by Kirby Lindsay
Regardless of the swinging single image projected here, some families, and children, do call Fremont ‘home’. Joanna Trefethen knows this perhaps best of all. She has fostered relationships among scores of kids, and their folks, as the Children’s Librarian for the Fremont Branch of Seattle Public Library (SPL). She has admitted it took some time, but an audience has slowly grown for her weekly Children’s Story Times.
On January 28, at 11a, Trefethen will hold her last story time at Fremont. In February, Trefethen moves to the Green Lake Branch. She likes Green Lake, she said, but she regrets leaving Fremont – and leaving a post that will not be refilled.
Going Gets Tough
Recent economic woes have demanded some tough decisions by SPL administration. According to Andra Addison, SPL Communications Director, SPL endured a mid-year budget reduction, in 2009, of about one million dollars. For 2010, their budget has been reduced by another $1.7 million.
As a result, on February 3, many library branches will see service hours cut. Fremont will become one of 15 libraries, referred to as ‘5-day branches’, with weekly open hours reduced from 50 to 35. All these branches will operate on the same schedule – open 1p – 8p Monday and Tuesday, 11a – 6p Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Additionally, all, including Fremont, will remain closed on Fridays and Sundays, and Addison speculated that for patrons, “being closed on Friday is the biggest change.”
The other 11 branch libraries, called ‘7-day branches,’ will maintain 60 open hours a week, with the Central Library, in Downtown Seattle, keeping the operating schedule as before.
As painful as library patrons may find these changes, library staff may feel worse. “Those [branches] open fewer hours will have fewer staff,” Addison admitted. Besides losing a children’s librarian, the latest Fremont branch manager Rekha Kuver will be replaced by Cass Mabbott.
SPL currently offers approximately 400 free programs – entertainment, education and/or information – at 27 library locations. Yet, Jennifer Patterson, Assistant Director for the North Branches, admitted there “may be a little less overall.” Beyond cutbacks in the number of programs, those scheduled may be held at the branches drawing higher numbers in patrons, staff and open hours – which won’t be Fremont.
The Tough Get Going
It could have been worse. The Friends of Seattle Public Library fought the reductions with the help of thousands of library patrons who pressured City Hall with e-mail, letters, phone calls and a Facebook petition. Ultimately, their lobbying succeeded in getting the Seattle City Council to restore $860,000 to the SPL 2010 budget.
Certainly, from a historical perspective, this hardly qualifies as Fremont’s darkest hour. We’ve floundered about before without a children’s librarian and, when the economy turns fully face up, provided Fremont still has kids, we’ll get another one. Meanwhile, Trefethen’ll be close by, at Green Lake (7364 E. Green Lake Dr. N.), another 5-day branch, but “a bigger and busier branch,” Patterson explained.
Fremont patrons have also survived limited library access. Addison discovered a 1982 brochure that listed branch hours, when Fremont had only 24 open hours a week.
“All branches are related and share a system,” Addison pointed out, and nearby branches Ballard (5614 – 22nd Ave. N.W.) and Greenwood (8016 Greenwood Ave. N.) will be open seven days a week. Addison acknowledged the changes may cause problems but she remained optimistic, “this will give people a chance to see what else is out there and going on,” all over the public library system.
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.