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Library News Release

Release Date: 06/13/2003

The Seattle Public Library system to close Aug. 25 through Sept. 1

The Seattle Public Library system will close Monday, Aug. 25 through Sunday, Aug. 31 due to citywide budget cuts. Please note Monday, Sept. 1 is the Labor Day holiday and all libraries will be closed. Regular Library operations will resume Tuesday, Sept. 2.

All city departments were asked to cut their budgets to address a $60 million general fund gap. The Library is funded from the city general fund.

The systemwide closure will help the Library meet a 5.1 percent budget cut - about $4.4 million. The Library closures will save approximately $1 million.

The August Library closure, along with a second one-week closure in 2004, will prevent the layoffs of about 23 staff, but will mean salary reductions for about 620 employees who will not be paid, or accrue vacation or retirement benefits during those weeks. In addition, the book budget will be cut and reductions to operating supplies and technology purchases will be made.

No Library services will be available during the one-week August closure and will have the following impacts:

  • No materials will be due and no fines will be accrued.
  • The last day to check out Library items before the August closure is 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24, at the Temporary Central Library, 800 Pike St. and branches that operate on Sunday. Visit www.spl.org, or call 206-386-4636 for more information on Library locations and hours.
  • No branch book drops will be open. All book drops at branch locations will close at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 23 (two days before the closure starts) to ensure all materials have been checked in and processed before the closure. Books and materials may be returned inside Library facilities that are open on Saturday, Aug. 23 and Sunday, Aug. 24. The book drops at the Temporary Central Library, 800 Pike St., will remain open.
  • No access to the online catalog. You will not be able to search the catalog or databases, place holds on materials, or check your Library record.
  • No access to the Web site (www.spl.org). No staff members will be working to maintain and troubleshoot problems on the site's nearly 1,500 pages and equipment. This means on-line computer sign-ups, Libraries for All information, the online reference service ("Live Help") and other features will not be available.
  • No Library computers will be available. You will not be able to reserve a computer for the week the Library system is closed.
  • No programs or events in Library meeting rooms.
  • No Telecirc, the Library's automated telephone service.
  • No Quick Information telephone service.
  • No mail will be received during the closure. The Library will have the U.S. Post Office hold all mail until the Library reopens. There will not be staff available to accept deliveries.
  • No book club books will be sent, received or returned during the one-week closure. Books normally sent by Aug. 27 will be boxed and sent to libraries a week early. Contact your library, or the Washington Center for the Book at 206-386-4650 if you are part of a book group and have questions.
  • No Mobile Services.
  • If you have book donations to make during the one-week closure, please contact the Friends Book Sale office at (206) 523-4053 or email book.sale@spl.org. No book donations will be collected at Library facilities during the closure.


The weeklong August closure is one of two budget-saving closures. The second will occur when operations from the Temporary Central Library move to the new Central Library at 1000 Fourth Ave., during spring 2004.

The August closure week was selected following staff examination of circulation and other use statistics for the whole year. The Aug. 25 - Sept. 1 week emerged as less objectionable than other weeks.

Other options, such as a rotating closures so that some Library service was available were examined, but did not produce the magnitude of savings necessary.

"While there were no good options, temporarily closing will have the least impact on public service for the long term," said City Librarian Deborah L. Jacobs. "Because open hours are the Library's main operating expense, there was no option that did not include that component. Our other options involved significant year-round cuts to operating hours, drastically cutting the book and technology budgets and laying off employees."

The Library's $32.3 million operating budget is mainly allocated for personnel who provide direct public service (Library staff/open hours), books and materials, and fixed costs, such as telecommunication and Internet services and utilities.

Jacobs emphasized that the "Libraries for All" construction program is not impacted by the reduction in the operating budget because it is funded through a 1998 voter-approved bond measure. Money from the bond measure cannot be used for Library operations. Currently, there are 18 active building projects under way, including the dramatic new Central Library.

Library budget reduction history

  • January 2001 - Passage of Initiative 722 led to a 1 percent budget cut - $310,000. Initiative 722, which capped the amount of property taxes municipalities can collect without a vote, passed in November 2000.
  • September 2001 - Worsening of the economy led to a .5 percent cut, which reduced the Library budget another $168,000.
  • January 2002- Dramatically lower sales and business tax collections ($12 million city general fund gap) led to a 4 percent cut - $1.4 million - in the Library budget.
  • February 2002 - Continued economic decline and passage of Initiative 747 in November 2001 resulted in a 1 percent cut - $337,000 - to the budget. Initiative 747 reduces property tax revenue growth to levels below the rate of inflation.
  • January 2003 - The continued depressed economy ($60 million city general fund gap) resulted in a 5.1 percent cut - a reduction of $4.4 million - to the Library's 2003 budget.
  • April 2003 - Continued tax revenue shortfalls resulted in a 1.1 percent cut - a $339,276 reduction - to the Library's budget.

  • For more information contact:

    Andra Addison, communications director

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