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February 24, 2018

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Library News Release

Release Date: 11/17/2006

Did you know you can get almost any question you think of answered at The Seattle Public Library?

What do you want to know?

How to start your own non-profit group? The name of your great-great-great grandmother? The title of a song you danced to in high school?

Ask a librarian at The Seattle Public Library for help!

At the new Central Library, your first stop should be the "Mixing Chamber" on Level 5, the library's trading floor for information - a new and efficient way to answer your questions.

Here, you'll find teams of librarians available to help you using extensive reference collections and electronic resources. A dumbwaiter quickly delivers materials to the Mixing Chamber from the Books Spiral, which houses the majority of the nonfiction collection. Staff members wear wireless communication devices to contact librarians in the Books Spiral when needed.

Some of the librarians work in subject areas such as the culinary arts, music, genealogy, business and the history of Seattle. They deepen their knowledge by doing research, traveling to conferences, and seeking out opportunities for professional development - and then they train their colleagues so everyone is better able to help the public.

Culinary arts librarian Linda Saunto is an expert in cooking, nutrition, wine, cooking research and the history of food, including its role in rituals in other countries. She's traveled to Mexico to study the Day of the Dead celebrations to enhance her expertise. She is so knowledgeable that cookbook authors Graham Kerr and Jackie Williams have thanked her in their books for her reference help.

"I need to know my subject," said Saunto, a northeast Seattle resident who belongs to a professional group called the International Association of Culinary Professionals. "I know the authors of the best reference books on cooking and who to call to answer questions for the public. I also study the cultural significance of food in celebrations, which helps me make personal connections with our diverse patrons."

Genealogy librarians John LaMont and Darlene Hamilton help patrons research their family trees, a popular activity for many people.

"Our patrons look to us to be experts," said soon-to-be Ballard resident LaMont, who teaches a class on researching genealogy on the Internet. "The more you know, the better service you can provide."

Hamilton, an Eastside resident who has worked in genealogy at the Library since 1971, says she loves to hear people's personal stories and connect them with their personal history.

"Every time I come back from a conference or educate myself on a topic, someone shows up at the desk with a related question," she said. "And I know where to go to look this up because I've just learned about it."

In addition to helping individual patrons, Hamilton began teaching "Beginning Your Family History" classes in 1985. She also conducts monthly tours of the Central Library's genealogy collection and gives tours by request to groups.

Sheila Knutsen (Greenwood), John Brower (Maple Leaf) and Bob Tangney (Ballard) are music librarians. In addition to keeping themselves current on popular, international and classical music, they also attend training to learn about services such as digitization of music. The librarians particularly find useful conferences held by the International Association of Music Libraries, which Knutsen attended in Norway in 2004, and the Music Library Association, which all three librarians have attended.

Brower said connecting with colleagues around the world allows him to tap their knowledge base to help answer questions for patrons. He keeps on top of technological advances and trends such as downloadable music. And sometimes, he engages in the Library version of "Name That Tune" when patrons whistle a few bars of a song and ask him for the title.

"It definitely feels like being a music detective," he said. "It's a cool job. Everybody in the department loves doing this kind of work."

Seattle Room Manager Jodee Fenton of Lake City researches not only the history of Seattle but also the best ways to preserve historic records. Library resource specialist Benling Wong of southeast Seattle supervises the Fundraising Resource Center and works with nonprofit groups that are looking for grants. She also teaches a class at the Nonprofit Assistance Center, which seeks to help nonprofit organizations in underrepresented and underserved communities.

So the next time you have a question, please think of The Seattle Public Library. Our trained librarians can give you accurate, up-to-date information. For more information, please call the Library at (206) 386-4636 or visit the Web site at

For more information contact:

Caroline Young Ullmann, assistant communications director

Andra Addison, communications director

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