Seattle voters overwhelmingly approved a seven-year, $219.1 million Library levy renewal to support basic operations, as well as increase operating hours, e-materials and early learning programs. It also includes funds to complete seismic upgrades to three historic Carnegie libraries and eliminates fines for overdue materials.

The levy had the support of 73 percent of the voters. A simple majority was needed to pass. The primary election was Aug. 6.

“It is clear that the people of Seattle understand the importance and value of a healthy Library system,” said Chief Librarian Marcellus Turner. “Investing in our libraries is an investment in every Seattle resident and the future of our city.”

The levy renewal will provide approximately 31 percent of the Library’s maintenance and operations budget. The majority of Library funding comes from the city’s general fund.

“The people of Seattle know libraries provide access to lifelong learning and economic, social and cultural benefits for all,” said Library Board President Jay Reich. “Libraries are the safety net for our residents. They are where people show up for opportunity. They are where students get homework help, unemployed residents come for job resources and those without access to technology learn how to use computers.”

Turner said the levy plan, “Libraries for All: Levy Renewal Proposal,” grew out of a two-year process that involved the thoughtful contributions of tens of thousands of Seattle residents through surveys and community meetings.  “The levy was the product of those comments and discussions,” he said. “It reflects five critical areas of need: Library hours, strong physical and digital collections, available technology, building maintenance and support for youth.”

The decision to eliminate fines in the levy aligned with the Library’s commitment to serving the needs of all Seattle residents equitably. “Overdue fines are a financial barrier to access and a deterrent to using Library services,” Turner said. “Low-income youth and families are most impacted by fines. By eliminating fines, the Library will help level the playing field for Seattle residents who cannot afford to pay fines, allowing us to truly deliver on our promise to provide Library access to all.”

Patrons can expect to see improvements to Library services as a result of the levy beginning in January 2020. Changes that will begin in January, will include the following:

  • All branch locations will open at noon on Sunday beginning Sunday, Jan. 5.
  • More books and materials, including e-materials and e-audiobooks, will be available
  • Overdue materials will no longer incur fines (patrons will still be responsible for all fines accrued in 2019)
  • Preliminary planning on the seismic upgrade to the Green Lake Branch will begin (construction is not expected until 2022).

Implementation of other changes, including the addition of more morning and evening branch hours at locations across the system, expansion of early learning programs and a new Communication Resource program to support at-risk youth, will happen mid-year.

“The levy renewal not only helps stabilize the Library budget, but provides increased access to high quality Library resources in every neighborhood,” Turner said. “We are looking forward to assisting the public with better services in January. The Library extends its heartfelt thanks to the voters.”