"Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries."
- Anne Herbert
Washington State's libraries are hurting. The Great Recession - coupled with the voters' frequent unwillingness to exempt libraries from the draconian limits imposed by Tim Eyman's
ill-conceived Initiative 747 - has resulted in reduced hours, cutbacks, and lost services in community after community.
Now Eyman's Initiative 1033
is threatening to slowly strangle libaries to death by freezing what funding they have left.
Washington Library Association President Tim Mallory, who works for Timberland Regional Library
, tells NPI the consequences of Initiative 1033 may not be felt immediately, but will definitely manifest themselves over time.
And they won't be pretty.
"It's like putting a noose around your neck, and it doesn't choke you immediately, but if you try to do anything, it chokes you," Mallory said of I-1033.
He knows firsthand how hard it is to make decisions when the only options are severe cuts that adversely affect patrons.
Timberland's voters in February rejected a levy lid lift that would have given the system an infusion of badly needed funding. Because the proposition had been in the works for three years, it went forward on the ballot
, even though library trustees realized the timing was awful.
The proposition ended up costing the library system - which spans Thurston, Lewis, Mason, Grays Harbor, and Pacific counties - more than $300,000.
As a consequence of the recession and levy failure, the library system has:
- Shuttered all of its libraries on Sundays
- Reduced hours of operation at some libraries to four days a week
- Stopped employing substitutes, which means there is nobody to fill in if a library staff member is sick
- Scaled back its book budget
- Slowed down courier delivery, which means it takes longer for books to reach library patrons
- Limited the number of books that can be checked out at one time
- Required patrons to shoulder the cost of interlibrary loans
- Begun charging library fines for the first time in its history
These measures are just the beginning. If Initiative 1033 passes, a bad situation is going to get much, much worse.
If Initiative 1033 takes effect, libraries could eventually reach a point where they become so underfunded that they have to be shut down.
The photo to the left shows the Kirkland Library adjacent to Peter Kirk Park in Kirkland. It's currently closed for renovation, not because of budget cuts, but if Initiative 1033 were to take effect, there is a very real danger the library could end up being closed for good at some point.
The extent of the damage Eyman's scheme could inflict is hard to anticipate, but we do know one thing: It would be really, really bad.
If Eyman were to respond to this post, he would no doubt sneer we're trying to scare people. Actually, what's scary is that Washington State is home to someone who is as cynical, reckless, and manipulative as he is.
The most dangerous place in the state, as Joel Connelly and others have remarked, is between Eyman and a television camera.
Eyman is trying to trick us all into believing there's a free lunch... that we can enjoy these wonderful public services we have, like libraries, and simply not pay for them. Well, reality doesn't work that way.
The simple truth is, libraries will get us through times of no money better than money will get us through times of no libraries.
That quote from Anne Herbert is a testament to the value that our essential public services provide. Most Wahingtonians want libraries, and parks, and pools, and all the other great things our tax dollars pay for.
But humans make mistakes. We can be shortsighted and end up doing things that are penny wise and pound foolish. What's shameful about Initiative 1033 is that it was deliberately engineered to be destructive.
I-1033, its sponsor Tim Eyman, and his wealthy backer Michael Dunmire want
to wreck valuable services like our libraries. On purpose.
The good news? They can't do it without our permission.
So break out that mail in ballot, find a good pen, and fill in the oval to vote NO on Initiative 1033
. Your fellow library patrons will thank you. And, in the weeks, months, and years ahead, you'll be thanking yourself, too.