Magazine article American Libraries

Washington Governor Proposes Closing State Library. (News Fronts)

Magazine article American Libraries

Washington Governor Proposes Closing State Library. (News Fronts)

Article excerpt

The Washington State Library is in a fight for its very existence following a proposal by Gov. Gary Locke to close the facility to address a massive budget shortfall. The draconian measure is among dozens of midcourse budget revisions that would cut $566 million from the remaining year of the two-year budget cycle and add $573 million in new revenue.

Closing the state library, which employs nearly 140 people statewide, would save $5.6 million, the Seattle Times reported December 19. Locke's plan also calls for the elimination of 29 other programs, for a total saving of $164 million. However, the state library and the state film office are the only agencies slated to be abolished altogether.

State Librarian Nancy Zussy said it was hard to say why her agency was singled out. The governor's office only told her that the library "is not central to the mission of government." However, she noted, the arts commission and museums weren't targeted for cuts.

Locke's budget assistant, Jim Crawford, confirmed Zussy's suspicion. "The governor's view is that many agencies are accessing most of their information online," he told American Libraries, adding that the number of visitors to the facility has plummeted over the past decade. He noted that a study conducted in 2000 by the state's Institute for Public Policy (available at www.wsipp.wa.gov/government/stategov.html) called for a redefinition of the role and functions of the state library.

Crawford said Washington has been hit hard by the recession and the aftermath of the September 11 attacks--aircraft manufacturer Boeing is the state's largest employer--and rising health-care costs, school enrollments, and social-service caseloads have driven up spending. …

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