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Jen Waller
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Your response to Paul Constant is perfect. Since I am from Seattle I feel like I'm modestly familiar with both The Stranger and SPL. I read The Stranger's response (and the ensuing comments) on the day it first posted. First, you pretty much hit the nail on the head when you wrote: " he seems like he has a chip on his shoulder and is channeling the spirit of talk radio by taking things out of context and then trying to cause problems—while simultaneously posturing his angsty hipster image. " The Stranger is an alt-paper that gives new meaning to cynicism, sarcasm, and disparagement. Call me Pollyana, but I stopped reading the print version long ago. I read their blog about once a week, and I frequently tell myself to just remove them from my feed all together. They're just so negative. That said, there are definitely some problems at SPL. The budget situation is tough all over, but the way SPL's budget is determined is – to my mind – extremely problematic. I won't go into the gory details here, but the budget (and how/where it falls within the overall city budget) is publicly available. You are exactly correct: the Central Library is architecturally beautiful. It's a showpiece. Operationally, it is a difficult place in which to work. More importantly, I think a lot of users have come to realize its limitations. The "fix" for a lot of the problems probably require a lot of architectural changes. That's tough in any climate. One of the places where SPL really shines is in their branch system. I feel like the Central Library is a the showpiece for tourists, and much of the real "good work" happens at the branches. Nearly every single branch was remodeled or rebuilt in the recent "Libraries for All" capital campaign. I think the branches are where "it's at," and they are where much of the really good, relevant programming takes place. Many friends and colleagues had problems with Deborah Jacobs, the ex-City Librarian (I'm not one of those people). I will say this about her: there was probably no better advocate for the system. She put herself front and center where she needed to be. She has related stories about phoning city government officials on a weekly schedule. She is a tough act to follow. So. I can see both sides. You are exactly right though: Writers at The Stranger (and, by default, probably many of its readers) like stirring things up. It's easier than taking real action. Great post. I'm really glad you responded and took the stance you did.
I'm glad to read about the upcoming projects, but I was really pleased to read about your Dylan binge. He's a poet and an important voice in U.S. history. In some ways he reminds me of Whitman! Looking forward to following your "more to come."
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Jan 3, 2010