Seattle Public Library cuts back schedule, including fewer days at three West Seattle branches

(Reader photo from High Point branch closure last Sunday)

You’ll soon see signs like that one more often at local libraries – at least for a while. One year after the Seattle Public Library expanded schedules, resulting in all four of the branches in West Seattle opening seven days a week, it’s cutting back. SPL has just announced a temporary cutback that will leave only one local branch open every day. SPL says staffing shortages, combined with the city hiring freeze, will lead to cutbacks for at least the next eight weeks. According to this SPL update, 22 of its 27 branches will be affected, including these three in our area:

High Point Branch
Closed Sundays through June 4

Southwest Branch
Closed Saturdays from April 20 through June 4

West Seattle Branch
Closed Fridays through June 4

SPL explains, “Several factors have impacted the Library’s staffing capacity, including changes to the Library’s minimum staffing levels and increased leave usage. Our impacted staffing capacity has led to unplanned closures, as the Library must redirect staff from one location to another if a branch doesn’t have the right number, or right mix, of staff to open and operate a building safely and with full library services.” The minimum staffing has increased, SPL says, to “help ensure staff are able to provide full library services and are supported and prepared to manage any challenging or disruptive situations in and around our libraries.” In addition to simply deploying more staffers, SPL spokesperson Laura Gentry explains, “We are looking for a certain mix of position types to be present as well. For example, we have staff identified as ‘building leads,’ and at several locations have identified that at least two lead staff need to be present to open.”

While they are affected by the city’s budget-related hiring freeze, “Chief Librarian Tom Fay has approved several exemptions, allowing the Library to hire temporary staff to help stabilize operations.” Will everything go back to seven days a week on June 4? Gentry tells WSB, “We’re hopeful that this will resolve most unplanned closures during this period of time, but we don’t yet know what our schedule will look like past the June 4 date. We’re working on it and will have more info on that in May.”

27 Replies to "Seattle Public Library cuts back schedule, including fewer days at three West Seattle branches"

  • All Resident April 11, 2024 (12:14 pm)

    The mayor pushes police funding while enacting hiring freezes that close libraries. The city priorities are misguided. 

  • K April 11, 2024 (12:15 pm)

    That is such a huge loss for everyone, and especially the families who have the most availability to take their kids to a local library on the weekends.  Imagine what our society would look like if we were as concerned about library staffing as we are police staffing.  What a backwards city this is.

    • Jay April 11, 2024 (1:12 pm)

      And when we give kids nowhere to go and nothing to do for free outside of school, reactionary politicians will act shocked at the increase in youth crime rates and further impose austerity measures on libraries to fund more police. We’re on the verge of an austerity death spiral that will steal from our children’s futures to fund today’s reactionary politics.

    • Jeepney April 11, 2024 (1:28 pm)

      Seattle needs funding for police as well as libraries.  If you have time, please look at the city budget and see where the money goes.

    • Anne April 11, 2024 (1:41 pm)

      Oh please-WS is blessed to have 3 libraries-they all won’t be closed on the same one day of the week. Many communities aren’t that lucky. If you read the article -there’s several issues that have caused this action-hiring freeze, money from 2019 levy doesnt  go quite as far due to raise in minimum wage, safety issues & more. Police staffing & library staffing are 2 entirely different things -to compare them is ridiculous. Let’s be grateful we have 3 libraries to choose from. 

      • Mariem April 11, 2024 (11:22 pm)

        With all due respect, all these libraries are important to their neighborhoods on a daily basis. They should be funded to be open daily – all of them. It is privileged folks that have the resources, time, and ability to drive to the one designated branch on the penninsula. Many of our residents simply don’t have that ability. 

  • Kyle April 11, 2024 (12:27 pm)

    Is there accountability for the $200M+ library levy that was supposed to increase hours? It’s 2024 and we only got like 6 months of expanded hours before these cutbacks.

    • WSB April 11, 2024 (12:58 pm)

      As noted in the story, the schedule expansion/restoration took effect a year ago.

    • Charles Burlingame April 11, 2024 (1:07 pm)

      The accountability comes in electing leaders who won’t rely on balancing the general fund on the back of SPL.

    • Jay April 11, 2024 (1:08 pm)

      I’d love to see a breakdown of where it went. $200 million is a LOT of money for such poor library systems. Libraries in districts that have a small fraction of our funding have next-generation library facilities with maker spaces, meeting rooms, after school programs, and modern educational resources. If any of that levy went into the general fund to pay for political corruption in the city like SPD overtime fraud or Big 4 accounting audits to kill transportation projects we should protest. The scheduling isn’t anywhere near where it was pre-covid. I used to study at the West Seattle Branch until 8pm most days of the week from 2017 to 2020 and it was always full. Two 4-person tables in the left side room that always had at least 3-4 people at any time I went in. I’m from the Appalachian foothills and all the hick towns are being uplifted by modern libraries at a fraction of the budget we’re spending.

      • WSB April 11, 2024 (2:06 pm)

        Almost every time someone asks about “accountability,” there’s a dashboard/data page/annual report already available online.

        • DH April 11, 2024 (3:01 pm)

          I appreciate your response. It is tiring to watch people rant ‘how was this money spent?” Most of the time locally it is on government websites if people would go look. Do you want government agencies to spend more money telling you how they spent the money? Shaking my head. Be a responsible resident and look it up. It is usually there. 

          • Kyle April 11, 2024 (8:20 pm)

            I think I meant accountability in the sense that there was some impartial board making sure libraries kept their promises for what voters voted for. Looks like the Library polices itself on how to spend the money and files a self serving report at the end of the quarter. The levy promised 10,000 additional hours per year. That promise has not been kept, so what did they spend the $70M earmarked for that on? Who got to decide that was a better use then what voters voted for? It also promised an additional $20M for 0-5 year old kids programming. However, they gutted the number of story times in the name of equity. I love our libraries, but I am disappointed in what was promised/delivered so far for this levy. I’m worried that we will have another disappointing return for tax dollars and when this levy is over a new more expensive one will be proposed with dire consequences predicted if not funded. I’m okay with taxes, I’m not okay with blank checks. Please deliver what we voted for.

        • Jay April 11, 2024 (3:41 pm)

          The last update to that dashboard is from 2022, and it’s not telling the full story. Today Tammy Morales released a statement today suggesting that cuts from the libraries are helping to balance the general fund. It sounds like the levy money being added to the library funding is being stolen out from under the budget by redirecting existing funds. When money is raised for school with lotteries, that additional money is usually deducted from the school budget. I see on the news that there are hiring freezes for public programs to increase money from the general fund while money from the general fund is being used to give police a massive raise. $83k for entry level to $103k, with a raise to $110k after six months. That’s an absurd entry-level salary next to teachers, librarians, nurses, and all the people who put in the real work to make our city run. When we voted for the levy, it was supposed to be money on top of the existing budget to improve services. Not money to keep the lights on while the existing funds are misappropriated.

          • WSB April 11, 2024 (5:56 pm)

            That is not what CM Morales said. She’s basically making a pitch for more taxes on rich people to cover the city’s budget gap.

          • Tim April 11, 2024 (8:19 pm)

            Seattle desperately needs police officers and it’s tough to attract/retain officers in an environment that’s unsupportive of them. The one thing the city can do to attract recruits is pay good wages, and the amount that police have to deal with, I think it’s worth it. I love our libraries, and I’m not some blue lives matter nutter, but there’s definitely a more pressing need for police these days. SPL is great, reduced hours are unfortunate, but it’s not like the branches are totally closing down. Maker spaces would be great, but I’m extremely skeptical of how much impact they would really cause for a reduction in crime. A fraction of kids might be into it, but teens that are trying to impress each other, the library is the last place they want to be seen. 

          • WSB April 11, 2024 (9:38 pm)

            I found the 2023 report, uploaded within the past day per Google timestamp, while looking for something else.

          • thank Dolly April 12, 2024 (12:59 am)

            Appalachia has Dolly funding. Our libraries are stellar. As Anne said – we have several to choose from.  

      • datamuse April 11, 2024 (7:40 pm)

        It’s not uncommon for library resources, especially digital ones, to be priced according to the expected user base. It’s very possible that SPL is paying more for the same resources than the libraries where you came from.

  • Jay April 11, 2024 (1:00 pm)

    Fully funding libraries will have a bigger impact on crime rates 5 years from now than the extremely generous salary and benefits bonus we’re giving to SPD (with no accompanying compromise on accountability). One average officer salary and associated staffing costs could put three full-time staff in a library at $25 an hour with benefits. The cost of operating and maintaining one SPD fleet vehicle could put a maker space in probably three or four libraries. The cost of settling a $10,000,000 lawsuit with peaceful protestors and bystanders who were brutally beaten by SPD during the 2020 protests could put afterschool programs in every Seattle library for years. Get at-risk kids off the street and engaged with cool stuff like maker spaces, 3D printing, board games, and more would have a huge impact on crime rates without having to spend much money at all. While we engage in austerity projects and cut small money from impactful programs to send big money to proven ineffective solutions our society will continue to degrade into ignorance, chaos, and crime. We’re taking away hope from the next generation to indulge in law and order fantasies that are based on false promises. We’re not building a good legacy, and generations ahead will not judge us kindly.

    • Lauren April 12, 2024 (8:21 am)

      This. 100%. Investing in our communities.

  • Actually Mike April 11, 2024 (1:40 pm)

    That’s a shame. SPL neighborhood branches are one of the best things about Seattle–family friendly, accessible and free to use. Fixing this problem and soon should be a priority for any administration that wants my vote again…

  • neighbor April 11, 2024 (4:49 pm)

    Our libraries are amazing!! We will really miss having the SW branch open Saturdays. It’s been life changing to have access on that extra weekend day, especially while we wait for the weather to warm up. It’s always busy when we go, lot of people rely on access to library services down here. 

  • WSbranchlibraries April 11, 2024 (5:54 pm)

    This article does not list Delridge Branch and it’s listed as open daily!… 

    • WSB April 11, 2024 (6:03 pm)

      The list shows the three local branches that are being affected by the temporary closures. Since Delridge is not, it’s not on the list.

  • 1994 April 11, 2024 (9:50 pm)

    SPL should avoid Saturday or Sunday closures.  Please close on weekdays. 

  • Goddess Andraste April 12, 2024 (1:38 pm)

    The Greenbridge and White Center branches of KCLS are both open on Saturdays, and those are the closest options for WS folks. :)

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