In this week's book section, I talk about some proposed new Seattle Public Library policies that could affect the poor, immigrants, and people in need of ESL and other literacy materials. It's caused a mini-shitstorm in the comments about personal responsibility and whether it's the library's responsibility to carry DVDs and other materials.
In the story, there's a quote by Most Famous Librarian Ever/SPL alumnus Nancy Pearl. Space constraints meant I couldn't run the whole statement in full, so I'd like to run it here:
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 as these proposed fees do will hurt people with no voice in the political process. And when the recession is over, nobody's going to go back and reduce these fees.
But what's SPL supposed to do? We have a situation in Seattle where 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. That work should begin now and the library board should start it.
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."
If you have the afternoon free tomorrow and you'd like to make your voice heard on the issue, the Library Board will be meeting tomorrow at 4:30 pm on level 4 of the Central Library. Representatives from the Library have sent me an agenda for the meeting and the new policies are the first item to be discussed. Whether you're for or against the policies, I hope to see you there.