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The People's Library features a media station and books for library patrons in the Central District. (KUOW/Meghan Walker)

The People's Library features a media station and books for library patrons in the Central District. (KUOW/Meghan Walker)

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Community Resources Fill Void From Citywide Library Closures


This week, Seattle public libraries are closed due to budget cuts. The doors are locked, the book drops are closed, and there's no Internet access. KUOW's Meghan Walker headed out to see how people are coping.


It's about 11:00 a.m., and the People's Library is just getting started for the day.

Gabriel Plummer: "This is all general fiction, and then you'll eventually get to, at the top of the stairs, this really awesome Internet section."

Gabriel Plummer is showing me around this pop–up library. It's set up just outside of the Douglass–Truth Library in the Central District. It has almost everything the library has: cookbooks, nonfiction, kids books, all set up in milk crates and make–shift shelves. It even has a couple laptops with Internet access. The words "media station" are scrawled in chalk just under a blue tarp where the computers are set up.

Chris Hackmeyer, a volunteer, said the laptops have been a big hit.

Hackmeyer: "That's been one of our more popular services. I mean a lot of people do count on the libraries for internet access. It's very important to people. We've had people come out to apply for jobs, apply for public housing, people who needed to pay their bills online, as well as just for fun. So it's definitely gotten a lot of use."

Hackmeyer and some friends set up the People's Library to give people a chance to access books and Internet while the city's libraries are shut down this week. Community centers and neighborhood service centers are also offering people computer access.

A man who goes by the name Blackbird is using the computer at the People's Library. He says it's been difficult keeping in touch with his family in the south who are preparing for Hurricane Isaac.

Blackbird: "It's just coming now. I don't see any major reports or anything. They're just watching it as it builds up momentum."

Right now, this is the only way he's keeping in touch with people. Blackbird usually uses the library downtown. He says he's been frustrated with the way the city handles the timing of the closures.

Blackbird: "If the library's gotta close while kids are about to go to school, I don't know how that makes any sense. If you want to save money, close the libraries in the winter. They don't ask the people, obviously."

The libraries chose this week to close because school isn't in session and they say it's a slow time of year. City budget cuts have meant one–week closures for Seattle's libraries for the past four years. The library has said new levy dollars will eliminate its annual week–long closures. Voters passed the levy this month.

I'm Meghan Walker, KUOW News.

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