More than 20 Seattle libraries to see rolling closures due to city hiring freeze

(The Center Square) – Seattle will implement scheduled closures of over 20 public libraries as a result of hiring freezes and looming budget shortfalls.

Seattle Public Library will be implementing the library closures intermittently through June 4 due to limited staffing capacity throughout its library branches.

The announced closures are going through despite Seattle’s public library system having successfully hired over 160 new staff members since 2020 to meet and exceed pre-pandemic open hours. 

Seattle Public Library was even able to expand open hours systemwide, thanks in part to a seven-year, $219.1 million property tax levy to maintain and enhance library services from 2020 through 2026. The levy costs the average median Seattle homeowner approximately $8 per year.

Earlier this year, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell instituted a partial hiring freeze, citing a “significant financial gap forecasted in 2025.” At the time, the projected budget deficit facing the city was $230 million. Since then, a new labor contract with city workers caused the deficit to grow to a projected $245 million.

Seattle Public Library is a non-executive city department that has the authority to authorize its own hiring policies. Despite this, the library has implemented a hiring freeze in tandem with the mayor. However, Chief Librarian Tom Fay has approved some exemptions, such as allowing the library to hire temporary staff to help stabilize operations.

Last month, library employees warned Seattle city councilmembers that library closures will come soon and that employees are already experiencing burnout from increased workload.

“This is a wake-up call for our city,” Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales said in a statement following the announcement. “Without urgent action, things will get so much worse than this.”

Morales called on her fellow councilmembers to explore ways to make corporations based in Seattle and the wealthiest residents pay their fair share as a way to address the $245 million budget deficit without cutting more city services. 

“It’s the only way we protect our libraries and the services all of us depend on,” said Morales.

Here is the full list of Seattle Public Library schedule closures through June 4

  • Central Library: No planned closures
  • Ballard Branch: No planned closures
  • Beacon Hill Branch: Closed Sunday, April 14, April 28, May 12 and May 26
  • Broadview Branch: Closed on Sundays through June 4
  • Capitol Hill Branch: Opening at noon on Thursdays and closed on Sundays through June 4
  • Columbia Branch: Closed Saturdays through June 4
  • Delridge Branch: No planned closures
  • Douglass-Truth Branch: Closed Saturdays from April 20 through June 4
  • Fremont Branch: Closed Fridays through June 4
  • Green Lake Branch: Currently closed for seismic retrofit construction
  • Greenwood Branch: No planned closures
  • High Point Branch: Closed Sundays through June 4
  • International District/Chinatown Branch: Closed Fridays through June 4
  • Lake City Branch: Closed Sundays through June 4
  • Madrona Sally-Goldmark Branch: Closed Wednesdays and Fridays through June 4
  • Magnolia Branch: Closed Sundays through June 4
  • Montlake Branch: Closed Tuesdays and Fridays through June 4
  • NewHolly Branch: Closed Mondays through June 4
  • Northeast Branch: Closed Fridays through June 4
  • Northgate Branch: Closed Saturdays through June 4
  • Queen Anne Branch: Closed Saturdays from April 20 through June 4
  • Rainier Beach Branch: Closed Sunday, April 21, May 5, May 19 and June 2
  • South Park Branch: Closed Mondays through June 4
  • Southwest Branch: Closed Saturdays from April 20 through June 4
  • University Branch:No planned closures
  • Wallingford Branch: Closed Fridays and Saturdays through June 4
  • West Seattle Branch: Closed Fridays through June 4

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