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

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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