Impact on Cultural & Civic Engagement 2020

'You’re still making it possible for us to educate ourselves’

Engaging community in food justice, joy and mutual aid in the time of COVID

  • The Library’s Public Engagement programs saw an overall viewership of nearly 8,000 in 2020. In its six-year history, events and programs have been a popular offering for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) community members, who make up at least 40% of the audience. Attendees have rated the events 9.5 or more on a scale of 1 to 10 (10=highest).
  • During the pandemic, the Library participated in Seattle Together, a City of Seattle effort to foster feelings of belonging, connection and joy. Our Reflections virtual dance festival reached over 4,500 viewers while celebrating Native and Black performing arts groups. We helped produce two virtual “Love in the Time of COVID” events using a heart-centered approach to examine themes such as mutual aid, solidarity, abolition and immigrant rights, with a total of more than 500 attendees.
  • Partnering with Seattle Parks & Recreation, we reached over 1,300 people with a virtual Big Day of Play in August, a celebration of Seattle's diversity that encouraged neighbors, communities and families to have fun and be active together.
  • We partnered to support BLOOM, a food justice pilot program that involved 11 BIPOC youth aged 17 to 25 in learning about community gardening and urban farming as a solution-driven approach to food security challenges during a time of increasing racial disparities. Partners included Seattle Parks & Recreations, Wa Na Wari, One Vibe Africa, The Black Farmers Collective and YES Farm.

Seattle Reads celebrates Indigenous voices

  • Seattle Reads – the Library’s pioneering citywide book group – hosted its main author event virtually in October, featuring Tommy Orange, author of There There. The New York Times bestselling novel is a multi-generational story about the lives of urban Native Americans in Oakland.
  • The event with Orange drew 600 attendees to see his conversation with Dr. Christina Roberts, the cofounder and director of Indigenous Peoples Institute at Seattle University. Thousands more viewed the event in the days after it aired.
  • 70% of Seattle Reads event attendees surveyed in 2020 rated the program 9 out of 10 or higher.

Supporting community interest in anti-racism resources

  • When reader demand for anti-racism titles soared in the spring and summer of 2020, we pointed people to reading and resource lists, such as the Always Available OverDrive list of Readings on Race. An “Always Available” e-book or e-audiobook allows for an unlimited number of patrons to check them out.
  • We also helped children and families discover anti-racism titles through new OverDrive lists for children and teens.
  • The e-audiobook version of Seattle writer Ijeoma Oluo’s “So You Want To Talk About Race,” part of our Always Available collection, was checked out over 11,000 times.
  • The Library added a dedicated Always Available eReading Room for easy access to these collections in OverDrive.

Documenting and digitizing community history    

  • The Library’s Special Collections team launched the COVID-19 Community Collection, a community crowdsourcing project, to document the local impact of the pandemic, collecting more than 100 photos, stories and videos by the end of 2020. 
  • Seattle Collection staff began digitizing portions of our historic African-American Ephemera Collection of more than 10,000 items housed at the Douglass-Truth Branch. To date, we’ve digitized 240 scans of items, such as a leaflet from the first formal celebration of Juneteenth in Seattle and periodicals from several civil rights organizations.

Making popular titles accessible

  • The Library added more than 13,000 copies of Peak Picks titles, the Library’s popular no-holds, no-wait collection of high-interest titles.
  • Peak Picks relaunched in August along with Curbside Service. Library users checked out Peak Picks books titles 60,000+ times in 2020. Over 22,800 people checked out at least one Peak Picks title.
  • The Library created approximately 2,200 Your Next 5 librarian created reading plans for people who requested them, a 45% increase from 2019.
  • Circulation of all e-books and e-audiobooks increased by 27% in 2020, and checkouts of digital formats of juvenile fiction and nonfiction materials increased by 88% in 2020.