The Friends asked candidates for Mayor of Seattle three questions about the Library, its future, and how a book influenced them and their views.  These are their responses, listed in the order in which we received them:

 

Casey Carlisle

Q1. What is your vision for the library of the future, and how would you engage and promote The Seattle Public Library’s evolution over the next 5-10 years?

I want the Friends of the Seattle Public Library to be solely responsible for running the Seattle Public Library. Those who claim to care about the library will then be able to prove they care about the library instead of forcing their values on everyone else. Instead of forcing everyone to pay for a service that relatively few people use, this method will be more efficient, and therefore cheaper, than how the library is currently operating.

Q2. The levy expires in 2019. Will you champion a renewal of the levy?

No. Taxing all for the benefit of a few is unethical. If City Hall extracted less money from Seattleites, residents would have more disposable income with which to donate to organizations like yours. If “thousands of Seattleites” truly care about the library and its many programs, then they will be able to prove that sentiment with their donations. Rationalizing that “I care about the library, so everyone else should be forced to care.” is as ridiculous as it is pretentious and lazy. I have no reason to doubt that people truly care about the library, so if City Hall focused only on public safety, water, electricity, and roads, then those compassionate Seattleites will be better able to put their money where their mouth is.

Q3. Could you tell us about a book that has influenced you as a person and shaped your political agenda?

Ludwig von Mises wrote Liberalism 90 years ago, but it’s as relevant now as it was then. Reading it helped reinforce certain beliefs of mine: partisanship is harmful; socialism is worse, and “anticapitalism can maintain itself in existence only by sponging on capitalism.” Regarding individual liberty, Republicans and Democrats are the same, as they both trample individual liberty but in their own special way. Today, liberalism in the US is better known as libertarianism, and since our current local and national political climate is so divisive and intolerant, Mises’ words are truer now than ever:
Liberalism promises no one privileges, but the other parties promise special advantages at the expense of the rest of society. Liberalism is the party of peace; liberals desire peace and the ascendancy of ideas. In the eyes of most people, even when they are able to recognize the truth, a momentary, special advantage that may be enjoyed immediately appears more important than a lasting greater gain that must be deferred. The slogans of interventionism and of socialism always find ready and enthusiastic approval with the masses who expect to profit directly and immediately from them.
I read Liberalism online in the comfort of my own apartment at no additional cost, meaning someone else didn’t pay for me to check out the book from a library.


Jason Roberts

Q1. What is your vision for the library of the future, and how would you engage and promote The Seattle Public Library’s evolution over the next 5-10 years?

The shift in media and how we absorb it will determine how we use the library in the coming years. There will always be a place for a brick and mortar libraries, I believe they are integral for our city and our culture. Though I would like to see the digital aspect of our libraries continue to evolve and embrace new technologies.

Q2. The levy expires in 2019.  Will you champion a renewal of the levy?

Yes! The need to fund libraries has never been greater.

Q3. Could you tell us about a book that has influenced you as a person and shaped your political agenda?

When I was in ninth grade I chose to do a report on “The Social Contract” by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
The book was a bit above our level of freshman civics. I found myself having to reread entire passages to get the meaning and I was hard pressed to finish it within the time frame. The process of understanding that book, or not understanding it in part; set me down a path of questions that could only be answered by more books. It changed the way I looked at history, politics, and philosophy and vicariously the way I think in general.


Cary Moon

Q1. What is your vision for the library of the future, and how would you engage and promote The Seattle Public Library’s evolution over the next 5-10 years?

First, it is essential that we do not turn our backs on libraries. The many public benefits they offer, and the commitment to true equity and inclusiveness at the heart of their missions, make both libraries and parks the most visible and pure expressions of democracy a city can offer. In this time of dismantling public institutions at the federal level, and the wavering disarray in Olympia, cities must stay fully committed to upholding investment in these egalitarian public institutions where we are all equal ascitizens. They represent the best in us as a society.For the future, many challenges are on the table: privacy vs access to knowledge; welcoming design for the public vs space for collections and archives; balancing investments in digital and print; keeping up with ever-evolving media;; and balancing the duty to provide access to technology vs all the other roles libraries play. As mayor I will relish the chance to work with the Seattle Public Library, the Friends of theLibrary, city planners and library science futurists to envision the future of SPL and develop a plan to evolve there.

Q2. The levy expires in 2019. Will you champion a renewal of the levy?
Absolutely yes.
Q3. Could you tell us about a book that has influenced you as a person and shaped your political

Justice, Nature, and the Geography of Difference by David Harvey. There are many good books by David Harvey, and as an urban planner and urban designer I have read hundreds of books / essays about the theory of cities and the politics of their development. This one stands out for me because it is focused most constructively on solutions to the contradictions of capitalism at the city level, inspiring the reader to imagine what people-centered processes of urbanization might be. It engages the questions of the commons, urban growth, macroeconomics, social justice, our relationship to ecology, and society’s use of technology all together. It helped form my foundational understanding of how physical form, power dynamics and civic/political processes are all factors contributing to how the city functions as a venue for democracy. And it inspired a deep commitment to our ‘right to the city’ as a fundamental human right, which I think of not so much as a legal right but as a political and moral right to shape our own future, and define how we relate to one another as a society and as a shared economic system.


Jessyn Farrell

Q1. What is your vision for the library of the future, and how would you engage and promote The Seattle Public Library’s evolution over the next 5-10 years?

The Seattle Public Library is the heart and soul of our city. It is a center of our educational and cultural life, a key part of our safety net, and one of the strongest threads holding together our civic fabric. The successful completion of the Libraries for All building program has provided us with beautiful, welcoming, re-imagined public spaces that will allow for innovative uses and programming. My vision for the next decade is for the SPL to innovate while continuing to serve its core functions of promoting literacy, providing continuing education, supporting intellectual freedom, and fostering a healthy democracy. That means further democratizing access to technology, including possibly through makerspaces or partnerships with nonprofit makerspaces. It means building civic engagement through new programs conceived and cultivated through the Library’s community listening sessions. And it means finding new ways of reaching marginalized and vulnerable populations, especially in the communities that are home to the Library’s new branches.

Q2. The levy expires in 2019.  Will you champion a renewal of the levy?

Yes. The levy was crucial in restoring services cut during the recession, expanding hours so that libraries are open when people need them, increasing the book-buying budget, maintaining the buildings, and keeping technology up-to-date and accessible to all. We need to continue to support all of these goals by renewing the Libraries for All levy.

Q3. Could you tell us about a book that has influenced you as a person and shaped your political agenda?

The Unconquerable World, by Jonathan Schell, is one of the books that has influenced my view of the world the most. He tells a scholarly but gripping narrative of violence through human history and makes a forceful argument that in our time, nonviolence has become more powerful. He shows how, even in the midst of violent events, regular people can change politics and the world by peaceful, committed, nonviolent action. The idea that we can make a difference by organizing and working together has inspired my career in activism and politics.

Jenny Durkan

Q1. What is your vision for the library of the future, and how would you engage and promote The Seattle Public Library’s evolution over the next 5-10 years?

Seattle’s unprecedented growth makes its Public Library system increasingly important – we need to ensure continued access to the information resources and services provided by our Library. Neighborhoods and urban villages must have affordable housing, excellent public schools, and thriving small businesses all within easy walking distance to transit. Access to the Seattle Public Library is an essential component to livability and must be an integral part of the planning process and should account for the needs and desires of the communities its branches will serve. As the most democratic of public institutions, it’s imperative that our planning process specifically address racial and economic equity to ensure access to the library in underserved areas of the city. Now, more than ever, we need to support the Public Library system to ensure that Andrew Carnegie’s vision of the library as a “never failing spring in the desert” holds true.

Q2. The levy expires in 2019.  Will you champion a renewal of the levy?

Yes.

 Q3. Could you tell us about a book that has influenced you as a person and shaped your political agenda?

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

 I have read this book many times, and each time I am struck by something new.  Two scenes were particularly influential on my career. The most significant is Atticus’ closing arguments, in which he refers to the courts as the “great leveler”. To him this means every person has a right to justice, regardless of race, personal circumstances, station in life, or background. This view of justice has inspired me to work on issues of inequality and discrimination. While we have not achieved Atticus’ vision of universal justice, I have fought to realize this goal for my whole career.

 

The other scene that always struck a chord with me was when the community mob goes to the jail with the intention of lynching Tom. Scout appears and does not seem to recognize the gravity of the situation. She calls out innocently to someone in the mob (Mr. Cunningham) by name, asking after his son. She simply asks him to tell his son “hey”. The tension is broken, and the man feels ashamed. He then calls for everyone in the mob to leave. This reminds us that people’s individual humanity is the best weapon against injustice.

I have also always liked the quote: “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”


Mike McGinn

Q1. What is your vision for the library of the future, and how would you engage and promote The Seattle Public Library’s evolution over the next 5-10 years?
Libraries are critical community spaces. They support continual learning, provide a safe place for people young and old, are a critical point of contact for immigrant and refugee communities, and connect people to economic opportunity. They do this for everyone, across the board. Investing in libraries is a key way for Seattle to become a more equitable city. Libraries have always been at the forefront of what’s now coined as the ‘shared economy.’ Libraries will always need to adapt, but I believe they will withstand the test of time. The people of Seattle have a very strong feeling of ownership toward their libraries. From my experience, it is the community, staff, and board which set the vision, and it is a Mayor’s job to foster the environment in which the vision can be realized. That is how we developed and passed the library levy in 2012.

Q2. The levy expires in 2019. Will you champion a renewal of the levy?

Absolutely. As Mayor, I worked to pass the previous levy in 2012, allowing expansion of collections, programs, restoration of Sunday hours, and ending the weeklong library closure
That said, in the context of making Seattle a more affordable place to live, we may want to explore more progressive tax options as alternative to or in combination with the property tax.

Q3. Could you tell us about a book that has influenced you as a person and shaped your political agenda?

There’s a long list of books, and I was and am an avid reader. I am a particular fan of personal narratives that illuminate history. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson describes the migration of African-Americans from the American South to cities in the North, Midwest and West, by focusing on the stories of individuals that undertook those journeys. It is a story of refugees fleeing oppression and seeking opportunity, but entirely within our country’s borders. It is also a story of how our cities were changed by and responded to that migration, both positively and very negatively. It is a piece of our history rarely shared in school, but it turns out to be absolutely central to understanding where we are today.