They Care About Your Opinion at Seattle Public Library


Wait wait wait wait... $5 fee for interlibrary loans? Does that mean they're going to charge $5 if I want to have a book shipped from central up to my local branch? Crap... I use that service all the time... $5 will be a pain in the ass...
@1 - no, for loans between library system - like, if the SF library has a book SPL doesn't, and they ship it up on loan from CA. The SPL moving a book from one branch to another is not considered "interlibrary."
@1 Yeah, I had a moment of sheer panic there too. Agh. Makes me wonder whether that's next ...
The question is, where else would you cut? Because they really don't have any money. And saying "well, you should change your funding model" isn't an answer. There really aren't any good answers; reducing library hours sucks, reducing employees sucks, eliminating new book purchases sucks.

I'm not pleased by the increases, but I can understand them. I pay a lot of overdue fines, and that's OK; I understand that you don't get to keep the book forever, and renewing is ridiculously easy; you can do it yourself, online. And the ILL fee covers only a portion of the cost to the library, so even though it will hit me fairly hard I'll be happy to pay it.

You know, that moving a book from one branch to another thing is just about the greatest thing in the history of the world, but the costs are astronomical; they're trucking many thousands of books around the city every day in those tubs, when they used to move just a few. Libraries are expensive. That doesn't mean they're not worth it. It WOULD be nice to have then funded more rationally, but in the meantime, the board has to do SOMETHING.

Comments? Well, to be honest, why should they care about comments? OF COURSE no one likes the fees. But how many of those comments had realistic suggestions for other things to cut instead?
it's just like when the Parks Board ignored all the comments by people who actually lived in Fremont about what to name the park next to the Fremont Library, in favor of naming it for a comrade in the Parks Dept who had retired.

Just because there is a public process (e.g. national health care, SPL, etc) doesn't mean they actually want to listen to what you say ...
The idea of a tier system based on income is LAUGHABLE. You want the LIBRARY to keep track of how much money you make? And this would save $ how, exactly? How many database administrators and training sessions and security and privacy audits would this require? How many gross violations of practically every ALA guideline there is? The library doesn't even keep track of what books you've checked out after you return them (specifically so the government can't demand that information from them); you want them to track your INCOME?

Yeah, this would work perfectly in a futuristic society about the size of a ... library science class.
I don't really see a problem imposing late fees on books; the fees are so small and returning books on time so easy, it's a no-brainer.

The $5 interlibrary loan fee makes sense when you consider the shipping costs (which consume fuel, packaging, etc.).

I'm not pro-fees at all, but these seem like fair and very low fees given the level of service you get in exchange.
Even though I can renew my books online, sometimes I don't just because I figure my late fees will help subsidize the library. I've got one that's a week plus overdue right now. (I guess a better way to handle it might be to bring the dang books back on time and just donate, but this is easier.)
I am not going to pay $5 for every book I get from ILL. That would cost me a fortune. I would just as soon buy the books I need online. It's bad enough they'll only email me at most 5 copies per week of journal and magazine articles that they ought to be letting me see online as much as I want in the first place.

And what the fuck is with this Strangeresque bullshit that these changes are targeting the poor and people of color? That kind of politically correct exploitation of minorities is kind of disgusting, Paul. If you care about minorities, help them, but don't use them as your poster children for a pet cause.

If you want to see what targeting the least among us looks like, how's about kicking all the stinky bums out of the library? That's one I could get behind.
sounds an awful lot like a school board meeting. none of these people gives a crap what the public thinks. why do they waste our time?
I am really sad to hear that the hold and check out limit is being reduced... :(

Especially since it doesn't really help save that much money (compared to the operational costs).

Well, maybe it means you'll get your holds that much faster.
a limit of 50 items out at once? paying fines on overdue items? THIS IS WORSE THAN HITLER!
There's an easy solution to this: support new operational budgets funded through levies or other voter-backed proposals that aren't subject to general-fund allotment vagaries.

We voted for library renovation and partial funding of the Central Library (which was supplemented through massive fundraising), and I don't know that I've heard a single reasonable complaint about that very successful program. And I live in Montlake, where our library was delayed for a while due to design complaints and then the cost of steel. (I l love what was built.)

The library's chief problem is popularity. They don't get funded based on use. They can't charge many user fees. They want to serve the whole population well, but the population that has less money better because those folks have fewer access to materials, fewer options to get them.

So...if we all love the SPL, we all need to support new sources of revenue independent of council/mayor budgeting.
I'm bummed about the limits on holds. I use my account like a netflix que for books and music. It is counter intuitive to make it harder to use a library. Library use is surging as the economy suffers. The government needs to fund it properly.
@15, with what money?
Yeah, I'm with #16.......#15....where do you think this magical funding will come from, should we pull it out of Mayor McCheese's ass (a poor city manager, by the way)?

"I use my account like a netflix que", well therein lies half the problem. The library is extremely popular and regulating holds will, in fact, speed up the time people get their holds.

As a library employee, I support the boards decisions. Just wait, because it will be a hell of a lot uglier in 2010. At least the city was spared closures and massive service reductions.
@6 - you mean like Norway?

futuristic .. nope.
"sounds an awful lot like a school board meeting. none of these people gives a crap what the public thinks. why do they waste our time?"

Uh, they're the "public" as well. Neither the library board or the school board are employees. They're just regular people, better informed than you are, who are accountable. They have more important things to do than just spend all their time complaining on the internet.
@18, feel free to supply evidence that Norway libraries track their users' incomes and adjust their fees accordingly.

Oh, that's right, you're Will in Seattle, you don't know what the fuck you're talking about. Never mind!
As someone who routinely -
- makes Interlibrary loans
- has lots of Holds
- has lots of items checked out
I'm totally in favor of all this stuff, and think its overdue (hahaha).

Sometimes my interlibrary loans have come all the way from the east coast, which was a bit excessive. Sometimes these are obscure items which I'm just curious to look over because I'm thinking of purchasing the item used on Amazon, but want to actually see it first.

Its bizarre when I see some mother checking out a stack of children's books so huge that she can barely stagger out of the place.

What I can't figure out is why they didn't start cutting back on hours/days months ago; they've done this many times in the past during periods of financial distress.
Hey, Funny-how-that-works,-isn't-it?! Good to see you again! I remember when you were Eric Blair, and ch-ch-ch-changes. I'm glad you still have that really annoying snotty condescending tone. It makes you sound so authentic when you defend the library leadership against all this annoying riff-raff. Not at all like somebody who works for the library, and makes three times what I do. Nice job: way to represent!
I used to say that SPL was the ONLY functional branch of Seattle government. Sadly, I can't say that anymore, now that the board blew ramrodded this proposal ahead and totally blew off all public comments and forged ahead without changing a single word of their original plan. Who gave them style tips for this manouver? Mayor Jowly and Tim Ceis? If their goal is reducing library use, they will definitely hit that target.

Still, I love libraries and have spent literally YEARS of my lives inside dozens of them reading, trolling for stuff to read listen to and watch. I think SPL did a magnificent job managing its recent library levy funded capital projects. Every single project came in on time and on or under budget. (Too bad we can't say that about the failed FD levy...)

There are so many other sources of free or affordable media available (innumerable web sites, Netflix, podcasts, etc.) SPL isn't exactly the only game in town. I'll probably continue to support future SPL levy proposals just because I love libraries, but I'll also be on the lookout for more top down crap from the board.
Fines on ESL materials seems legally unjustifiable in the first place - what's next, fines on Braille books, large print books, and dare I suggest - CHILDRENS BOOKS?! Why don't the libraries just start charging an user fee to use the handicap bathroom stall while they're at it?!

As for fines in general - it seems like it would make more sense to increase fine rates on new/high demand materials (i.e. new cd's, books, dvds) that have been ordered by library within 100 days. Or increase fines on materials with over 100 holds on them.

As for Interlibrary Loan costs - dont college/university libraries fund the cost of ILL checkouts through the library endowment? Could the SPL Foundation consider charging a cost for issuing new and replacement library cards instead to fund ILL?
Wait... holds reduced from 100 to 25?!

I'm already maxed out on all my SPL lists, slowly and systematically working through them. Where's the press release announcing the holds change? How can I upgrade to one of them magic accounts? 100 holds weren't enough frankly.
The library is in chaos. It's not about budget cuts. It's about the rapid emergence of a top down management that doesn't consult with the workers. The new head librarian, Susan Hildreth arrived with the budget crisis. A few top down managers handed her their answers, to their perception of the problems. And as a new arrival she gave them free rein.

The library has been famous as Seattle institutions go for devoted staff, team work and a caring responsive management. Librarians have been thrilled and supportive of their managers and happy to work there.Working at the library has been likened to family. The departure of Deborah Jacobs has seen a few dictatorial middle managers running the show before the new chief can get her feet on the ground.
There have been several all staff meetings of late where the workers were handed new reorganization plans and new schedules, and told these were essentially fixed in stone. There was little advanced warning of the degree of the shake up, and the results reflected an appalling ignorance and short sightedness.
People left in tears, put in for transfers and started planning early retirements. Morale at the library is now abysmal. So much for a decade of camaraderie. It was blown away in a week and now they're essentially being told the floggings will continue until morale improves.

The library needs Susan Hildreth to take the reins and start team building and let line staff contribute to the problem identification and decision process. The eleventh floor is so removed from the patrons and the line staff and the real world and they lose so much in their spreadsheet focus, they are destroying one of the most dedicated staffs the city has.
The staff has pulled together in the past to face hard choices and tough decisions.

It's stunning that in this age of Obama-style inclusive leadership we are seeing staff left out of the process, decisions being made in secret, and presented in meetings like that described above without notice or meaningful comment. This is a town that has long valued open government and real process. The board and those who assisted this should be ashamed. Ms. Hildreth needs to learn this FAST.

(I'm not a librarian but I know a lot of them and lately I've been drinking with them. And believe me they're drinking more these days.)
@26: What is the relationship between the characters depicted in Jo Dereske's mystery novels about Bellingham librarians &/or WA librarians in general &/or SPL librarians in the current crisis? I thought of Jo Dereske when I heard the new head librarian would be from CA, though I knew that was a horrible oversimplification on my part.
Thank you, retrogrouch. Contrary to what the middle managers you mention seem to think, it really pains most of the staff to be so openly critical. Librarians are generally a very Can Do bunch, putting a brave face on things and keeping very positive. (And some are just apathetic and leery of stirring up trouble). The fact that so many staff are breaking their silence and are so unhappy with how things have been going right now really says something, or should say something, if anyone were really paying attention up there. I've spoken with thirty year veterans of the library who say they've never things this bad, or seen staff so demoralized. If the job market weren't so bad right now, I think they'd be losing a lot more people. The worst part may be the stream of long-winded non-answers we are treated to, and the constant barrage of doublespeak in which we are assured that things are more inclusive and transparent, even as they become more exclusive and opaque. A dark chapter at SPL, and let us all hope it is a short one.