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Mission Statement : Youth and Family Learning

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Youth and Family Learning


Provide Library services that support youth and families in academic success, career readiness, and life.

Seattle is a growing city with a diverse youth population. Youth and families require Library services that:

  • Give them the opportunity to connect with stories and informal learning activities
  • Allow them to gain skills in multiple arenas such as reading, digital literacy, information literacy, social literacy, and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math)
  • Help them develop work and life skills to succeed in college and on the job
  • Are widely available online, in Library facilities and in conjunction with community partners


The Library is an informal learning institution that connects youth and their families to what they need, when they need it and where they need it, across all stages of life.

0-5→ early elementary→ upper elementary→ middle school→ high school→ caregiver→ elder

Our staff members constantly assess the changing needs of youth in our communities and support them and those who live with them, work with them, and care for them including parents, grandparents, siblings, extended family and caregivers.


In 2016, we put partnerships and outreach in the foreground of the Summer of Learning program. In addition to regular in-house summer programming, youth staff accomplished an astounding number of outreach visits at our many community-based partner locations.

Examples of these partner locations included: community centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, courts, family/youth shelters, low-income housing, transitional housing, Head Start programs, low-income health clinics, neighborhood associations, youth tutoring programs, summer meal sites, YMCA and other summer camps, and many more. During these visits, we delivered both programs and activities, excited kids about reading and learning, connected them with information about the Library and got books into their hands. Most importantly, we strengthened our relationships with our communities.


Library collections support the various skills that youth need for success and are aligned with community needs. For example, schools and other organizations are helping young people understand science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM), and we provide a wide breadth of fiction, nonfiction and STEAM-related materials for youth to enjoy in their out-of-school time.

Our commitment to community needs also extends to providing a variety of formats. Our robust collection of print materials for youth remains popular.

In 2016, we piloted a service called Library Link, a collaboration between the Library and Seattle Public Schools. The goal is to explore ways that the Library and the school district can work together to improve student access to the Library's vast collection of information resources. In this pilot, a student ID number gives students immediate access to the Library's online resources. The pilot included all students and teachers at Aki Kurose, Denny, and Mercer middle schools; the students have access to e-books, subscription databases, downloadable music, newspapers, magazines, streaming content and more.


Youth needs and interests encompass reading, digital literacy, STEM and beyond, and Library programs have begun to layer these different needs and interests together so kids can have richer experiences as they engage with us.

In 2016 we provided many programs that integrate these elements through an interdisciplinary approach. One example is Story'hood, a program that integrates writing, storytelling, collaboration skills, coding and game design. Kids work collaboratively in teams to write a story that takes place in their neighborhood or in their library. They then use tablets and basic computer programming skills to translate that story into a location-based scavenger hunt activity.

Volunteer opportunities

In 2015, we shifted our traditional teen volunteer program to a Teen Service Learning model, which uses project-based, youth-led service learning projects to provide teens with a deeper volunteer experience.

Teen services librarians mentor small groups of teen volunteers who plan and implement service learning projects that meet Library and community needs. Participants gain skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, leadership, decision-making and collaboration. They also benefit from learning about community issues and their causes. We also offer volunteer opportunities for teens via our Team Read partnership as well as through our Learning Buddies program. These volunteer opportunities more richly prepare teens for college, careers and life.

Spaces for youth

The Library is rethinking the way we use spaces for youth in our buildings. We want to increase flexibility of use to incorporate collaboration, reading, studying, creating and programming. You may see incremental changes in some neighborhood libraries and larger changes in other locations. Three Library locations that have undergone significant space changes are the Northeast Branch, the Rainier Beach Branch and the Ballard Branch. We encourage you to visit these locations to see how we have incorporated movable furniture, open programming space and collection shelving that more clearly promotes independent discovery.


Programs, Activities and Resources


Questions about Youth and Family Learning? Please contact Rekha Kuver, Youth and Family Services manager.

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