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CLR Case Studies–Seattle Public Library



Deputy City Librarian (now Acting City Librarian) Craig Buthod reflected on the challenges that the Seattle Public Library is facing.

  • The central library is cramped and will require extensive renovation for technology. A bond referenda for library facilities failed in 1994, but will be on the ballot again to provide funding for renovation or construction of a new central facility and to renovate and expand branch libraries.
  • Librarians today need more technical expertise. Some jobs require non-librarian technical experts. For hard-core technology, expertise may have to come from outside the library. The library also needs to build up technical support staff. With staff turnover, some library assistant positions may become computer technician positions.
  • Computer security is a big operational issue. Patrons have reconfigured software, for example.
  • Because the library has been an early leader in technology, it has a large installed base of older software and equipment. The move from dial-in access and gopher and other text-based systems to the World Wide Web and image-based systems is costly and time consuming.
  • Adjusting budgets to pay for technology and electronic collections is a challenge. The library has protected the book budget. In 1995, the library dropped microfilm periodicals, and some CD-ROM indexes when the text of journal articles became available online. But the library has not dropped paper subscriptions for serials in the browsing collections.
  • A large library that is ahead of the curve in technology development still needs financial support from its public sector supporters–state, regional, or federal. If the leaders are not supported, they will no longer be leaders.
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