FOLLOWUP: Seattle Public Library levy also headed for your August ballot

Another levy will be on the August 6th ballot: The Seattle Public Library levy. Councilmembers voted unanimously today to send it to voters. (The item comes up 25 minutes into the video above, Seattle Channel‘s recording of this afternoon’s council meeting.) They expanded the original $210+ million proposal by about $2 million to add one weekly operating hour for each of the city’s 26 library branches as well as adding extra support for children’s programming. You can read the documents, including the amended levy text, by going here. The levy plan was announced last month; it would follow a seven-year levy that expires this year. The August ballot also will include a vote on the King County Parks levy, as reported here last week.

35 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Seattle Public Library levy also headed for your August ballot"

  • Marty April 22, 2019 (9:09 pm)

    Oh boy! Higher taxes!

    • Bradley April 23, 2019 (1:03 am)

      Money WELL spent, since libraries are one of the most important community services. They give back FAR more than they take in and are one of the best bangs for the buck taxpayers ever see. Supporting our libraries is one of the best ways anyone can give back to our community.

  • M April 23, 2019 (6:28 am)

    Didn’t the internet kind of make a library obsolete? 

    • heartless April 23, 2019 (8:37 am)


    • Will S. April 23, 2019 (9:01 am)

      Yes, it’s true that in the internet age, people seem more ignorant than ever. But for some reason, in 2017 users of the Seattle Public Library checked out 8,337,998 books and other physical materials, plus 2,449,013 electronic materials (not including 1,143,210 electronic information retrievals such as database downloads). Check it out sometime–it’s free to use, and you might learn something. (Source: )

      • Kevin April 23, 2019 (5:55 pm)

        Will S, those numbers sure do sound impressive. But what point are you trying to make? The numbers you cited indicate a DECREASE from the prior year, despite an increase in the population. Why does the library need a revenue increase library demand is decreasing?

        • Will S. April 24, 2019 (1:12 am)

          The point is that public libraries are in no way obsolete, despite dramatic long-term changes in the technologies people can use to access information.Even when the word “decrease” appears in capital letters, I am not even a little bit troubled by a 0.5% decrease in circulation from 2016 to 2017. But yes, it is impressive that SPL’s annual circulation figures remain between 10 and 20 times the city’s population. Circulation is, however, only one measure of demand for public libraries.For many years, public libraries have been adapting their services to meet the changing desires and needs of library users. Expanding the branch libraries’ hours of operation effectively expands computer access (among other things), and so this levy would support opening libraries for more time on mornings, evenings, and Sundays. The levy would also provide funding for technology upgrades, major building maintenance, and additional children’s programs. Finally, it should come as no surprise that things in general will cost more between 2020-2026 than they did between 2013-2019, and the levy would cover those higher costs. Those are some of the reasons why the libraries say they need a revenue increase.

  • KT April 23, 2019 (8:12 am)

    How is that campaign to make Seattle affordable working out?  

    • USNmom April 23, 2019 (10:04 am)


  • Jennifer April 23, 2019 (8:21 am)

    Our libraries are amazing. No the internet did
    not make libraries obsolete. At the library you can check out actual books (in regular
    and large font for those with vision issues), ebooks and audio books. You can
    check out DVD’s, CD and read magazines and newspapers. Not everyone can afford
    to buy these things or belong to a subscription service to watch TV shows,
    movies and series. The library is a place to open up your mind to new horizons
    and give you the opportunity to experience stories and countries and ideas you
    may never have done otherwise. On top of that they offer an abundance of
    programs for children and families. They provide a place for public meetings
    and in some places a place to play a piano. They can help you with your genealogy
    research, they have book groups, help students prepare for graduation, they
    have community programs in various languages and many many many more programs
    and services to offer the community. Check out
    Our libraries are a treasure and we need to support them.

    • Bookie April 23, 2019 (8:38 am)

      Amen, Jennifer.I suspect many who oppose support of our wonderful library system do not utilize them and aren’t aware of the treasure that our libraries provide to so many others.

    • CMT April 23, 2019 (8:53 am)

      I LOVE and utilize the library regularly.  Last go around, I supported the levy 100% BUT I understood that to be a one time thing, not a continuing levy.  I have heard that the City utilizes levies to fund popular programs and services such as libraries in order to be able to utilize the general fund for their agenda items that would not garner as much public support.   I would not support that type of funding model.

      • savoirfaire April 24, 2019 (6:09 am)

        Just out of curiosity, where did you hear that?

        • CMT April 24, 2019 (6:29 pm)

          Probably in the comments on this blog!  If you have actual knowledge that it is true or false please share!

    • West Seattle Hipster April 23, 2019 (9:41 am)

      And let’s not forget Museum Pass:

  • BMC April 23, 2019 (8:24 am)

    And doing away with library late book fees – can you believe that?? I probably pay $20-30 a year for mine – without them, would I care to return in a semi-timely manner? 

    • heartless April 23, 2019 (8:40 am)

      I don’t know, BMC. 

      Are you driven more by money and greed or more by a sense of civility and what is right? 

      It would be rude for me to guess, so I’ll just leave that question for you to answer for yourself.

  • Gina April 23, 2019 (8:44 am)

    Only late fines would be eliminated. Replacement fees for items not returned forty days after the due date would remain.

    • ACG April 23, 2019 (9:55 am)

      I would hope that some sort of penalty for non returned books would remain or people will just view it as a free bookstore and just take books home to keep. I love libraries, but I can’t support restocking book after book that is taken with only my tax dollars. 

  • CMT April 23, 2019 (8:56 am)

    Seriously, you just called BMC greedy for his/her opinion?  I’m neither greedy nor driven by money but their is a levy being proposed so money is obviously needed.  I support discontinuing sending people to collections for library fines.  However, I am 100% in favor of not lowering  standards of personal responsibility – if you take out a book, you know you have to return it on time or you will get a fine.  Your choices are to not check out the book or check out the book and either return it on time or to incur a fine.  

    • heartless April 23, 2019 (1:45 pm)

      CMT:  No.  I carefully refrained from saying that BMC is motivated by money.  But I did raise the question.  And I did so because BMC strongly implied that without a financial penalty they wouldn’t be motivated to return books on time.

      So did I call them greedy and money-driven?  No.  But will I publicly frown upon anyone who says they won’t bother to return their library books if there is no fine, if they suggest they would have less incentive to be a decent person if there wasn’t some money at stake?  Uh, yeah:  ABSOLUTELY.

      And, incidentally, the rest of your comment seems to mesh with what I’m saying, so not exactly sure what your beef is.  

      • CMT April 23, 2019 (2:56 pm)

        I guess I didn’t understand your comment in the way you meant it then.  I thought you were suggesting  (in the form of a rhetorical question) that people who are in favor of retaining fines are greedy and driven by money and that those who would return their books timely are motivated to do so because they have a sense of civility and doing what is morally right. 

  • zephyr April 23, 2019 (9:25 am)

    Quote:  “Only late fines would be eliminated. Replacement fees for items not returned forty days after the due date would remain.”.Thanks, Gina.  That’s good to know.  My question is:  if the user doesn’t bring back books/etc. and doesn’t pay the replacement fee, are they still allowed to check out yet more books and materials?  This policy needs to be explained more before I support it.  I think it’s wrong-headed not to have the fines and encourage people to be responsible for their actions.  .

    • Lynn April 23, 2019 (4:20 pm)

      If the patron doesn’t bring back the items and doesn’t pay the replacement fee they will be blocked from checkout mostly likely – the block amount is $15.

  • zark00 April 23, 2019 (10:10 am)

    My god, the same people who post “Seattle id Dying!!!” on everything are the ones who are screaming no new taxes.  $1.58 a month, to keep and improve a service most major cities see as a point of pride.  Seattle isn’t dying but you all are trying REALLLLLLY hard to kill it. 

    • B.W. April 24, 2019 (7:03 am)

      Ah another “small” tax to add on to other already “small” taxes. I’m done. Until this city can prove it can handle tax payer dollars properly, I’m not voting yes to any if their taxes.

  • Jort April 23, 2019 (10:48 am)

    I look forward to dozens of comments lamenting how “over-taxed” Seattle is and how “this will be the levy that FINALLY goes TOO FAR” and how Seattle citizens will finally “STAND UP to BIG GOVERNMENT SPENDING.”   This levy will likely pass with more than 65 percent approval. ACTUAL Seattle has repeatedly been proven to be poorly represented in internet comments sections for the last several elections. Turns out when we ask the actual citizens, and not the comment boards, we tend to like our high taxes.

    • WW Resident April 24, 2019 (1:14 pm)

      QUOTE: we tend to like our high taxesWW: and people actually like Keeping Up With the Kardashians. So what’s your point? My statement already made mine

  • Gina April 23, 2019 (11:09 am)

    I’m guessing that the actual implementation would be refined by the City Librarian, with Library Board approval, and Library department head input depending on the outcome of the bond vote.Policy in 2014 (I retired then) was blocking checkout for physical and digital items when owing 15.00 or more in fines or fees. Internet usage was not blocked by owing money.Forty days after due dates, replacement fees for outstanding items would go into accounts. At that point the material recovery service notifications began. 120 days after that accounts owing 25.00 or more were credit reported unless payment was arranged.

  • zephyr April 23, 2019 (11:24 am)

    Thanks, Gina.  I appreciate your detailed response.  It’s good to know that there would be some consequence (eventually) for not bringing things back for circulation and use by others.  I still wonder if the Library would allow non-returning users to continue taking out new items.  That’s something that the Library should address and be clear about.  Hopefully someone from the City will read these remarks and speak to this.  

  • Heartless? April 23, 2019 (11:52 am)

     Well $1.58 doesn’t seem like much to pay, but the big picture here, to me anyways, is that LIBRARIES SHOULD RECEIVE 100% OF THEIR MONEY FROM THE GENERAL FUND AND LATE FEES.As CMT (8:53 post) alludes to:  SAVE THE LEVIES FOR THE AGENDA ITEMS. 

  • Seaweed April 23, 2019 (7:55 pm)

    I don’t agree at all with the late fees requirement to be eliminated. There are multiple facets for the practicality of the late fees.One of them, is for the amounts collected in fines, to contribute to the operating expense of the Librarys. It seems very odd to me, to ask for more money from Library users and other tax payers, which will now, also have to make up for the revenue of discontinued fines, regardless of how little, or great, the amount these fines contribute to the greater good of the  Library.More importantly, it seems to me, that the lessons of personal responsibility that we must learn as children, and that late fees are representative of, should be of greater concern than this funding issue.

    • heartless April 24, 2019 (11:51 am)

      (Oh…. This is awfully long.  I’m sorry.)

      If you value “lessons of personal responsibility” then you should actually support removal of the late fees.  Let me explain.

      The foundation of personal responsibility rests on doing things for the right reason, regardless of–and sometimes in the face of–outside forces.  Personal responsibility, like all moral virtues, must be borne out of intrinsic values.  When we apply extrinsic rewards or punishments (like late fees) it decreases our internal drive to do what is right.

      An example, if I may.  Once upon a time a day-care center was having a problem with parents not picking up their kids on time.  The parents knew they shouldn’t be late to grab their kids, but they were showing up late anyway.  The day-care center decided to fix this problem by charging parents a fine whenever they were late.  So they implement this charge, and what do you think happened?  The situation got worse–more parents than before were now late to pickup.  Why?  Well, because the previously strong internal motivation to get their kids (to do the right thing, not keep the day-care providers waiting, etc) was replaced by an external (monetary) motivator that, frankly, wasn’t particularly effective.  Personal responsibility was replaced by fines–the intrinsic was replaced by extrinsic.  Link:  

      To tie this back to library fines, let’s look at what has happened in places where library fines have already been removed, where the extrinsic (financial) motivation is no longer there.  Do people simply not return books, since there is now no reason to do so? 

      Of course not.  Because now they have intrinsic motivation–now is the time for their personal responsibility to shine.  And lo and behold, studies are showing that when late fees are removed people continue to return books at the same rate–because people are doing what they feel is right.  Indeed, in some cases libraries that have done away with fines are reporting MORE on time returns ( 

      I fully agree that children must learn personal responsibility.  But it doesn’t come from being charged 10 cents a day for a late book.  It comes from learning to do the right thing because it is the right thing–not because of these external factors. 

      Teaching a kid to return a library book because otherwise it will cost money is the wrong approach.  Teach them instead to return a library book so that other kids will get a chance to read that really neat book, teach them to do it because it is right.  Now that’s teaching personal responsibility.  

      • Seaweed April 25, 2019 (6:25 pm)

        Heartless, I think “donations” would be as effective as fines in our Librarys, since fines anyway; as normaly applied by Librarys, appear to be about as mandatory.  Most patrons do the right thing, by simply paying their late fees when required.  Fines, late fees or donations, all assist in helping to cover costs for a Public Institution, and we need to encourage the users of the benefit to return items when due, by means intrinsic or extrinsic.

        • heartless April 25, 2019 (7:29 pm)

          I fully agree that we should get patrons to return material on time.  But I also think that a primary, and perhaps more important, goal of the library as an institution is to get more people to use it.  If the late fees really are dissuading people from reading, or availing themselves of various other library resources, then perhaps me should consider getting rid of them.  You make a good point about the fees contributing to the library’s financial stability–but even so fines, I believe, bring in only 1% of the overall money libraries need.  I think your suggestion of donations–more prominent donation boxes, letting people know that since (or if) they are getting rid of fines they would appreciate more than ever donations, no matter how small, would be a good solution.

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