Happy New Year from The Seattle Public Library! The beginning of a new year is one of my favorite times, because it gives us a moment to pause and reflect on our previous year's accomplishments and to get excited about what's ahead.
In 2016, the Library honored its 125 years in Seattle by supporting our long-held institutional mission of bringing people, information and ideas together to enrich lives and build community through compelling programs, thoughtful community partnerships and an appetite for experimentation. As evidence of these efforts, for the seventh consecutive year, the Library received the highest five-star rating by Library Journal, the leading magazine for Library professionals.
Here is an overview of what we worked on in 2016 and some glimpses of what you can expect from us in 2017.
Board of trustees changes
I would like to thank Theresa Fujiwara for her leadership as president of the Library Board of trustees. Fujiwara, who was appointed to the board in 2010, has served as president for the last two years. We look forward to continuing to work with Fujiwara as she completes her second term on the board, and welcoming Kristi England as the new board president. England has been on the board since 2012.
Lastly, I would like to give a warm welcome to three new board members: Ron Chew, Jay Reich and Vaughnetta J. Barton.
Programs and Collections
In 2016, we hosted two major exhibits:
- "First Folio: The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare" was a four-week nationally touring exhibit of one of the most important books ever published. The exhibit, brought to us by The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., attracted 12,800 visitors and another 3,600 who participated in our related public events and activities.
- The "Tiny: Streetwise Revisited" photography exhibit explored the life of a homeless Seattle teen over the course of 30 years through the lens of photographer Mary Ellen Mark and her husband, documentarian Martin Bell. Approximately 13,500 people visited the powerful exhibit and about 1,100 participated in related programs.
We hosted thought-provoking talks with authors, such as Colson Whitehead, Jeffrey Toobin, Luvvie Ajayi and Lindy West, Michael Chabon and more.
We engaged with the community through neighborhood events and facilitated important discussions, such as our Rainier Beach Heart & Soul neighborhood celebration, our Housing is a Human Right panel discussion, our StoryCorps local oral history project with KUOW, and our Create Change arts advocacy day about youth and family homelessness.
In our collections, we introduced PlayBack, a new community-curated online collection of local music, and the never-before-published George Gulacsik Space Needle photography collection.
Community Engagement and Community Listening
We worked with several partner organizations – including KEXP, the Seattle School District, Seattle Housing Authority, The King County Library System, the Association of King County Historical Organizations, and several others – to host four "Community Conversations" centered around our Service Priorities, including Youth and Family Learning, Seattle Culture and History, Re-imagining Library Spaces, and Community Engagement. Thanks to all who have participated and shared your ideas at these events. We will host another of these conversations in the first half of 2017 to talk about the Library's work around Technology and Access. I hope you will join us to share your ideas about how we can improve our technology-related programs and services.
As the number of people experiencing homelessness in Seattle and King County increases, the Library is doubling down on our efforts to support this community in need. Our Community Engagement Services team held a series of community listening sessions at homeless shelters and encampments throughout the city. The team offered resources and services on-site and listened to learn how the Library can better serve their needs. We also introduced a two-year pilot program to bring a Community Resource Specialist into our buildings. Thanks to this partnership with the Downtown Emergency Service Center, we are better connecting patrons who may be experiencing homelessness to the supportive services we need.
We have also solidified a partnership with the Municipal Court Resource Center after a very successful pilot. Through the partnership, Library staff connect Seattle Community Court defendants to resources – including information on housing, employment, technology, medical resources and more – on-site at the Court's resource center.
Maintenance and Service Improvements
Two neighborhood branch libraries and our Mobile Services received an upgrade in 2016. We celebrated the re-opening of a beautifully refurbished Rainier Beach Library, began making maintenance improvements to the High Point Library, and launched a brand new state-of-the-art Bookmobile that serves childcare facilities and preschools for low-income families.
One change we were particularly thrilled to make was restoring Friday hours at the High Point, International District/Chinatown, South Park and University libraries, which had experienced reduced hours following the Great Recession.
We introduced new King County ballot drop boxes at four Library locations and even got to boast that more people dropped off ballots at our Ballard Branch than any other location in the county! This brings our total number of ballot drop boxes to seven Library locations.
Lastly, we began work on the much-anticipated redesign of our spl.org website and will continue to seek your comments and feedback throughout 2017.
What I've shared is just some of the work we accomplished or launched in 2016 – and that doesn't count the many other Library programs and resources you have come to rely on.
We look forward to another successful year of serving you by providing the resources and assistance you need to discover new opportunities and realize your dreams! Thank you for your ongoing support for the Library and best wishes for a happy new year. I'll see you at the Library.