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Schoolchildren join ranks of library branch supporters

In front of Spokane City Hall, students from Sheridan and Franklin elementary schools and Chase Middle School protest the proposed closure of the East Side Library on Monday.  (Colin Mulvany)
In front of Spokane City Hall, students from Sheridan and Franklin elementary schools and Chase Middle School protest the proposed closure of the East Side Library on Monday. (Colin Mulvany)

Students testify at City Council meeting

Nearly 50 Spokane students got a lesson in local government Monday as they arrived at City Hall to share their disapproval of the proposed closure of the East Side Library.

The students took a chartered bus from Sheridan Elementary, where most of them attend, to appear at the City Council meeting.

“I would have no place to do homework, and no place to check out books,” Brittany Moshan, a Sheridan sixth-grader, said in an interview after she testified at the meeting. She said the library is the only quiet place she has to finish her work uninterrupted.

Hoping to fill a $150,000 budget shortfall, library officials are proposing the closure of the East Side branch. The City Council and mayor decide how much the libraries have to spend, but the Spokane Public Library Board of Trustees decides how that money is spent.

Library officials have said one reason they’ve chosen the East Side branch for closure is because it’s closer to the downtown branch.

But students said kids who use East Side can’t easily get to other branches.

Brandy Dietz, a Chase Middle School student who testified Monday, said she walks to East Side at least twice a week. If it closed, she doesn’t have an easy way to get to another branch.

“I would try to get my mom or dad to drive me to the downtown location, but it would happen once a month – maybe,” she said.

Louise Chadez, who has helped organize opposition to the closure, walked from Sheridan to City Hall Monday night. It took her more than an hour. She said it’s unreasonable to believe the downtown branch is within reach of many East Central residents. Chadez is partnering with Cindy Zapatocky, chairwoman of the Spokane County Republican Party, who with her husband, John Zapatocky, paid to charter the bus.

Suzie Burnes, Sheridan’s librarian, said the turnout at City Council after school underscores that students “realize the value of books.”

“They realize the value of the library to their future education,” she said.

City Council President Joe Shogan noted that even if the money is found to save the East Side branch in 2011, more shortfalls are expected in 2012 because the library plans to use reserves to balance its budget in 2012.

“The real scary part is in the long run,” he said.



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