August 29

Furlough for Fremont Library



Rekha Kuver, librarian for the Fremont and Green Lake Libraries, pleaded to patrons, “please, do not leave bags of books outside.” Every branch of the Seattle Public Library system will be closed for the week of August 31 – September 7, 2009. Anyone who has recently visited Fremont, or any Seattle library, must have seen the posted notices but Kuver knew, “a lot of people aren’t reading the whole sign.” Nothing is due, she explained, and no fines accrue during the week. Materials patrons checked out before August 31 will not come due until after the libraries re-open on September 8.

All library employees will be on furlough for the week leading up to Labor Day. The doors of every branch will be locked shut, and all library services – book drops, web sites, Quick Information phone services, etc – will also be inaccessible. “We have to shut things down like the book drop,” Kuver explained, “if there is no one here to empty the book drop it would fill up in the first 24 hours.”

Cost-Cutting Measure

Seattle Public Library system spokesperson, Andra Addison, described closure of the entire system as a cost-cutting measure. “All city departments were asked to reduce their budgets,” she explained, “Our budget deduction target was about $1 million for 2009. The library closure will allow us to save about $655,000.”

The rest of the savings will come from “other cuts in management and administration,” according to Addison. Computer maintenance has been restructured and rescheduled, the training budget has been trimmed and executive staff took pay cuts.

The complete loss of all library services, such as web site access to catalogue and database information, may seem unnecessary. Addison admitted, “the website is a very busy electronic branch for us,” that does require human involvement, for hold requests and on-line librarian interface. Also, “we wouldn’t be able to respond or fix it, if it went down during the week,” Addison explained.

Stripping down to a skeleton crew – a drastically diminished staff that would tend to only the highest priority items for a week – could cause more problems, Addison maintained. For instance, devising criteria over which staff remained on-duty, and collected pay, and which didn’t, as well as deciding priority for one service over another, could create endless conflict. A furlough for the whole system avoids frustration, Addison suggested, and is “equitable for all staff.”

Little Library That Could

Kuver, who came to Fremont Library in late June, reported the branch currently has great usage numbers. “I’m always astounded at how many new card applications we get every day,” she praised. Both circulation (individual materials checked out, and returned) and door count (each body through the door) numbers are up.

Hopefully a closure won’t change that. “It was good we got word of the furlough as early as we did,” Kuver admitted. They have not had to cancel, or reschedule, any programs or community meetings. Instead, patrons get an extra week to enjoy their books, CDs, DVDs, and books-on-tape at home. “People want to do the right thing,” Kuver acknowledged but, for a week, please don’t return materials and definitely don’t leave them sitting outside.

Kirby Lindsay works, lives and plays in Fremont, and has for longer than anyone wants to remember. Her columns have previously appeared in The Seattle Press, the North Seattle Herald-Outlook and on the Fremont Chamber web site. Contact her at



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