quiet

Librarians Speak Out Against Proposed Policies at Seattle Public Library

Not Keeping Quiet

Original photo by Lara Swimmer

FEE FI FO FUM SPL wants fines for everyone.

The librarians are making some noise. Saying "someone in the outside world should know," a Seattle Public Library (SPL) staffer forwarded The Stranger a series of internal documents proposing policy changes designed to decrease services and extract money from the library's most vulnerable patrons: old people, poor people, immigrants, and children. (The staffer requested to remain anonymous, citing a "sort of 1984 atmosphere at the library these days... morale is low.")

According to the documents—internal e-mails, budgets, and meeting minutes and agendas—the proposed changes include charging $5 for interlibrary loans (when SPL borrows a title from another library system), adding late fees for ESL and children's materials, cutting the number of items a customer can put on hold from 100 to 25, and halving the number of items anyone can check out at one time to 50. The leaked papers also explain the reason for these new policies—increased fines "could result in an estimated $36,000 in annual revenue."

None of the librarians I contacted for comment wanted to be named in this article, but all have an opinion about the new policies: They're bad.

On SPL intranet threads forwarded to The Stranger, one staffer says homebound and bedridden patrons, who only receive services once a month, would be disproportionately hurt by the tighter borrowing limits. "We are frequently their only source of information and entertainment," she adds.

A librarian at a branch of SPL with a great many Spanish-speaking patrons—but not so many Spanish-language materials—believes that charging $5 for interlibrary loans "will seriously inhibit our ability to provide good basic services to new Americans and other non-English speakers." Another laments that SPL has "spent years in outreach... educating parents that SPL is fine-free for children's materials" to "encourage access for all," especially low-income children struggling in school. Another chastises the library for monetizing late fees: "Fines should serve the purpose of educating young patrons and encouraging timeliness, NOT increasing revenue."

A few complaints fall just shy of calling the policies racist, especially language stating that they will "encourage responsibility." One staffer suggests that some immigrants and refugees hold two or three jobs, become overwhelmed with responsibilities, and are already afraid or embarrassed to come back to the library because they returned a book late. Fining ESL and children's books, the staffer says, would only exacerbate the problem.

Nancy Pearl, former executive director of SPL's Washington Center for the Book and current author and NPR book reviewer, says, "The library's in an impossible position, and learning and literacy will suffer for it. Adding new fees will of course reduce reading—it always does. Raising money on the backs of children and immigrants will hurt people with no voice in the political process.

"But what's SPL supposed to do? Our libraries compete for funds with police, fire, road repairs, public health, and everything else on the city budget. The most effective library finances are in those communities with a separate library district, like King County, or where library funding comes off the top, like San Francisco. Seattle needs to move out of the municipal budget fight. The library board should start that work now."

The library board was supposed to discuss and vote on these changes at a meeting on May 27, but after hearing numerous complaints from staff, new city librarian Susan Hildreth asked to postpone the discussion until the following board meeting on June 24. Hildreth wanted to allow time for SPL employees to air their grievances. (The new materials policy seems to further a conservative institutional trend of focusing on problem customers. What the board did approve at the May 27 meeting: a new "rules of conduct" policy designed to push out the homeless, including prohibition of all rolling carts except strollers, the ability to ban violators from a library for two years instead of one, and possible ejection for "appearing to be sleeping.")

Why isn't SPL notifying taxpayers of these changes? Why do frustrated staffers find it necessary to contact the press anonymously? Andra Addison, communications director for SPL, admits that the library provided "public notice but not detailed information" about the materials policy changes. The library, she said, posts all board-meeting agendas on its website and would send out a press release the following week. Three hours after I called Addison, SPL issued a detailed press release about the proposed changes.

Addison disagrees that the changes are punitive. "We'd love to not charge fines, but we can't do that," she says. Circulation at the library has increased 20 percent in the last year, and SPL has to consider new ways of efficiently serving more people with less money. Mayor Nickels asked SPL to cut its budget at least 3 percent in 2009.

Nor does Addison think the fees will be prohibitive: "We raised our fees in 2003, and our circulation is higher than ever." More people are using the library more this year because more people are unemployed, and of course SPL needs to stay within strict budget constraints, but is now the time to penalize groups who have been hit hardest by the recession?

Addison especially bemoans the inter-library loan system, which she says costs an average of $20 to $30 per book: "One that was put through the other day cost $150." She points out that less than 8 percent of inter-library loan requests are for foreign-language materials. She calls interlibrary loan "kind of a supplemental service."

This proposed $5 fee has drawn the most criticism. Becky Norman, the interlibrary loan manager at King County Library System (KCLS), says King County libraries file a similar number of interlibrary loans as SPL—"well over 2,000 [items] a month"—and doesn't charge for those loans unless the lending library requires payment, something that happens only "about 10 percent of the time." Holly Koelling, the director of circulation at KCLS, calls interlibrary loan "an important service."

Staffers weren't just complaining—many had ideas to make money. One suggested charging for interlibrary loans not picked up, or allowing a certain number of loans before a fee kicks in, or fining patrons who never check out items they put on hold.

The window for staff suggestions has passed, but it didn't really matter: None of the SPL staffers' complaints or suggestions have influenced the proposed changes. Addison says the board hasn't set its agenda for the June 24 meeting but will "probably" discuss the new policies. Two SPL employees insist that SPL officials have said the policies "will definitely be voted on at the next board meeting."

Either way, there will be an opportunity for public comment. recommended

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Comments (62) RSS

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1
All the proposed changes seem reasonable to me. I mean, if you find yourself checking out Madonna's SEX more than 50 times...it's time to quit hogging it and save up for your own copy.
Posted by Madonna's Accountant on June 17, 2009 at 1:50 PM · Report this
2
Ooops, upon re-read I guess you can check out Madonna's book as many times as you want. BUT, you can't have more than 50 items check out at one time? This is Unacceptable!! It's summer reading season! Just this month alone I'm reading 75 books, watching 60 DVD's and listening to 100's of CD's. These onerous new restrictions will really kill my voracious appetite for loaned media. Guess in all my freetime I could get a job to try to pay that $5.00 inter-library loan fee.....Let's see, who's going to hire a shut-in library leach/hog with no sense of perspective? Is the Stranger hiring? Better yet, SPL!
Posted by Madonna's Accountant on June 17, 2009 at 2:56 PM · Report this
3
As a elementary classroom teacher who often likes to have his classroom full of children's books in many genres, I find the 25 book limit - very limiting. I find with my personal usage and my use of books for my classroom, I exceed 25 books easily. And yes, #2, I do read them all. In terms of fines, go ahead and fine me. It should be my responsibility to return or renew books (regardless if they're children's books).
Posted by summerbreak on June 17, 2009 at 3:24 PM · Report this
danhowes 4
I don't understand why the seattle library system isn't just absorbed by KCLS. That way people living in Shoreline or North Seattle or other places near the city limits wouldn't have to deal with two different library cards.
Posted by danhowes http://www.vimeo.com/danhowes on June 17, 2009 at 3:32 PM · Report this
5
I Heart Madonna's accountant.
Posted by bunnicula on June 17, 2009 at 4:58 PM · Report this
6
I agree with Nancy Pearl that the library's funding source needs to be addressed. Sure, King County doesn't charge for ILL service but they also have a larger and more secure source of revenue than SPL does.
Posted by LibrarianX on June 17, 2009 at 5:00 PM · Report this
7
I heart Madonna's accountant
Posted by bunnicula on June 17, 2009 at 5:07 PM · Report this
8
I've used the interlibrary loan system (almost exclusively for foreign language books) at SPL and was kind of amazed that it was free and the limits so high - you can submit up to 5 requests per week, and none that I've received have ever included charges.

I would hate to see it go up to $5 per book, but if some kind of change is really necessary to make their budget work, how about charging only after a certain number as is suggested at the bottom of the article? Say, 1 free request per week/month, or a certain number per year? That seems like a more acceptable compromise.
Posted by jw36 on June 17, 2009 at 5:08 PM · Report this
9
It won't make much difference, but they could be more careful about purchasing so many copies of bestsellers or recommendations from Oprah, Pitchfork etc. Limits on holds would help, hold only what you actually want. (Mea culpa, I've taken advantage of the full 100 at times.)

Some people will have to wait a month for The Secret II. Maybe they should (re)read one of the copies of The Secret clogging the shelves first? The CD racks of my nearest branch are over-stuffed with the same indie rock flash-in-the-pans every week, while the meager selection of Vietnamese and Mexican discs are always checked out.
Posted by SoSea Resident on June 17, 2009 at 5:28 PM · Report this
10
#2,
The people most likely to check out a lot of books at once are 1) parents/teachers checking out books for their kids, 2) research students, or 3) people who cannot physically come to the library often due to illness, as mentioned above. Obviously the new restrictions are meaningless for most patrons, but they do in fact harm the specialized groups at which the policies are aimed.
Posted by sahara6126 on June 17, 2009 at 6:36 PM · Report this
srcsmgrl 11
@#10 The policies are not aimed at certain groups just because The Stranger says they are.
Posted by srcsmgrl on June 17, 2009 at 7:36 PM · Report this
newradio 12
It should be noted that KCLS has a significantly larger budget than SPL. That being said, they also didn't hire Rem Kohlhaus to design the most user-unfriendly library. Sure is pretty though.
Posted by newradio on June 17, 2009 at 8:17 PM · Report this
13
The changes to library circulation policy are rediculous, especially the Inter Library Loan charges. The Library used to collect a lot more diversely, but now they buy 200 copies of the "Australia" DVD (I checked) and think its okay to charge $5 for items they should have bought in the first place. I've used Inter Library Loan to get family history books, and a few 'popular' titles (not in the collection). Now I have to pay $5 each book. I think I'll just stop using this service if they charge.
Posted by Johnathan Marco on June 17, 2009 at 8:25 PM · Report this
14
Same kinds of unprofessional behavior, by management, are happening with the King County "Rural" Library System as with Seattle Public Library. Library Assistant's, high school education or less required for hiring, are being placed in Librarian positions. Does this mean that earning a Master's of Library Science to equip one for dealing with all manner of research questions as well planning all the daily professional programs that serve the public isn't necessary? The director and "appointed" Board of Trustees seem to think this. The tax payer’s think they are paying for professional librarians via special levies and property taxes. KCLS is being systematically torn apart and it’s happening because there is no oversight of this multi million dollar public agency on be half of the public, tax payers or staff. Why?
Posted by atrium on June 17, 2009 at 8:27 PM · Report this
15 Comment Pulled (Duplicate) Comment Policy
16
As an SPL staff member, I'm a little miffed that someone leaked what I treated as library-only dialogue, but I think it's GOOD for the public to be informed. I'm thankful that Susan Hildreth is thinking in the long term: this isn't about gouging patrons for services (that $36,000/year "revenue" isn't much in the face of huge budget cuts), but about cutting down the flow of items so the library can continue to function and serve our patrons with limited staffing. We may have layoffs if the budget doesn't go our way - we've got to make some sacrifices. While I'm sad that we have to implement these new policies, I'm even more sad at the thought of patrons reading this article and getting the impression that we're not behind Susan or that she's not doing a good job -- the poor lady just started! I think it's very admirable that she asked for staff input in the first place - she didn't need to do so.

While I'm on my soapbox, I'm not so stoked about the interpretation of Rules of Conduct as "designed to push out the homeless" -- the extension of the exclusions is for serious cases, and we do have them. The library needs to be a safe place, and we need enforceable rules like these to keep them that way.
Posted by jennylee on June 17, 2009 at 8:39 PM · Report this
17
And for anyone who would like to provide comments in a more productive forum than SLOG, you can attend the library board meeting this month. This page has the meeting dates/times and once the agenda is posted, will also have the room number:

http://www.spl.org/default.asp?pageID=ab…
Posted by jblank on June 17, 2009 at 9:20 PM · Report this
18
I must be missing something here. These proposed changes "could result in an estimated $36,000 in annual revenue." What? All of this over a potential $36k in revenue for an institution w/ a 2007 annual operating budget of $45,841,452 (closer to $50mill in 2009-10)? Sure every penny counts and due diligence requires that every cost saving and revenue generating opportunity be explored, but the time spent on all of the "internal e-mails, budgets, meeting minutes, and agendas" probably totals at least $10k in salaries if not more. Add to that the decreased productivity due to the staff's "low" morale. Time to stop the madness and reroute all of this energy toward finding a less short-sighted solution.
Posted by cytwombly on June 17, 2009 at 9:33 PM · Report this
19
how about just charging $1 every time someone takes the exact same picture of the stupid escalators.

http://www.flickr.com/search/?s=rec&ss=2…

Talk about a windfall!
Posted by here's an idea on June 18, 2009 at 7:22 AM · Report this
20
When I was a kid we lived out in the boonies, almost two hours from town. We were poor, my brother and I were homeschooled and we LOVED the library. We routinely checked out up to the 100 book limit (at the time) and would go through them long before we went back to the library. These policies would definitely have had adverse effects on our access to reading materials (both educational and entertainment). Libraries are one of the few truly free ways to educate yourself or borrow entertaining materials (CDs, novels, DVDs). Although I realize that there are budget restraints, it seems that this (relatively) small amount of money could be recouped elsewhere.
Posted by SDizzle on June 18, 2009 at 7:46 AM · Report this
21
If SPL stopped spending so much of its budget buying HUNDREDS of copies of the latest popular books and dvds, they could afford to buy a greater variety of books--and patrons wouldn't have to use interlibrary loan to get those items.

And what does limiting the number of books you can have on hold do other than reduce the ability to use the library effectively? That's the most ridiculous idea of them all. It sure discourages people from using the library... oh, wait... hmmm.. yeah... don't WANT folks to use the library!

I wouldn't mind at all if they just raised the late fees. That should be their first step.
Posted by slugbiker http://www.seattlescrabble.org on June 18, 2009 at 9:20 AM · Report this
22
How many library users would be willing to give a small donation every time they go to the library?

I'd think there are plenty of people who, whatever their frequency of usage, would gladly give a few dollars every visit. Think of it as a tip jar. It probably wouldn't garner an enormous amount of money, but if every dollar counts, why not at least put out a donation box as a fundraising option?
Posted by grumpy apt dweller on June 18, 2009 at 9:22 AM · Report this
Julie in Eugene 23
The changes don't seem that terrible to me, with the possible exception of the $5 inter-library loan fee (something more like $2-3, or as someone above suggested, 1 free and then $5 would be more reasonable).

I think all of the library systems I've held a card for (which is not that many, admittedly) have had fines for children's books, though I know they are sometimes less than the fines for adult books.

And, I don't know, but a 100 book check-out limit seems crazy to me. In Chicago it was 30 (which did seem low). A 50 book limit seems like a reasonable middle ground.
Posted by Julie in Eugene on June 18, 2009 at 9:49 AM · Report this
24
@21 - Limiting holds would make users think before they add Australia to their hold lists just because they can and its first on a search of new DVDs. Then the library (presumably/hopefully) wouldn't have bought 200 copies(see @13). Even with a discount that's at least $4000-5000 so everyone can see Hugh Jackman shirtless the first month the DVD is available.
Posted by SoSea Resident on June 18, 2009 at 11:16 AM · Report this
25
SPL buys hundreds of copies of all the new DVDs. Kinda silly. Are we Blockbuster or a friggin library? If everybody wants everything all the time for free, then it is not going to happen. Seattleites are spoiled. I work in one of the most affluent hoods in Seattle and people still bitch about having to pay a 30 cent overdue fee. In many European countries, you have to PAY to even get a library card. A membership so to speak.
Posted by servanttothepublic on June 18, 2009 at 1:06 PM · Report this
26
has anyone looked at Timberland Regional Library pages ???--same thing happening there for same reasons - guess what - public libraries - like many other sections of the economy are having financial problems - less materials budget from the City of Seattle - means less materials than last year to go to ***more*** people who use the library when times are bad economically -- it's not news folks - and it's not higher math--times are hard all over!!
Posted by A. Greenspan on June 18, 2009 at 9:59 PM · Report this
27
I'm kind of sick of "book" people who are anti-DVD. Yes, we're a friggin library--a friggin library that carries Australia and Quarantine and Big Momma's House III. Get over it. They're probably better uses of one's time than reading Jonathan Kellerman. It's shameful that SPL doesn't buy any academic material, but don't blame it on the DVDs. Film has been considered an art form for a couple of years now, and, like any art form, most of it is bad, but people deserve the chance to view it even if they can't pay 3.99 at Blockbuster.
Posted by ignatz on June 18, 2009 at 10:31 PM · Report this
28
Oh, Stranger, there you go again. That malcontent who sent you postings from an internal employee discussion board really knew the right place to go to get a piece of wildly sensationalized hack journalism. Who else would report with a straight face that there’s a “1984 atmosphere” at one of the country’s best library systems, with a new director who staff had a say in selecting, where circulation has increased by double digits every year for over a decade, where there’s a strong and long-lived labor union, and where every single community library has been refurbished or built anew in the last decade? Describing the proposed changes as being “designed to decrease services and extract money from… old people, poor people, immigrants, and children” is about as kneejerk as advocating for the invasion of Iraq (yeah, still haven’t forgotten about THAT, Dan), but it sure makes a good story.

So Paul Constant talked to a few anonymous librarians who think the changes are bad. Well, he didn’t talk to any of the librarians or better yet, circulation staff that I know. They understand that sure, SPL would love to not charge any overdue fines, like our much less heavily used library system to the north (Sno-Isle); they’d love to let everyone check out and hold a hundred items at a time. But the simple fact is THEY CAN’T. They can’t without laying more people off and having more unpaid furloughs. They can’t if they want to fulfill their primary mission of serving the entire community by offering great programs, information service, computers, and as many of the books, cds, and yes, dvds that patrons want...for free. That’s right, free. You want to use a computer? Free. See Sherman Alexie read from his latest book? Free. Get your taxes done? Free? Check out that film that was just released on DVD last week? Free. Check out fifty books? Free. Sounds pretty good to me! But guess what? They’ll even search far and wide for that impossible find book you want, negotiate borrowing it from another library, ship it out here, let you know when it’s in, and ship it back when you’re done…for five bucks. Pretty mercenary, huh? They really do deserve The Stranger’s finger wagging.

So yeah, SPL doesn’t have every book in the world, and they won't let you check out and request everything in the world all at once. That’s because the library is a limited resource, people. Deal with it. If everyone used the library in sensible way and didn’t order a hundred CDs that they never picked up, or requested twenty inter-library loans every month it probably wouldn’t have come to this. But we Americans aren’t so great about moderation, are we? So here’s what you get: You get administrators looking at the big picture, and having to make some tough, unpopular calls. That’s what they’re PAID to do. Thank you for doing your job. To the malcontent who leaked the discussion from the staff intranet page -- something that could only have been done at work -- why don’t you stop whining like your Winston Smith in the Ministry of Truth and do YOUR job.
More...
Posted by Eric Blair on June 19, 2009 at 11:37 AM · Report this
29
Great post Eric. There are lots of us library staffers who agree with you.

Public libraries must provide "free and equal access to ideas and information" in a democracy. But do we really need to have one copy of a popular dvd for every 5 reserves on it? The library owns 334 copies of "Slumdog Millionaire", which has 1575 people waiting. . Because people can have 100 holds at a time, the wait lists for these popular items become so huge and the library will buy one copy for every 5 people waiting. My branch library pulls 1000 hold every month that are not picked up.

Everyone with a library card in good standing has the privilege of checking out materials for free. Parents need to be aware of what materials their children have out and return them on time. The library should explain to ESL users the fine policy, as well as other library policies, in the user's own language. If people need more than 50 books in a three week period, then they can come to the library more often. These seem like reasonable expectations.

1984? Get a grip. Or get a Netflix account.
Posted by Library staffer on June 19, 2009 at 1:32 PM · Report this
30
Madonna's accountant HEARTS Bunnicula right back.

And if I wasn't so busy with all this adoption paperwork (and being a smarta$$) I would try to post something as concise and reasonable as Geor....errrr...Eric Blair.
Read and learn Mr. Constant!
Oh, and the malcontent staffer that leaked the discussion. Please report for re-education.
Posted by Madonna's accountant on June 19, 2009 at 3:38 PM · Report this
31
@27. I am not a "book"person any more than I am a "DVD person". I just think the public is spoiled. We carry a lot of crap and a lot of good stuff. But in tough times, it seems our collection could be better served by NOT buying 300 copies of anything.
Posted by servanttothepublic on June 19, 2009 at 5:02 PM · Report this
32
I can't believe this is a NEWS ITEM (okay - the STRANGER is not the WSJ or NYT and I should be doing doing other work online - I am enrolled at U DUB - I have less influence at the library than upper classmen, faculty, or the Pope - this is fact of life. I'm from NJ, but I get more here at Seattle Public Library than the libray where my parents, grandparents -- grew up and pay taxes. Interlibrary loan there gets me stuff for free for school that would cost me $$$ plus where I have the honor of paying tuition -- - go figure - the gravy train is a wreck --sad yes-- - unfair - no? - good while it lasted

Joe College
Posted by Joe College on June 19, 2009 at 10:38 PM · Report this
33
Joe College: Next time you're at the library (ANY library), pick up a book on basic writing. You're scaring me.
Posted by Where Have All The Good Times Gone on June 20, 2009 at 1:02 AM · Report this
Rev.Smith 34
I love my library; I'm there once a week if not more. The relationships with the staff are easily the best part: they are my co-horts, my uncredited research squad. I hate that they have to take furlough.

I'm going to chime in with a little voice of reason (I think) and hope that the library staffers or sloggers might pass along my ideas since I can't make that meeting.

First; regardless of the perception of money-priority, this seems really about time-wasting first, money saving second.

This being the case, as well as being that we're living in a $6/month netflix age, the SPL DVD collections seem like an easy, as well as reasonable, target for trimming fat, - IF they take a lot of staff time . 335 copies of any recent 'purely-entertainment movie'? Too much to me, unless they were all donated. How bout half that? or how bout 2 per branch? Whether it's art or not doesn't apply: libraries must provide info and knowledge; AV materials and entertainment are optional.
Again, in the netflix age, I'd gladly vote yes to cutting all movies (and I check out 3/week myself) if it means staff stay employed / available in the libraries to help.
Posted by Rev.Smith on June 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM · Report this
Rev.Smith 35
Next, the issue of lower budget + more users: use the utility/ISP model: charge the highest users while keeping 'basic' level users free.
100 books at a time? that's high usage (i.e. lots of staff time), and perhaps its fair to charge for the extra burden. SoSea, 100 holds? There's so many people that don't pick up: what a huge waste of community time/money.

Suggestions:

a) Charge a small yearly fee, starting year#2, to SPL users that live outside Seattle.
b) Limit holds for free to say 25, but allow citizens to buy into the 'big holder club' (100 holds) at a modest yearly fee- Not to raise money really, but to discourage hold-everything folks.
c) penalize those who do not pick up holds with late fees: these books are in fact late getting back to the shelf AND they are in your name - this one is reasonable and logical; should be easy. And might inspire more responsible hold use (& less time wasted)
d) expand or double the return times for children's materials AND start a late fee: giving parents, and teachers especially, more flexibility than a 'regular' book, and teaching kids and kids'-book-users a little about the value of the lending system.
e) likewise cap the number of items you can have out at 50, but allow 'membership' upgrade to 100 for those in heavy research or with special heavy use. A modest/token fee for upgrade will discouraged those who aren't serious.
f) Express lane computers: mark 1/3 of the library computers as 20 minute or less usage. Enforce it. No, no revenue, but it helps get it into people's heads that there are more users than materials and we all need to share. There's a toxic sense of selfishness in the system now, rather than a prevailing sense of democracy.
g) Limit wait lists! DUH. You won't trigger any 5 to 1 ratio to get you to buy 300+ copies of a movie if the wait list only goes 25 deep. 1500+ deep on the waitlist? Ditch it!
h) If SPL insists on competing with Netflix, at least wait until new releases are old releases (and cheap). True with books too.
i) I really like the 'per month, first one's free, but $5 after that'/drug-dealer approach to ILL.
j) Continue to not fine ESL materials. ACLU lawyers would swarm up your bum in a heartbeat. Instead, lower lending limits by one everytime a material is late. In fact, apply that across the boards. Requires, perhaps, smarter cards than we have. [ Perhaps materials returned in 2 days or less grant you a 'bonus' of one extra material or day...]
k) if the average ILL cost is really $20-$30, I think some of those books could be bought for less. Change the program (charge that $30 for non-pickups) or shelve-for-one-year the ILL program! How many ILL are coming from nearby, transit-reachable libraries?

Alternative to apply to all:
Don't want to add fines? Okay, no problem there: use suspending lending ability instead: you ignore a hold book? Well guess who just got 2 days of not being able to check out ANYTHING? Or, your lending limit was 50? It's now 48. No money changes hands, but lesson learned / turnaround of materials sped up. ;)
More...
Posted by Rev.Smith on June 20, 2009 at 5:22 AM · Report this
36
Rev Smith: that's too complicated, from the insider commenters, limiting holds to drop excessive purchasing sounds like enough to close the deficit.

Yes, I've had 100(or close) HOLDS at a time, not checked out all at once. Like thousands of other patrons. The most that appeared at my branch at anytime was around 10, usually it was 3-5 items. 3-5 books or CDs or DVDs at a time is excessive?

How does that hold number get so high? if you are checking out any these on a regular basis:
1)DVDs
2)CDs
3)Childrens Books
4)Hobby books
5)Genre books (mystery, sf, romance, manga)
6)Research projects

Should patrons be allowed to hold so much? Probably not.

Should the ratio for holds to copies be changed? Definitely (5 holds=1 DVD?)
Posted by SoSea Resident on June 20, 2009 at 10:03 AM · Report this
37
It intrigues me that many of the comments thumbing-down the
popular titles and DVD may forget (or even be the same people) that comlain to the City Council that 1) they have had to wait too long for their reserved item, 2) that the popular items are frequently stolen and prolonging the wait time, 3) that the pidling $35k is just enough to have saved of the the crucial/important clerical positions who perform the shelving, retrieving, and processing of the Interlibrary Loan materials.

I grow tired of the spin regarding disenfranchisement when it is a red herring.

In regards to the appearance of sleeping, I've seen the library staff roust folks courteously, be they poorly dressed or in business clothes. In fact, several years, the Real Change newpaper went undercover to 'sting' the library, but for the most part, left empty handed. They wrote that the security staff were firm, yet fair...and respectful. I applaud the library's security personnel for their professionalism.

I would urge the Stranger reporting team to delve deeper into the workings of the Seattle Public Library. I challenge you to write a more balanced article instead of appearing to sensationalize good faith proposals by our library to save jobs, and look for cost cutting measures during these hard times.

Yes, the downtown library architecture is odd, but the staff who work there as well as all the branches are die hard public service employees who care. I appreciate them
Posted by walt m. on June 20, 2009 at 10:41 AM · Report this
38

THANKS to The Stranger for reporting on news that is important to anyone who cares about the library, or cares about everyone in our community having access to materials including children, and immigrant populations. Thanks for reporting about something that will affect the ability for some people to do things like learn English or learn how to read.

Honestly, as a staff person I feel like the very serious concerns that staff raised have not been clearly explained. There was not just a few staff that were upset in fact almost anyone who is a librarian that I talked to were HORRIFIED by different aspects of this proposal. The thing that was on most librarians minds is charging fines for ESL and children's materials.

It was pretty clear that the administration basically believes what library staffer posted

"Everyone with a library card in good standing has the privilege of checking out materials for free. Parents need to be aware of what materials their children have out and return them on time. The library should explain to ESL users the fine policy, as well as other library policies, in the user's own language."

That is true everyone in good standing can check out materials and yes parents should pay attention to what their kids are checking out. Yes in a perfect world no one would ever damage an item, nor return it late, nor lose something either and every single book would come back perfectly clean. However, as some of us who live in the real world know this is not the case? There are too many children in our community that do not have stellar parents, or parents that must work multiple jobs, or parents that are drug addicts. Once the fines on children's materials are implemented every kid that does not have organized parents or parents who can afford to pay fines will eventually lose the privilege to check out books. SERIOUSLY, do we as a community feel comfortable taking away any access to books to kids with shitty parents, or overworked parents, or simply poor parents. Once they get $15 in fines they cannot check out even a single book again until they get their fines back under $15. Last I checked most kids do not have jobs and if your parents can not afford it or do not care if you read books then you are shit out of luck. Do we really feel comfortable as a community keeping books out of kids hands because they have lame parents?

In addition library staffer "The library should explain to ESL users the fine policy, as well as other library policies, in the user's own language." Do you have any fucking idea how much it costs to translate all our policies. We do it for the major language groups now and would love to do it for more but we cannot AFFORD IT. So if you happen to be an immigrant from a community that has recently been having a war for example and are not one of the top 10 language groups in Seattle you are also shit out of luck. I wish we could translate more in more languages, I wish we had tons more staff that spoke 100s of languages but we do not! Have you ever worked with an immigrant community? I have and it is really, really hard to communicate basic library concepts to people that do not speak English and have nothing that even approximates something like a free public library system. It is a learning process and the best way to just cut off that learning process is to give people fines on the first materials they check out, often ESL materials. I am not saying that because you are a new immigrant from Somalia that you should check out every DVD in the library and not get a fine, but ESL materials? Yes, let's screw the folks who are trying to LEARN English.

Rest assured the very little relative revenue, seriously these kids and ESL patrons are not going to give us so much money it saves even one job, are not worth the havoc we will create in some of our more needy patrons lives.

Screw it people can have a few less items checked out, and they can put a few less things on hold but we are talking about fines creating barriers to the very populations front line librarians have been killing ourselves, and working our asses off to serve. It is very rare that once kids and ESL patrons get fines do they ever come back. Shame on you Seattle Public administration for effectively turning away needy patrons, and shame on you ignatz for pretending that this will actually do anything to stop layoffs, or library closures. Shame on you ignatz again for pretending that it was only a few folks. It was lots of us, our voices were strong and once again administration ignored us. I am not sure that the person who leaked intranet docs (which by the way people they are public because all library emails, doc.s etc,. are public as we are a public institution) did the correct moral things in terms of respecting other staff members but they were not a single malcontent, and they took the only avenue they saw when an administration continually ignores the well thought out perspectives and comments of their own professional staff. So good job malcontents of the world keep speaking out. If you think it is wrong to be unrealistic about the reality some children live in and if you think it is wrong to expect people new to our country who are trying to learn English to completely understand a 3 week loan period and fines structure then come to the meeting and speak out. If you think it is wrong that the library administration (a few people) should not listen to the excellent staff that actually serve patrons, or if you think a few administrative people should make far reaching decisions for the public then speak out. Finally, if you wonder just a little why we did not have fines on these materials in the first place and think it might be because it HELPED certain groups of patrons and you care about people that do not have voices in our community then speak out.

Speak out by writing your city librarian, she works for you BTW. Speak out by coming into any library and filling out a comment form. Most importantly speak out by going to the library board meeting and let them know you are outraged that your library system is cutting costs that unfairly target people who may need a little extra support. There has to be another way to save this little bit of money, staff gave other suggestions, come give your suggestions too. If you only care the middle class, native speakers, who can afford to pay late charges for themselves, or have parents that are actually able to parent to the fullest then don’t do anything, or better yet talk about how staff trying to help these people are just “complaining”

The next Libbrary Board meeting is
4:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 24
downtown library on the 4th floor.
They are always open to the public!
More...
Posted by servingthepublic on June 20, 2009 at 1:28 PM · Report this
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THANKS to The Stranger for reporting on news that is important to anyone who cares about the library, or cares about everyone in our community having access to materials including children, and immigrant populations. Thanks for reporting about something that will affect the ability for some people to do things like learn English or learn how to read.



Honestly, as a staff person I feel like the very serious concerns that staff raised have not been clearly explained. There was not just a few staff that were upset in fact almost anyone who is a librarian that I talked to were HORRIFIED by different aspects of this proposal. The thing that was on most librarians minds is charging fines for ESL and children's materials.



It was pretty clear that the administration basically believes what library staffer posted



"Everyone with a library card in good standing has the privilege of checking out materials for free. Parents need to be aware of what materials their children have out and return them on time. The library should explain to ESL users the fine policy, as well as other library policies, in the user's own language."



That is true everyone in good standing can check out materials and yes parents should pay attention to what their kids are checking out. Yes in a perfect world no one would ever damage an item, nor return it late, nor lose something either and every single book would come back perfectly clean. However, as some of us who live in the real world know this is not the case? There are too many children in our community that do not have stellar parents, or parents that must work multiple jobs, or parents that are drug addicts. Once the fines on children's materials are implemented every kid that does not have organized parents or parents who can afford to pay fines will eventually lose the privilege to check out books. SERIOUSLY, do we as a community feel comfortable taking away any access to books to kids with shitty parents, or overworked parents, or simply poor parents. Once they get $15 in fines they cannot check out even a single book again until they get their fines back under $15. Last I checked most kids do not have jobs and if your parents can not afford it or do not care if you read books then you are shit out of luck. Do we really feel comfortable as a community keeping books out of kids hands because they have lame parents?



In addition library staffer "The library should explain to ESL users the fine policy, as well as other library policies, in the user's own language." Do you have any fucking idea how much it costs to translate all our policies. We do it for the major language groups now and would love to do it for more but we cannot AFFORD IT. So if you happen to be an immigrant from a community that has recently been having a war for example and are not one of the top 10 language groups in Seattle you are also shit out of luck. I wish we could translate more in more languages, I wish we had tons more staff that spoke 100s of languages but we do not! Have you ever worked with an immigrant community? I have and it is really, really hard to communicate basic library concepts to people that do not speak English and have nothing that even approximates something like a free public library system. It is a learning process and the best way to just cut off that learning process is to give people fines on the first materials they check out, often ESL materials. I am not saying that because you are a new immigrant from Somalia that you should check out every DVD in the library and not get a fine, but ESL materials? Yes, let's screw the folks who are trying to LEARN English.



Rest assured the very little relative revenue, seriously these kids and ESL patrons are not going to give us so much money it saves even one job, are not worth the havoc we will create in some of our more needy patrons lives.



Screw it people can have a few less items checked out, and they can put a few less things on hold but we are talking about fines creating barriers to the very populations front line librarians have been killing ourselves, and working our asses off to serve. It is very rare that once kids and ESL patrons get fines do they ever come back. Shame on you Seattle Public administration for effectively turning away needy patrons, and shame on you ignatz for pretending that this will actually do anything to stop layoffs, or library closures. Shame on you ignatz again for pretending that it was only a few folks. It was lots of us, our voices were strong and once again administration ignored us. I am not sure that the person who leaked intranet docs (which by the way people they are public because all library emails, doc.s etc,. are public as we are a public institution) did the correct moral things in terms of respecting other staff members but they were not a single malcontent, and they took the only avenue they saw when an administration continually ignores the well thought out perspectives and comments of their own professional staff. So good job malcontents of the world keep speaking out. If you think it is wrong to be unrealistic about the reality some children live in and if you think it is wrong to expect people new to our country who are trying to learn English to completely understand a 3 week loan period and fines structure then come to the meeting and speak out. If you think it is wrong that the library administration (a few people) should not listen to the excellent staff that actually serve patrons, or if you think a few administrative people should make far reaching decisions for the public then speak out. Finally, if you wonder just a little why we did not have fines on these materials in the first place and think it might be because it HELPED certain groups of patrons and you care about people that do not have voices in our community then speak out.



Speak out by writing your city librarian, she works for you BTW. Speak out by coming into any library and filling out a comment form. Most importantly speak out by going to the library board meeting and let them know you are outraged that your library system is cutting costs that unfairly target people who may need a little extra support. There has to be another way to save this little bit of money, staff gave other suggestions, come give your suggestions too. If you only care the middle class, native speakers, who can afford to pay late charges for themselves, or have parents that are actually able to parent to the fullest then don’t do anything, or better yet talk about how staff trying to help these people are just “complaining”



The next Libbrary Board meeting is
4:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 24
downtown library on the 4th floor.
They are always open to the public
More...
Posted by servingthepublic on June 20, 2009 at 1:50 PM · Report this
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I also work at the library, and while Paul's article is hyperbolic, I have to say that there is a great deal of truth to what "servingthepublic" says. Commenters who urge library staff to "grow up" should know that it was not merely the necessity for cutbacks that aroused the concerns of a lot of staff - myself included - but a sense that we could do this in more balanced ways that would not take a disproportionate toll on our poorest and most vulnerable patrons, and their children.

As far as the ability of staff to have input in the decisions and policies of the library (something that is of scant interest to the general public, but is crucial to the people who serve you), we have seen this minimized to virtually nothing over the past several months. Not sure what "Eric Blair's" angle on this is - I suspect a lurking library administrator copping the tone of some disaffected young Bill O'Reilly fan? (Seriously - who IS this Stranger reader who riffs on Reagan and Stephen Colbert, minus the irony?) In any case, they need to lay off the Kool-Aid. There are serious concerns shared by a great many staff at the library about the direction that things have been going there, and about the inability of almost everyone who works there to have any meaningful input in how we serve the public and how we can meet the challenges that we as an organization, and our growing number of users, face. I thought that "1984" was a pretty apt reference for the kind of groupthink and doublespeak that have become so prevalent on the top floor of your library lately.
Posted by Library Staffer on June 20, 2009 at 3:06 PM · Report this
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Oops I "shamed on you" to Ignatz but was actually referring to the post by Eric Blair. My apologies…
Posted by servingthepublic on June 20, 2009 at 3:59 PM · Report this
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My goodness, yes - now I take another look at it, it is patently obvious that "Eric Blair" (and possibly the "Library staffer" who follows) are shills from SPL's policy makers themselves. Exhibiting inside knowledge of the situation (the use of material from the staff intranet, for example, isn't mentioned before that), going on long screeds in defense of library administration, taking librarian "malcontents" to task for complaining ON WORK TIME - who does that? Who else but Big Brother would tell Winston Smith to stop whining and do their job?

Give that comment another read if you want to see what your library staff is really up against.
Posted by Library Staffer on June 20, 2009 at 4:00 PM · Report this
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servingthepublic: you're not doing yourself or your cause any favors with your long-winded diatribe. i think i could actually see you foaming at the mouth while you were typing it.

you know very well that all patrons ALREADY get charged when items are more than thirty days late. if i was new to this country, it would seem a lot more confusing to be suddenly charged for an entire book (a charge that cannot be waived) than to be told i owe fifteen cents because i was a day late. particularly when that fine would likely be waived when the staff realized I didn't understand the policy.

do you try to guilt trip everyone like this? by your logic, all rules should be made for the children of drug addicts, and ESL patrons: criminal laws, driving laws. why not? they've suffered enough. for that matter, why isn't SPL just GIVING them these books. those awful middle class patrons with the great parents can just buy the stuff THEY need anyway.

your argument is presumptuous and demeaning to everyone but you and those who think like you: "killing ourselves, and working our asses off." KILLING yourself? really? you work in a library, dude. your perspective is small, and skewed, and as much as you wish you did, you clearly DO NOT speak for all "front line" staff at SPL. you speak for yourself and some others that have a small picture perspective and can't handle the fact that these are not your decisions to make.
Posted by ch-ch-ch-changes on June 20, 2009 at 4:29 PM · Report this
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To the (studiously lower case) "ch-ch-ch-changes" (so hip! so now!) - do YOU work in a library, "dude"?
Posted by Library Staffer on June 20, 2009 at 5:39 PM · Report this
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ch-ch-changes, I love Bowie too! Nope no foaming at the mouth, just a little sun kissed from playing outdoors.

It is true working in a library is not the hardest job in the world, in fact it is not really hard at all when you get to do what you love. Although, I admire librarians there are tons of other jobs that I think are much more intense. What I should have said is that there has been lots of library staff putting their all into serving patrons that are often hard to reach, kids and non-native speakers for example. So although the job is not hard, when you put real passion into your work and your work is to help other people your work takes lots of energy. So in that sense people have been "working their asses off".

I do not think we should give books away nor do I hate the middle class and am even a member of that class. I do think we should be thoughtful when creating undue barriers to libraries when the cost is far greater then the benefit. Certainly, giving all kids, regardless of how tough their home situation is, a chance to have access to books is a fundamental library ideal and not at all akin to changing criminal laws. Again I ask why did we have this money losing policy in the first place if it was not to help reduce barriers to the library? Yes budgets suck but is that enough reason to take away safety nets, especially when it will do very little in the big picture to keep our doors open or stop furloughs?

Posted by servingthepublic on June 20, 2009 at 7:13 PM · Report this
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Any competent librarian who works at SPL should have an understanding of everything Eric Blair wrote. Maybe an administrator, maybe not. We all know who "malcontent librarian" is, he (oops, I mean he or she) can always find something to bitch about - and usually it's something he or she does not take the time to fully educate him or herself about. To malcontent librarian, earn the living you're making off the public's back rather than doing whatever you can to promote your own agenda (yeah, you know what I mean). No, I'm not an administrator. I'm a member of the library's union, and have been for over 10 years, and have witnessed some absolutely atrocious behavior by union members, but I think this takes the cake.

To everyone, if you're concerned or have opinions about the proposed policy changes, go to the Board meeting on Wednesday. That's really the only story here.
Posted by librarian on June 20, 2009 at 8:52 PM · Report this
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As yet another staff person I think the potential issues brought up by fellow staff are worth talking about. For over 3 years I worked in a branch where there are lots of latch key kids and non-English speaking immigrants I think these policies will limit access to materials for these groups. I agree with Nancy Pearl that "Raising money on the backs of children and immigrants will hurt people with no voice in the political process." I also agree with servingthepublic that it is worth asking why the policy was in place and what are the potential consequences to changing it?

I think it is great that staff have differing opinions. Almost all the library staff I have ever worked with are smart, dedicated, and creative people. Public input about library policies is important. The public and staff should be involved and vocal on both good and bad perspectives about their library. Getting lots of people/perspectives involved always makes for a well rounded institution. At the end of the day soemone has to make a decision but taking input and being flexible during the process before hand is invaluable.

I totally agree with the several staffers above and encourage you to go to the meeting, phone or write an email. Ask questions, bring ideas, support or challenge parts or all of the policy changes but if you use the library or care about how the library does or does not work get involved.
Posted by b00kworm on June 21, 2009 at 6:41 AM · Report this
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I think this debate is great. It's not surprising that employee opinions vary as much as public ones; in a large company/system, people are going to have different ideas about what will be most effective (and some are just more grumpy/pissed than others; they're only human!).

But the fact that so many staff members are on here is proof that they care deeply about the libraries and their customers which is also obvious if you go into a branch and talk to any of them.

It seems to me that limiting holds will give more access to people who don't have computers at home or aren't computer savvy and rely on finding things on the shelves. And it's too bad parents will have to pay fines for their kids' books, but at least people won't be losing their jobs and we can still have cool people in the libraries to help us find what we need.

Posted by Marbles on June 21, 2009 at 11:06 AM · Report this
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50
Thank you for your comments Marbles. Your post made my brain tickle "hurray, someone who understands". I am also a Seattle Public Library (SPL) employee and proud of it, but I have to admit that I have been embarrassed by some of my colleague’s comments.

First of all, as several of the readers have pointed out, members of the public have a chance to participate in providing feedback regarding SPL policies at our monthly Board meetings. I encourage anyone to attend if you feel strongly about the services provided by SPL or would like to share your opinions.

Secondly, while it is not ideal that we might be assessing fines for overdue Children's materials, or reducing the number of materials checked out or placed on hold, the thought behind the policy revisions (as I understand it) is to ensure that the same library materials are available to more members of our community. The library has statistics regarding the number of overdue children’s materials and items placed on hold that were never picked up. It was never the intent of the library to ‘make money’ to replace our shrinking budget.

Finally, I would like to defend Susan as our new City Librarian. She entered a job where her first task was to reduce the operating budget. As a good executive, Susan not only looked at the numbers on paper, but also tried to review all our operations and services for areas to streamline. I acknowledge that certain decisions have been made without staff input, but I give her credit for allowing us the opportunity to comment. Ultimately as the head of our organization, she has the right to make the final recommendations for the board, hopefully after giving full consideration to all the comments received. We have chosen her to be our leader, and we need to let her lead. With a strong leader and supportive staff, I think that SPL can weather through this economy and still provide the great service that Seattle has come to expect from us.
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Posted by Matilda on June 21, 2009 at 2:38 PM · Report this
51
As a former staff member of the Seattle Public Library, and frequent user of library services, I was disappointed to learn of the proposed changes to the library’s policies. I really do see that the library needs to make up the revenue somehow, but it is unfortunate that it feels the need to target already under privileged groups like immigrants, groups that the library has been trying to reach. I *really* don’t think that this will help generate the funds needed and would be detrimental to service to these especially under served groups.

Some suggestions for making up this revenue would be to lower the threshold of fines to $10, instead of $15. Or what about having a limit on how many "active" holds any given patron could have but still keep the max limit to 100 or 75? Or charging patrons for missing items that are *not* picked up? I totally agree that the library doesn't need to have as many copies of best-sellers, especially DVDs.
Posted by formerstaffer&frequentuser on June 22, 2009 at 12:01 PM · Report this
52
Paul, you're advocating the slow, moronic death of libraries, and if you don't know that, you're a moron, too.

We live in an age of DECLINING expectations, don't you know. We live in an empire in DECLINE, if you haven't noticed. The forces of Darkness and Evil so infiltrated and raped the system that ALL publicly-financed goods and services, including the aforementioned police, roads, schools, environment, water, air, fish, fowl, and fire suppression are ALL being downsized, reinvented, or eliminated. That includes books, moron! The only thing we can still afford to do is wage war, and thank the only living God on high that we can still fund that!

Your pathetic whimpering about a few pennies here and there for overdue books (whether it's little kids or their distracted parents who have them hidden away), the bogus complaints about non-English-speakers who request interlibrary loan from Ecuador, and the reasonable reduction in formerly "way generous" policies on holds, falls on deaf ears in this quarter.

Posted by Bibliophile on June 23, 2009 at 7:30 PM · Report this
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I work at the library in Tacoma, and let me tell you, we too have a "sort of 1984 atmosphere" and low morale (due to incompetence from our library director on down to some supervisors and branch managers).

We are also dealing with a budget deficit, and just cut off Saturday phone service to all our branches, until Labor Day, because of this. In other words, if you wanted to call us on a Saturday to ask a question about such-and-such an item, or wanted to know an address or phone number, or anything else our excellent Q.I. Department could tell you, you're out of luck. You'll just get an answering machine with basic information.

The library board apparently didn't flinch when told this news. BUT THEN, after a private executive session, they somehow saw fit to give our library director, Susan Odencrantz, a five percent raise. FIVE PERCENT! The library's going through a crisis here, with too-few employess already stretched dangerously thin and they give her a fucking raise! It's outrageous! It's too bad that this isn't more widely known here, otherwise there'd be a backlash (or at least I hope)... sorry, this was supposed to be about the Seattle Public Library, wasn't it? Had to vent. So I guess my point would be, don't think that you're the only ones have problems. Incompetence and stupidity are everywhere
Posted by Ticked-Off in Tacoma on June 23, 2009 at 7:46 PM · Report this
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I am a librarian writing from Portland. Our system, Multnomah County Library, is heavily used and well-loved, like yours.
I went to school at UW, so I know the SPL and I admire it.

We can have 15 holds at one time, and check out 150 items, (15 DVDs). I think 150 items on one card sounds like a lot, but apparently it is working for now.

If I may be so bold as to give an opinion--give your new Director a chance, and your support...you have one of the best systems in the country. The changes she is advocating are likely the mildest of what you're going to have to deal with. You can dissent, give your opinions, but think about what you are really asking for...we are in the middle of an extreme financial crisis, and it will affect every institution, even KCLS!
There is always conflict within the community about what libraries should or should not have. It is quite a skill to
please everyone, and not everyone "gets" what the library is for. It certainly should, and does, cater to the low income and immigrants. But less holds, less books, a charge for ILL, are not horrific changes, and are common. Most likely, it would encourage responsibility to fine children's books--for everyone. It seems that calling this racist is overreacting. Libraries do have some limits. Perhaps she is wiser than you are giving her credit for. Let your new Director implement some changes, and see what happens. If it doesn't work, then she'll try some other ways...I wish everyone well, and I miss Seattle!
Posted by Summer on June 23, 2009 at 11:16 PM · Report this
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I, too, work for Seattle Public Library and wish Susan well in her tenure as our leader. I believe the upset among staff and the leaking of the library blog have cone about because many people are frustrated by an apparent lack of collaboration and transparency as library administration works to deal with some difficult questions quickly.

I believe staff members are reacting not only to the actual proposals, but the way in which 2 major decisions have been made and communicated since Susan Hildreth came--a reorganization of the downtown library structure and the changes in fines and fees.

The reorganization of Central was decided and revealed to staff in a less collaborative and open manner than many staff would have expected at SPL. We were hoping for a more open decision making process than we had had before. And this first big change did not reflect the culture as many of us see it or long for it to be.

Secondly, the proposal for changes in fees, fines and borrowing periods was put into the Board packet for consideration with no communication to front line staff. Many workers feel Susan was called out on this action which seemed less than transparent. Only then did she invite input.

Susan has arrived at SPL at a challenging economic time. It seems to me that in times of challenge (or crisis), communication is more important than ever--communication both up and down the organizational chart. We need to cooperate even more to make things stretch and flow in a time of seeming scarcity. We (and the public) need to know very clearly the how and why of decisions. And we like to have meaningful input. This can result in better outcomes and "buy in" for the solutions.

Susan has an opportunity to be a visionary leader who gets things done while bringing us together in an inspirational way. I hope she will step up and let us see that side of her.

This is the time that will set the tone for her administration. We need to give her some room to learn about who we at SPL are and about the culture of this institution. And she needs to be in open dialog with us about what kind of library we will be going forward.

Yes, she is in charge and has the ultimate responsibilty to make decisions. In order to make excellent decisions, however, I believe she has to leave the 11th floor and be courageous and wise enough to hear what folks throughout the system are thinking and feeling.

We are smart and funny and hard working and we really care about the mission of the library and the people we serve. And we care about each other. We really do care.

Please, Susan, work with us. We all want to move the library forward. None of us wants to be sidetracked with all this uproar. We want to get back to providing excellent service, even with economic and staffing limitations. Please work with us so we can work joyfully with you to provide excellent service to the citizens of our city!

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Posted by starlightlibrarian on June 24, 2009 at 10:32 AM · Report this
58
What Summer said!

Forget my earlier, wiseass post; summer's comments from a neutral vantage point (Portland) are excellent and realistically describe the practicalities of the situation.

It's always appropriate to ask "why?" when policies change, but it's irresponsible to cast stones without trying to understand the intent behind them.
Posted by Bibliophile on June 24, 2009 at 10:34 AM · Report this
Guybrarian 59
Another SPL employee here, commenting briefly after a few people made it clear to me that they thought I already HAD commented (which is disconcerting, let me tell you).

There is too much heat and not enough light here, and so I think it should be mentioned (and I don’t think this violates any confidences that haven’t already been violated) that the original stream of employee feedback that inspired this piece – 35 comments by 29 different staff members from across the organization – was entirely constructive, thoughtful and respectful in nature. Nobody ‘attacked’ our new City Librarian, and several staff made a point of thanking her. Opinions ranged across a spectrum, but many suggested (or urged) pretty much the same thing you’ll see in Nancy Pearl’s full statement, posted today in the Slog: “Personally, if the library has to take cuts now I would prefer to see the cuts not be directed at children and immigrants. Let’s take the cuts where they are politically painful. That way we stand a better chance of seeing the funding restored when the economy gets better.” Which strikes me as a very reasonable, rational and savvy suggestion. There was no railing, no theatrics: it was a succession of reasoned feedback from dedicated professionals. (http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archive…)

(I think it is also only fair to point out that none of what those 29 staff members suggested lead to any change whatsoever in the proposals going before the library board tonight. And, unless I’m mistaken, I think it was around the time that this was announced that the comments were shared with The Stranger. So while I’m not excusing it, I certainly understand how disenfranchised the so-called “malcontent(s)” was/were feeling when they did what they did).

In contrast to that we have the attitudes of whatever party or parties have seen fit to attack those staff who were critical of the proposed policy here in these comments (Eric Blair, ch-ch-ch-changes, librarian). These seem to me to bristle with contempt directed at individuals. Which is, as servingthepublic says, pretty shameful, especially if they are, as Library Staffer suggests, contributed by employees themselves. I think it is important that the public know that this kind of vitriolic, ad hominem stuff is far from what staff who were critical of the policy put forth. Those staff were not malcontents. They were dedicated professionals who I feel honored to work beside.

That’s all. Maybe it was obvious, but I just felt that needed to be put out there.
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Posted by Guybrarian http://shelftalk.spl.org on June 24, 2009 at 10:59 AM · Report this
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These changes are not at all about revenue. There's a flood of changes now. Some high ups have a yen for "uniformity" and other such values that don't work on the front line.

Did you know SPL has a new directive so they've stopped checking to see if DVDs are in the case when they're checked in? It's slowing handling time. SO when you check one out one and it's not there - you'll be dinged or end up fighting with them about it. This is just one of the simpler new idiocies to come down from on high. While the rest of the world is learning to do inclusive management and teams Seattle is going to top down dictatorial styles.

You want to save real money? (Not the inflated $36,000 all this bruhaha is about) Ask the staff. For starters Look into the DVD theft rate at SPL.
Posted by retrogrouch on June 27, 2009 at 5:09 PM · Report this
61
First off, these comments are entertaining reading. "Last I checked most kids do not have jobs and if your parents can not afford it or do not care if you read books then you are shit out of luck. Do we really feel comfortable as a community keeping books out of kids hands because they have lame parents?"

Umn, yes. Yes I do feel comfortable keeping books out of kids hands if the kids can't make an effort to get the books back on time. I know, I suck. I would like kids to learn that there is something known as responsibility, I would like kids to learn that you can not just take things from your neighbors because they are left unattended. I would like to know that when I violate a rule there is a consequence. How did I learn that? By watching my parents steal lawn mowers, do meth, or let library books sit under the washing machine for nine months, two weeks, and four days before dumping detergent on them by accident, and then chucking them in the trash, and then going back to ask for another book and being told--hmn which is the correct answer--sure you can have more books for free or--no sorry you need to find another place to get books now?

Come on. I worked in family literacy for years and in a school with the lowest reading levels in the district, and met my fair share of bad ass parents who were addicted to drugs and worked at Boeing who lost custody of thier kids. Kids have access to books through aunts with library cards, kids have access to books through teachers who are cool enough to bring books into classrooms and those teachers are legion, and kids have access to books from the school library.

Be real. Who wrote this stentence: Raising money on the backs of children and immigrants will hurt people with no voice in the political process.

As far as I'm concerned, telling people they aren't responsible enough to follow rules is insulting and counterproductive. It isn't about the money.
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Posted by your lake on July 28, 2009 at 8:30 PM · Report this
Richard Antropus 62
61: "Raising money on the backs of children and immigrants will hurt people with no voice in the political process." This is a quote from Nancy Pearl, probably the single most respected librarian in the country.
Posted by Richard Antropus on January 14, 2010 at 10:01 PM · Report this

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