LETTER: Wake Up, Residents – KCLS Is About To ‘Consolidate’ W.C. Libraries

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Here’s the King County Library Staff Recommendation regarding libraries in White Center:

Whether North Highline will be annexed will not be known until 2012 at the earliest. The City of Burien plans to examine the annexation issue later this year, but will not be prepared to place the annexation issue on the ballot until February 2012, or possibly later, according to City of Burien officials. The City of Seattle also previously voted to tablke the annexation question until February 2012. Regardless of whether North Highline is annexed to the City of Burien or Seattle in the coming year, the existing White Center Library would still need to be expanded, relocated or consolidated.

Based on the information gathered, including public input, staff recommends that the KCLS Board of Trustees direct staff to pursue the consolidation of the White Center and Boulevard Park libraries into a single, new facility located south of the current libraries and between the two communities. Pursuing a consolidated library at a new location is favored for several reasons: The selection of a new site and planning for a new library may begin immediately while construction costs are favorable; operating one centrally located library will result in significant annual savings in operational costs; and a larger library will provide a higher level of service and increased access to library resources than two smaller libraries. This supported by data that shows that traffic is 34% higher and circulation is 43% higher at 10,000 to 15,000-square-foot libraries than 5,000 to 6,000-square-foot buildings.

If directed, staff will proceed with identifying potential sites for a consolidated library and evaluate them using KCLS’ Site Selection Policy, with an emphasis on visibility, accessibility and site capacity After a site is selected, KCLS may then begin the design process, which includes opportunities for public input. Regarding the future use of the existing White Center and/or Boulevard Park libraries if a new consolidated library is pursued, public or government use of the buildings may be considered, according to City of Burien officials.*

*Note: These buildings and property are “owned” by KCLS.

Rachael Levine’s response:

Wake up, residents of White Center, Boulevard Park and Burien! According to a recent King County Library System staff recommendation, the existing White Center and Boulevard Park Libraries would be closed and replaced by a consolidated new library (location as yet undetermined) to serve these North Highline communities. This plan is expected to be acted upon by the KCLS Board of Trustees at their May 24 meeting in North Bend.

In 2004, when the King County voters approved a Capital Bond Measure, part of the plan was to replace the current, heavily used and “aging” 6000 sq.ft. White Center Library with a new 10,000 sq.ft. library on the present site. The Boulevard Park Library would receive some improvements. Other libraries in King County began to be planned with “start dates” as early as 2006. However, in 2007 some “potential modifications” were added to the original plans. For White Center and Boulevard Park, the “potential annexation to the City of Seattle” and rising costs were noted.

In January, 2008, an “Agreement Regarding Disposition of Library Capital Assets in the Event of Certain Annexations” was signed by then-Mayor Nickels and current KCLS Director, Bill Ptacek. This described how the libraries in the “unincorporated North Highline Potential Annexation Area” would be removed from the jurisdiction of KCLS to be then served by the “City’s (Seattle) libraries”. A “transfer of assets”, including money and properties was part of the agreement.

With the annexation of the southern part of North Highline to Burien, both White Center and Boulevard Park libraries became situated within the boundaries of City of Burien. Now, with the White Center Library being situated so close to a potential boundary, KCLS maintains they would be “building a library for Seattle” and has used the political landscape to achieve the original goal, that of consolidating two small libraries into one for the entire area.

Beginning in 2009, when an attempt was made by KCLS acquire part of the Puget Park to build a “Puget Park Library”, the White Center Library Guild, as well as other members of the community, have been aware of the desire of KCLS to close the two smaller libraries in North Highline. Members of the community have spoken out in support of maintaining both libraries. It is the accessibility and responsiveness to the unique needs of the diverse and often low-income patrons that make these libraries so valuable to their communities.

The need for KCLS to be fiscally “prudent” is certainly recognized, as is the reality of rising construction and maintenance costs. After all, they are managing King County property tax money. However, pursuing what is “equitable” is more elusive than financial facts or the results of “surveys”. A library provides a “sense of place” and history. Besides the books, tapes, publications, computers, etc. a library provides a safe place of refuge, where literacy is promoted and both young and old can come for recreation and learning. It is an “icon”, which says to the world, “Here, we value life-long learning for everyone, regardless of income, background, age or ability. In this place, we are a community of learners.”

– Rachael Levine, President White Center, Library Guild
430 S. 124th St.
Burien, WA 98168
(206) 244-7139

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12 Responses to “LETTER: Wake Up, Residents – KCLS Is About To ‘Consolidate’ W.C. Libraries”
  1. Ian Gunsul says:

    North Bend for the BoT meeting?
    Isn’t that convenient for residents of the affected areas who rely on public transportation or have limited funds to spend on fuel for the drive. I would encourage residents to write the KCLS Board of Trustees demanding public meetings at both library locations:
    [email protected]
    Also, contact your local elected officials and let them know your feelings on this study.

  2. Thom Grey says:

    Duh Dudes,
    This decision by the library board stinks worse that an actively used cat litter box that hasn’t been cleaned in 3 weeks. The director of the library system has been hot for a couple of years now to build his new library at the Puget Park site. Even though library users were not super keen to have it there, he has contiued to push for it. Kinda the frosting on the cake is to have the meeting on this topic in North Bend. So that no one down here can raise a stink about it or object to him pushing his agenda through. Dude, write to the library board. We pay a heck of alot for the King County system and should get a chance to have a say. These are two very low income communities that need their libraries for their communities and kids to continue to have a place to go to to learn. If money is such a big issue, how come the Burien Library is running through about 10,000 reams of paper and printer ink per week?

  3. Douglas Sykes says:

    The results of the North Highline Needs Assessment Survey is available on-line from KCLS. Don’t try to get there from the KCLS board sites, as the Board minutes from 3/29/2011 direct you back to the agenda, not the survey results.

    The direct link is as follows:


    Draw your own conclusions from the questions asked, the responses, and the analysis presented. To me, the “survey” looks a lot like the “surveys” run by various political interests around election time where the questions are designed to steer opinions, not to collect and analyze public sentiment. Hopefully the information paid for by KCLS will help us find a solution to the real (not the perceived) problem.

    Personally, I get the impression from the survey that both communities would like a “better” library. But does that mean bigger, more remote, open more hours? Or would the residents find that other things would define a better community library if given the choice?

    The fact that many folks use the Burien library may not be an indication that we would prefer larger, more remote libraries, just that if our local library does not fill a need, we find (maybe less personally efficient) another solution.

  4. Ralph Nichols says:

    Burien City Councilwoman Lucy Krakowiak is also a KCLS Board member. As a city council member, she now represents North Burien where the 2 threatened libraries are located, and the local citizens who use and depend on them.

    While the suggestion to contact all KCLS board members – and request (demand?) that they postpone action to a future meeting in the impacted area (e.g., the Burien Library) – is an excellent one, Ms. Krakowiak should also be contacted and told to stand up for her city and its residents!

    Open government is vital in a free society. Neither a convoluted online link, nor making a major decision impacting local residents at a venue as far away from Burien in King County as you can get, constitutes open government. The first is outright obfuscation; the latter smacks of cowardice and back-room dealings.

    To the KCLS Board, Burien must now say, “Don’t tread on us – and the populations served by these libraries!”

  5. Hotrodgal says:

    A classic case of follow the money…

    A third of the Boulevard Park library’s patrons walk to the library.
    Many folks in the area (many who are children, the poor, the elderly)
    do not have the means to commute a couple miles to the new
    swanky proposed library. What will this mean to Boulevard Park?
    Many of the unemployed will no longer have access to computers,
    children will no longer have the needed resources to grow, and
    literacy will suffer for our most needy.

    From the survey…“Although local residents who use Boulevard
    Park Library were quite positive regarding the quality of services
    and facilities, these results further suggest that the location does
    not fully meet their needs.”
    The location does not fully meet our needs because KCLS has
    apparently chosen to spend the big bucks elsewhere rather than
    providing needed upgrades to our local library.

    I’m wondering if there is any group in the area that would help
    transport folks to this upcoming, conveniently located (North Bend!!)
    public meeting? Maybe a church group with a bus, etc? This is the
    only way, that I can see, that the voices of those most affected will be heard.

    BTW–I have lived and worked in Boulevard Park for over 20 years
    and I know for a fact that the loss of our local library would be
    a major loss to many in my community.

  6. Greg Duff says:

    The last thing these communities need is the loss of the extremely valuable tool to the citizens of White Center and North Highline. Every time I have visited any of these libraries, the computers are all full-of students, job seekers, and people without computers or internet access at home. The stacks are full of people picking out books, videos, and music. The reference areas are especially well used by those researching jobs, taxes and government documents. How can King County Library System possibly take these services away from those in White Center and North Highline?

    I urge the citizens to contact the library board ASAP. and let them know that closing a library is just not acceptable. Here is a link to the King County Library Board.


    Greg Duff

  7. Christine says:

    Maybe going the other way to create many small internet type cafes with free book downloads and community education resource areas might serve the communities better than the current model.

    Soon there will be little reason to actually warehouse so many physical books in libraries. E-readers are getting to be so inexpensive that it would be less expensive to issue them than buy a single book. Inventory control is much easier when the books are digital and not physical copies too…and of course you don’t have to have computers to check them in and out. This would be more environmentally friendly too.

    Having many locations in areas with low internet connectivity makes sense. The computers are very highly used by people without internet access at home and often that use is to help users train for and find jobs.

    Libraries are places to foster the love of learning and a sense of community and history…but I am not sure warehousing large volumes of physical books is needed to achieve these things.

    • elizabeth2 says:

      I know that my age is showing, however, I still READ those “large volumes of physical books” and to me, they are not being warehoused. A library is and should be more than an internet cafe. I browse books, meaning I literally walk through the aisles, pick up books, handle them, look at them and enjoy the sensory appeal of a real paper book.

      Okay, so say I am an old person and there are many of us who will be around to vote or make a difference about such things. Have you ever wandered through the children’s seciton of a library (particularly one like the the warm and friendly previous Burien Library)? Children are sitting on the floor in front of the shelves, taking out books, turning the pages, looking at the pictures and enjoying that.

      I am sure that there is a physical and cognitive link where the brain takes in things from a real physical paper book, turning the pages, staring at big huge color plates.

      So before we start thinking about creating “libraries” comprised of free book downloads and community resources, please consider the value of a real, live library where we can handle real books….

      • Christine says:

        I did not mean to imply a library with no books…I just see more small community based libraries with fewer physical books but access to any book at any time as a positive thing. I admit I am typing this on my iPad and would prefer to get a new release I want today on it than wait on a list for a “real” book.

        Smaller libraries with fewer books and with free e-book downloads would be an economical way for more people to have access to books and Internet access. For those of us who have cars and money to drive them, huge libraries are awesome but for a lot of the community they are luxuries they rarely get to enjoy.

        Printed books are wonderful but they are not as economical or environmentally friendly as downloads. I don’t really miss books either because my middle aged eyes prefer a larger font on my iPad over the reading glasses I need to read a regular book. 🙂

        • Douglas Sykes says:

          There are several issues with e-books, one being that most of the current “publishers” or owners of the digital rights restrict the number of times a library may “loan” a title, usually a set number of times per year. So if a particular book is very popular, the library may only have it available for a short period each year. It is not like exactly being on a wait list like for a physical book, unless you think waiting a year for your turn in the queue is acceptable. This is an issue library systems nationwide are already bumping into.

          Also, Kindle does not support library loan outs, so any titles exclusive to their selection are not available as e-books from the library.

          • Christine says:

            I hope those issues get sorted out! The publishers stand to make a lot more money when the don’t have to print, sell and ship physical books too. Greed does slow down progress.

  8. Hotrodgal says:

    Yup, that will be the day…fall asleep with an iPadded ebook face down on my chest. 🙁

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