Capitol Hill Community Post | Seattle’s ‘Libraries for All’ plan

From Mayor Jenny Durkan

From story time to summer learning programs to adult learning classes, The Seattle Public Libraryadvances equity, education, and opportunity for all who call Seattle home. We are lucky to have 27 safe, welcoming locations throughout Seattle for residents of all ages and backgrounds. And we know that when we invest in libraries, we invest in opening doors to opportunity and equity.

In 2018 alone, The Seattle Public Library locations:

  • Hosted more than five million visitors;

  • Circulated almost 12 million items;

  • Helped more than 13,000 people through adult learning programs like English as a Second Language, Adult Education Tutoring, and Ready to Work;

  • Helped more than 45,000 kids who participated in last year’s Summer of Learning; and,

  • Hosted more than 1,100 homework help sessions.

With the 2012 Library Levy set to expire at the end of this year, we must act to sustain and enhance our libraries. If we are going to build a city of the future, we need to build libraries of the future.


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That’s why today at the Lake City Library Branch, I announced the new “Libraries for All” plan.

Guided by community input and in collaboration with The Seattle Public Library Board of Trustees, this plan would make seven years of investments in critical areas to:

– Maintain Existing Services: Our plan would fully fund current SPL services, including free access to libraries, which see more than five million annual visits by Seattle residents.

– Increase Library Hours: System-wide, The Seattle Public Library would receive an additional 5,000 hours. All 26 SPL neighborhood branches would be open for an additional hour on Sunday. Seven libraries around Seattle would receive expanded hours, including: the Delridge, Green Lake, High Point, International District/Chinatown, NewHolly, South Park, and Wallingford locations.

– Eliminate Overdue Fines: Higher average balances and blocked accounts occur in greater numbers in lower-income and historically underserved neighborhoods. Our plan would invest $8 million over the next seven years to provide fine-free access to books, materials, and resources for all residents and correct a historic inequity.

– Help Close the Digital Divide and Promote Digital Equity: To promote digital equity, our plan would invest $4 million to maintain high-speed internet at library facilities. The proposal also includes $5.3 million to provide internet access through programs such as short-term check outs of WiFi hotspots – for residents who may otherwise have no access. This includes providing  internet access at low income housing developments, and longer-term access at permitted villages for people experiencing homelessness.

– Support Safer Buildings through Seismic Upgrades: Three SPL locations have been deemed high-risk unreinforced masonry buildings. To make them safer, we would invest $13.8 million in seismic retrofits for the Columbia, Green Lake, and University branches.

Click here to learn more about our new plan.

I recognize that many families in Seattle are stretched thin, and I know we’re asking the people of Seattle to do more to make shared investments in our communities. But I believe that this additional investment is so important and will have an enormous impact on Seattle.

I am excited about our opportunity to invest in The Seattle Public Library, in equity, and in opportunity. As always, please continue to write me at, reach out via Twitter and Facebook, and stay up-to-date on the work we’re doing for the people of Seattle on my blog.

Mayor Jenny Durkan


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11 thoughts on “Capitol Hill Community Post | Seattle’s ‘Libraries for All’ plan

    • Sell your house and move to Douglas County, Oregon, where voters chose to close their libraries. You’ll have plenty of money. There also aren’t as many homeless people down there.


  1. Our library system is a jewel. Amazing digital services (e-books), free cultural event access (museums, zoos, etc.), and much much more. As a property owner in the single most regressive tax state in the nation, I’ll enthusiastically vote for this.

  2. I love the Seattle Public Library and would have gladly cut something out of my very modest budget to support this levy if it did not include the elimination of overdue fines. I could get behind a grant program where fines are forgiven for those who truly have an economic need, but I can’t support a system where no one would ever held accountable. It feels wrong that people will be able to keep items as long as they would like, even if there are others on the waitlist for them. I don’t understand why we cannot find a reasonable solution where we can support those who truly need it but still have some expectations and enforcement in place for ensuring that library materials are available for all.

    • Overdue fines are excessively punitive towards the poor communities who depend the most on public libraries. Seattle’s proud history of taxing and punishing the poor shouldn’t continue.

      Seattle is the most financially regressive city in the most regressive state in the U.S. Let’s stop denying services to poor people because they’re too poor to afford a meager library fine.

      • Here here, being poor doesn’t mean absolving someone from simply being responsible. Library fines are not punitive on poor people because they are preeminently avoidable…. simply return what you use on time.

        And for pities sake… the fine is only .25 a day, the largest fine you can rack up right now is $8 on a item and if you’ve got less $15 owed on your account you can use the library normally, without paying anything.

        Lose a book and truly cannot afford to replace it – fine, use a case by case system to dismiss fines. Habitually return items late or ‘lose’ stuff like DVDs on a regular basis, no more privileges for you. For a small subset of people (who are not necessarily even poor) this will make the library an even easier to obtain, awesome, free source of resalable materials..

        You want to put something else in place for those who truly cannot afford $15 then perhaps allow people to volunteer off their fines, but eliminating them will just be inviting abuse.

    • I have a problem with that part of the levy too. Poor people need to be accountable as anyone, and that includes paying a small library fine when necessary. If they don’t want to pay it, then bring the damn book back on time!

      I also wonder why EVERY levy replacement must be at a higher rate than the previous version.

    • I essentially agree. It’s not about the revenue generated by fines (which is minimal) but about fostering a sense of shared ownership that mitigates against widespread devaluation and abuse of the system. Everyone who uses the library should feel they have a stake in its continued health, and eliminating fines completely would work against this sense of shared ownership. (I’m skeptical of 100% free public transit for the same reason.) I do think there should be a way to work off library debt by volunteering, which would likewise foster a sense of ownership and appreciation. Surely there are some low-skill, repetitive tasks involved in library operation that staff would be happy to have someone else do.

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