Seattle Library, Central BranchIn August of 2012 63% of Seattle voters approved a special levy to restore library services lost in the recession. The levy also funded expanded hours, new collections, improved computer and online services, and building maintenance, in order to support library services that effectively serve all of Seattle’s population in the 21st Century. In its first year, the levy’s implementation has led to increased visits and increased circulation, serving more people throughout the community. Scroll down this website to learn more about the levy.

This year will be the first year with no furloughs since 2008. All libraries will be open every week of the year. Every branch will be open on Sunday from 1 PM to 5 PM, and many will have new Friday hours as well. Branches with new Sunday hours have increased patron visits by 4%, while those with new Friday and Sunday hours have increased patron visits by 27%.

In the first quarter of 2013, the library added 11,135 new e-books and e-audio titles to the digital library and 2,059 new print titles. The library successfully achieved a 5 to 1 holds to copy ratio for popular materials, reducing wait times for the books most in demand. E-book circulation will likely go over the 1 million mark in 2013.

While all of Seattle’s libraries were replaced, renovated, or expanded as a result of the Libraries for All Levy in 1998, as buildings age they need to be maintained, and adjustments must be made to ensure that they are working. Maintenance funds have already been deployed to improve air pressures in the Central Library and improve parking at the Southwest and Columbia Branches.

The Library system has identified a number of Strategic Service Priorities:

  • Youth and early learning
  • Technology and access
  • Community programming, outreach and engagement
  • Seattle culture and history
  • Re-imagined spaces

In order to achieve these, the Library has lifted some computer software restrictions and installed digital media workstations. The Library has begun partnerships with museums and other organizations to provide access to cultural events and instituted a new “Books on Bikes” program that brings library materials to community events. The Library has also begun reconfiguring the spaces in its branches to provide more comfortable areas that reflect the interests of users.

As the Library moves into its next year of implementation, City Librarian Marcellus Turner will participate in a series of community conversations that will encourage residents to join the library in continuing to look for new ways to make libraries work for everyone.

I am pleased to have been the Chair of the Special Committee on the Library Levy, which developed the proposal and worked with the Library Board to identify key elements that would be important to include in the Levy. We have a creative and dedicated library staff and Board, and they are doing a great job making sure that this new funding meets the needs of Seattle’s communities.