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Tuesday, February 26, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Library closures set for August and December

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Seattle's public libraries will shut down Aug. 26 through Sept. 1 and Dec. 17 though Dec. 23 in a cost-cutting move approved yesterday by the Library Board.

The shutdown is expected to save $850,000, with labor costs accounting for much of it. A two-week closure had been agreed to last fall as part of the 2002 budget, but the dates had not been decided. Library officials had suggested closing one week in November and another in May, but some people at City Hall had noted that those were prime-use times for students.

Mayor Greg Nickels had said he opposed the shutdown and wanted city Librarian Deborah Jacobs to find another way to cut the $34.7 million operating budget.

She did not. Nickels' spokeswoman, Marianne Bichsel, said the mayor would let the decision stand. "They've gone a long way down the road on this," she said. "We're not going to revisit it."

The library-workers union agreed to the shutdown last fall to avoid layoffs.

Not only will the libraries be closed for two weeks, but there also may be fewer books on the shelves than expected.

To meet Nickels' call for $337,000 more in budget cuts, part of a new $7.1 million reduction in the budget citywide, the Library Board yesterday agreed to trim $160,000 from this year's $3.9 million spending plan for books, databases and other materials.

"It was a very tough decision," Jacobs said yesterday, adding that in the library system, the main costs are labor and books.

But even as cost-cutting abounds, the price of building the new Central Library is going up. Originally budgeted at $159.2 million, the cost rose last year to $161.2 million.

Now, changes to the glass and metal-mesh "skin" of the building, designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, will put the price at $165.5 million. No additional public money will be used.

Donations to the Seattle Library Foundation will make up the difference.

Architects on the project say tinted glass will not be used, as had been planned. Clear-glass panels will enclose a metal-mesh layer.

The library is to open late next year.

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