When I came to The Seattle Public Library almost eleven years ago, one of my key commitments was to help improve the library materials budget and the ability of Technical Services to streamline its work and get materials ordered and ready for the public more quickly. We even had an internal campaign we called: “The Year of the Book,” but of course it is a lifetime of books for our library and you!
Through years of budget increases, reductions, and increases, as well as the generosity of private donors to The Seattle Public Library Foundation, we’ve managed to bring our materials budget closer to what has been identified as “the ideal materials budget.” And through the excellent work of staff we get materials into readers’ hands more quickly and due to sharp negotiations we get larger discounts from vendors. Recently a staff committee studied our holds and delivery processes and through careful implementation of its recommendations we have been able to move materials through our system quicker and more efficiently. As staff continue to work on this the public will notice even more improvements.
We have also created an amazing virtual library out of nowhere. In fact, this blog is just one of the many new ways we are communicating with our patrons and providing readers’ advisory services. But – it’s important that our community not stop here – but check out our on-line databases, downloadable materials, and all the other resources to be found on our Web site, www.spl.org.
I have been asked to comment on books that influenced me or alternately books I might be reading during my transition between my position here as City Librarian and my new position leading the Global Libraries Initiative for The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The first question is too hard; like many readers I find something important in every book I read. Something that touches my heart, teaches me, makes me laugh, and on and on. Even my favorite book would be hard to name but when forced to do so I often say – Our Mutual Friend, Angle of Repose, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Hunting Mr. Heartbreak – but yikes… this is just too hard!
I do know the books I’m planning to read during my month of no job. I’ve been physically gathering, putting on reserve at the library, listing on my iPhone “notes” section the books I intend to read. They reflect the yin-yang of my reading tastes.
Robert Fagles, Iliad– When Fagles died recently I knew it was important to take time to re-read this.
Robert Caro, Means of Ascent (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, volume 2) – I am a political animal and Caro gets to the essence of Johnson and political savvy.
Sheila Weller, Girls Like Us – I know it isn’t supposed to be very good, but I am 56 years old and am of the exact era she is writing on.
Jonathan Raban, Old Glory – I started re-reading this before the recent Mississippi flooding because my book group had just read (or re-read in most of our cases) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. How very relevant and remarkable it is to be reading this right now.
Joseph O’Neill, Netherland – It seems to be the hot book of the season; I’m #55 on the library’s reserve list so might not get it until after I start my new job.
Richard Price, Lush Life – I actually – gulp – bought this! I am such a library user that I own almost NO books!
If YOU are ever at a loss for what to read, talk to our wonderful librarians. They are chock full of great ideas and have sure helped me when I’ve been in a reading slump.
And, because the world is changing and so is our remarkable library, I plan to stay modern by buying myself a going away present of a Kindle!
I will miss you all but will continue to be an avid library user, supporter, and reader!