How to keep going in uncertain times with fewer resources?
How to keep going in uncertain times with fewer resources? Kelly O

Get ready for a lot less of everything. The no-end-in-sight pandemic is slashing deeper and deeper into the city’s revenue, and the Seattle Public Library announced last week that they’re going to have to trim millions from their 2021 2020 budget to help make up for a gap of $210 - $300 million in the city’s general fund.

(The Library’s previous budget was $81 million; for comparison, the Seattle Police budget in 2020 was $409 million.)

“Having to rebalance our budget has been a very difficult and painful process, particularly knowing how essential our services are to the community during hard times,” wrote Executive Director and Chief Librarian Marcellus Turner. But rebalance they must, which means cuts cuts cuts to lots of hours and programs. For example, there was a plan to bring on a social worker to help at-risk youth who use Library services — but now that’s going to have to be deferred.

The Library was also hoping to expand their hours soon — but nope, that’s going to have to be pushed back another year as well. An expansion to the Play & Learn program for families with kids is on hold as well. They’re going to have to do less printing; less staff training; and fewer upgrades of old technology.

The Library’s also going to have to cut funding for construction on their new Maintenance and Operations Center, which is a bit of a worry since the lease on their current shop and storage space expires in March of 2021. The building still needs fire sprinklers installed, ventilation upgrades to workshop areas, accessibility improvements, and more.

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But although they’re going to have to figure out how to keep going in uncertain times with fewer resources, the Library is nothing if not creative, and they’ve got a road to re-opening in place as well as plenty of ongoing online programs that you can access right now. You can use your library card (or apply for one) to access digital newspapers, audiobooks, and ebooks. You can access Lynda classes to learn new skills, learn a new language with Mango, and stream movies and TV.

And of course, as Nathalie noted, the Library's Lit Line makes it possible for anyone with access to a phone to call and listen to a recording of a story, article, or poem.

They’ve also just launched a new program called the Covid-19 Community Collection, in which the Library’s Special Collections Department is seeking first-hand documentation from citizens of the way that the pandemic is affecting their everyday lives. Hopefully some of that documentation will include the loss of vital Library services.