Happy New Year! I am pleased to start the new year by reflecting on the significant accomplishments The Seattle Public Library has made in the past 12 months and sharing our expectations for 2015.
In 2014, we invited inaugural poet Richard Blanco to be our Seattle Reads author. He shared his life as a Latino immigrant and openly gay man discovering a new, emotional understanding of what it means to be an American.
We expanded on our longtime Summer of Reading Program to launch a Summer of Learning program for children and teens to engage students and foster learning during the summer academic break. In addition to maintaining its traditional focus on reading and free educational programs, the expanded program focused on science, technology, engineering, arts and math - areas especially important to the future success of students. We reached beyond the walls of the libraries to connect with children at schools, churches, community centers, parks, food banks, youth groups and tutoring programs, increasing both the number of programs and the number of participants.
In May, we celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Central Library with a week of fun activities for all ages. In addition to honoring the building and the people behind the building, we engaged patrons and donors in sustaining libraries into the future.
Increasingly we are focused on five key Service Priorities developed to respond to the needs of the community: youth and family learning, technology and access, Seattle culture and history, community engagement, and re-imagined spaces. We've met with stakeholders in each area, developed roadmaps for future opportunities and held in-service days to clarify for all our staff the vision of what we intend to accomplish.
We also have looked for ways to become a greater presence in the community and to create experiences for our patrons.
We've held "Seattle Cooks" events at farmers markets and wine tastings. We invited people to support the Seahawks when we screened the football playoffs and championship game at the Central Library, and did the same for soccer fans for the World Cup games this summer. We offered "Banned! Books in Drag," a free evening of drag and literature at Neighbours nightclub that attracted more than 300 people.
We've taken "Open Air pop-up libraries" to Bumbershoot, summer festivals and concerts to connect with people in the community, inspiring one patron to write:
"What a delight it was to come across the pop up library at Bumbershoot this weekend. This was my 21st Bumbershoot in a row. My daughter, who is twelve, has been in attendance since she was in utero... As introverts, we have carefully considered routines and practices for handling the mayhem. Our backpacks carry homemade muffins, sunscreen, Band-Aids, water bottles -- and always a library book. Whether we're waiting for a band to begin or just need a few moments to remove ourselves from the chaos around us, having a library book on hand is immeasurably helpful.
"So when my daughter and I wandered across the pop up library this weekend, we were both already carrying library books with us. Still, we couldn't resist spending some time browsing the stacks. The shelves and benches were quirky and welcoming, and the librarians who assisted us were knowledgeable, friendly and funny. My kid and I each walked away with three more books, which was really impractical but such fun...
"It all felt really Seattley, in the best way. I wanted to send praise for the smart folks who came up with this idea. I hope the library will pop up at Bumbershoots again in the future."
I can guarantee you that we will continue to look for even more ways to connect with the community this year.
In 2015, we embark on the third year of implementing the seven-year levy that voters approved in 2012 to increase open hours, add more books and materials, upgrade our computers and online services and enhance our building maintenance.
We have increased hours systemwide, and we will continue to add materials in print and electronic formats. We are nearly finished upgrading our Wi-Fi infrastructure and this year will upgrade our self-checkout systems and begin redesigning our website to make it easier to use. Major maintenance projects include refurbishing the Capitol Hill Branch and creating a more flexible area for children and families at the Rainier Beach Branch.
We also expect the new year to bring us more partnerships to leverage our ability to serve the public, along with a continued focus on youth.
We are excited about the year ahead and the opportunities to improve lives every day - in every neighborhood - making Seattle a better city for all of us.
None of these achievements would have happened without our wonderful staff and Library Board, and the steady support of our volunteers, donors, The Seattle Public Library Foundation and the Friends of The Seattle Public Library.
We're looking forward to a wonderful year. I'll see you at the Library.
The Seattle Public Library