Impact on Cultural & Civic Engagement 2021

Community-centered author programs

  • The Library hosted nearly 50 digital author programs in 2021. 3,800 people attended these events “live,” and they garnered another 4,400 views on YouTube.

  • To center community voices and racial equity, we invited two guest curators to create literature/humanities-related programs on behalf of the Library. Our inaugural curator was D.A. Navoti, whose series explored the joys and trials of growing up. In the fall, Olaiya Land created a series on radical self-acceptance as activism. For each series, we had five events and roughly 150 attendees, with hundreds more views on the Library’s YouTube channel.

  • We hosted two Bullitt Lectures in American History, annual lectures that highlight a significant period, event, or individual, with an emphasis on inclusive stories of American history that might be less known.

  • The spring Bullitt lecture featured Michelle Duster, author of “Ida B. the Queen” and great-granddaughter of Ida B. Wells. For the fall lecture Laura E. Gómez, author of “Inventing Latinos,” discussed the history of Latinx identity in the U.S. Patrons rated the programs 9.7 on a scale of 1-10.

Seattle Reads and “The Vanishing Half”

  • The 2021 selection for our citywide book group, Seattle Reads, was Brit Bennett’s bestselling novel “The Vanishing Half,” about twin sisters who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds — one Black and one white.

  • More than 8,000 people participated in the program in 2021 by reading the book and/or attending a Seattle Reads program. More than 7,600 copies of the book circulated between June and October 2021, including 750 “uncatalogued” copies (which readers can take home without officially “checking out”) that the Library distributed with the help of community partners LANGSTON, the African-American Writers’ Alliance, and Wa Na Wari.

  • Seattle Reads culminated in a virtual public event in October 2021, featuring Brit Bennett in conversation with Jazmyn Scott, the director of Programs & Partnerships at LANGSTON. 1,000 people registered for the event – a “sell out” – and 600 attended.

  • Two other Seattle Reads events brought in a local writers group, and highlighted an artist’s response to “The Vanishing Half.”

A public health response centered in art, community, and race and social justice

  • Each year, our public engagement program looks at race and social justice issues with communities most affected by them, creating and celebrating community-produced knowledge and centering BIPOC leadership.

  • Our 2021 social justice series focused on public health and vaccine equity with communities disproportionately affected by COVID. The series was arts-focused and intergenerational. We co-designed the programs with dozens of community partners, reaching an audience of more than 6,200 community members.

  • A multi-arts workshop called Art Club, co-designed with local artists, families and staff at Solid Ground Housing, provided an essential space for youth to connect and process COVID-19. It culminated in the creation of a video titled “Art Club vs COVID,” which Art Club youth created alongside local BIPOC health leaders and artists.

  • We collaborated with BIPOC mutual aid organizers to organize 15 art-centered vaccine clinics called Soul Clinics. These pop-up clinics reached more than 4,600 people, with a focus on communities most affected by COVID-19.

  • In late October, our public health series culminated in a first-ever “Dreamathon” called “What the World Needs Now,” a two-part event that encouraged communities suffering racial disparities during COVID to imagine what a better pandemic life could look like. It reached almost 1,500 people in its livestream audience and engaged others in an arts-focused social media campaign.

  • Other 2021 programs included the sixth annual Legendary Children event, a virtual evening of representation, dance, empowerment, art and social justice that celebrated QTBIPOC communities (Queer and Trans Black, Indigenous and People of Color). The second annual Reflections Dance Festival, co-presented with Friends of Waterfront Seattle, featured performances by artists of color filmed on the elegant stage of Seattle’s Pier 62.

  • BLOOM, a food-justice program designed as a COVID rapid response program in 2020, engaged young adults of color as BLOOM fellows, expanding from 8 fellows to a community of over 40 people. They participated in community-centered learning opportunities, including a free college level introduction to food justice and food sovereignty.

Making popular titles accessible

  • In 2021, the Library added 18,000 copies of more than 100 Peak Picks titles, the Library’s popular no-holds, no-wait collection of high-interest books.

  • Nearly 116,000 Peak Picks books were checked out in 2021, and Peak Picks remains one of the most popular services at the Library.

  • The Library created approximately 1,500 Your Next 5 librarian-created reading plans for people who requested them.

Expanding local history and culture collections

Access to cultural and natural treasures

  • In 2021, the Library successfully completed the conservation work on the historic Soul Pole outside the Douglass-Truth Branch, where it has stood tall since 1973. Working with Artech and Landrieu Conservation, the Library deinstalled the Soul Pole and prepared the 21-foot tall wooden sculpture to be reinstalled in 2022.

  • We partnered with the Black Heritage Society of Washington State (BHS) on community outreach and research around the Soul Pole, which BHS has called “a beacon of Black pride” in the Central District.

  • The Seattle Public Library reactivated its Museum Pass program, adding four partners by the end of 2021. Participating museums implemented numerous coronavirus protocols to keep people safe.

  • We began loaning limited numbers of the Discover Pass to Library cardholders as part of Check out Washington, a partnership between Washington state and Washington’s public libraries to expand access to public land in the state.