Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Library Battle in Seattle

There’s quite a controversy going on in Seattle about a $123 million levy to help fund the public library system for seven years. The Seattle Times has editorialized against the levy. Nancy Pearl has editorialized for it, but then again she’d have to.

It’s an odd debate, because some of the people most in favor of supporting libraries are opposed to the levy, and they have a point. The levy is to increase operating expenditures over 7 years, but that’s all. It’s not for some special one-time project, like building a new library building or something. It’s just to temporarily add to the operating budget of the library system instead of using general funds to support the library.

The argument against doing that is that by removing the burden of providing for the library temporarily from the general budget and freeing up general funds for something else, it risks permanently removing the burden, thus making periodic levies necessary to keep the libraries running.

Thus, some opponents of the levy are opposed because they believe that library operating expenditures should be a crucial part of the city budget.

Of course some of the arguments against the levy are a little weird. Like the comment, “Those using the Library – Should pay for it…”. They kinda do pay for it already, so that’s sort of beside the point. Libraries are like public schools in that they benefit a community even if you don’t use them yourself. Get used to it.

Or this one: “I would help support the libraries if and only if they make the decision to stop allowing homeless people to come in and use the internet for Porn. I have a problem spending million on state of the art computers get used the majority of the time for masterbation.”

So the majority of computer use at the libraries is homeless people masturbating? I think most people could agree that homeless people masturbating in public to Internet porn on a library computer is a bad thing without believing that’s mostly how the computers are used. Good grief.

Or this troll: “Public libraries are an antiquated relic of the past. Why are we spending money on libraries when everything is available online? No one uses a library except cheapskates, weirdos, perverts and homeless sociopaths.”

I assume the sociopaths with homes don’t use the “antiquated relic of the past,” though apparently a lot of people do use the library. Maybe they like antiquated relics.

The problem with debates about libraries is that they tend to be so black and white. “Antiquated relic of the past”? Yeah, sure, whatever. That kind of comment just inspires its equally untrue opposite: “Libraries are not archaic, quite the opposite is true. In a world that is increasingly virtual and disconnected they are needed now more than ever.”

Needed now more than ever? Really? They’re needed now more than when a huge number of books, magazines, news sites, and reference information is freely available online? When even people who are supporters of libraries haven’t visited one in years?

Instead of just saying that libraries serve a necessary or beneficial social function, people have to respond to nonsense with more nonsense.

Pearl’s guest editorial does a good job of talking about what libraries and librarians do for people day to day, which is at least specific. But even there we get statements like, “The public library is the heart and soul — and brain — of the community.”

Reread that sentence a couple of times. What can that sentence possibly mean? I’ll tell you. It doesn’t mean anything other than that Nancy Pearl likes libraries.

Forget things like the universities, the churches, or even the waterfront. No, the library is the heart and soul and brain of the city! That over the top description isn’t even necessary to make the case for what libraries do for people.

On the other hand, it doesn’t necessarily make a case for supporting the levy, either, since it seems like plenty of anti-levy people are very pro-library.

It’s kind of hard to tell who is really for the library here. Oh well, whatever happens it’s nice to see that people are passionate about libraries.



  1. Existential Librarian says:

    The same situation has occurred in Springfield, MA with a city trash collection “fee” being increased to fund libraries.

  2. Why not leave the library in the general operating budget and put things like the mayor’s salary and the city council’s per diems in the special levy?

  3. will the ballot ask:
    Short of a majority, what is the smallest percentage of masturbating homeless you would allow in the library to pass this levy?

  4. The question isn’t whether to support libraries (I think we all know the answer to that one), but whether to support this one in this way.
    After all, these are the fools who spent 165 million dollars on that horribly impractical and ugly monstrosity downtown, and who save money every year by closing for two weeks and not paying the underlings.
    Plus, it sounds like the city’s trying to pull a fast one-vote for a levy this time and take library funding out of the city budget.

  5. Seattle library levy? Other communities have successfully voted down library levies only to vote in favor of them after the library agreed to filter out porn. Seattle could do that.

    In Seattle the situation with porn is so bad that, in just one example, one little girl had seen something that caused her severe and sustained physical stress and likely lifelong depression. I spoke with the mother of that little girl. Sadly, the mother believed the library’s legally false claim that the First Amendment requires it to allow porn in the public library. It’s hard to help people so convinced by the propaganda that they cannot see clearly even when their own families are directly harmed. Kudos to the ALA on the effectiveness of its propaganda.

    Here are just a few stories about Seattle:

    “432 Patrons Ejected from Seattle Libraries in First Four Months of 2009; Librarians ‘Assaulted, Threatened and Spit Upon'”

    “Library Leaves Pedophile Free to Molest Other Children; King County Library System Defrauds Taxpayers of $1,158,253 from CIPA Program; Media Investigation Needed”

    Voting down the library levy until such time as the library stops lying about the law may be the only effective means people have to override the ALA acolytes at the Seattle Public Library.

  6. Marrickville (in Sydney, Australia) just voted councillors out of office who were proposing a levy to build a new library building. I’m a librarian myself but I got a taste of what it’s like to carry the can. Businesses (who sorta don’t use public libraries) were to pay 6 times more than residents. Because I’m so wealthy that I live in 1 bedroom apartment above my wife’s bakery, we were supposed to pay $400 per annum for 15 years.

    It’s a difficult time for libraries and I get tired of grandiose and self-absorbed behaviour. Libraries can provide real value to communities but have to demonstrate it.

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