Last week, II heard some more really bad library news. The Seattle Public Library system budget is going to be whacked, again!. What this means, and you can read all about it here, that out of the 26 branches of the Seattle Public Library system, 21 of them, all in neighborhoods, will have their hours cut so that they are open only five days a week. They will be closed on Fridays and Sundays. The mayor, who released the proposed budget last week, has also proposed that another week-long furlough be put in place in 2010. This means all libraries will be shut down, and the employees will be without pay, for that week. This, in possible addition to other furloughs city employees are supposed to take. Including, no doubt, library workers of all kinds.
At the same time, as I understand it, the police department will get an addition of several people hired, to form an anti-gang unit. Now don't misunderstand. I certainly don't want gangs running around shooting people. And these creepy characters don't just belong to one group. There are, unfortunately, gangs "all over the place", of every race, color, creed, or whatever. And they need to be dealt with. But why, if the budget shortfall for the City of Seattle is so desperate, can't the police and fire department budgets be kept at the level they are now, without additionally hiring people? Neighborhood policing, as has been done in the past, can go a long way to keep these problems at bay. Furthermore, by closing neighborhood libraries(and negatively impacting other social services as well), these budget cuts may actually be exacerbating the problem of gangs and other criminal activity. It seems to me, that if libraries are kept open, there would be places for kids who perhaps don't think they have other options at home, to actually go and be safe! And what about the kids who want to do their homework, stay in school, and do decently in life? What about their possibly unemployed parents looking for a job to support their families? The Seattle Public Library system has one of the best job resource centers in the region. And I know from listening to people on the first day of the last furlough, in August, that there are people out there who need that resource. They need the computers, too, to look for the jobs. Not all of us are lucky enough to have home computers connected to the Internet.
It seems to me that in times like these, when "everyone" is hurting, that governments, both local and national, tend to get awfully "shortsighted". It's very easy to cut those things considered "nonessential", and there are, unfortunately, plenty of people who consider libraries "nonessential". But they aren't. Because libraries are no longer just repositories for books, although they serve that function, too. They are learning and community centers, open to all. And all kinds of people use them, every day, all year round. In this sense, libraries are absolutely vital to any thriving community, and they are vital to the overall health of any community. I can't emphasize this enough. This doesn't just come from me, it comes from people I talk to. Being a writer, I feel it's important to talk to lots of people, and I'm happy to do that. Almost all the people I've talked to are very sympathetic, and understand full well what libraries mean to a community, and I"m not just talking about people who sign the petitions I'm trying to get delivered to the Seattle City Council before October 25, when there will be a meeting, which I will attend, and make yet another speech. They are vital to everyone, whether they know it or not. All I can say at the moment is, shame on the mayor, and I now understand why he's unpopular and has been voted out.
And yes folks, just to letcha know, I'm also going to e-mail every Seattle City Council member, and the mayor, too, and let them all know exactly how I feel!