About the Levy

In August 2019, Seattle voters overwhelmingly approved a seven-year, $219.1 million property tax levy to maintain and enhance Library services from 2020 through 2026, renewing the seven-year levy approved in 2012. Beyond renewing 2012 Levy commitments, the 2019 Levy provides support for additional Library hours; elimination of overdue fines; improved collections and technology; safer, cleaner buildings; specialized programming and services for children; and development of a plan for the future of library service.

Since we began implementing the levy in January 2020, we have made progress on some key levy priorities but  had to defer others, such as expanding open hours, because of pandemic-related challenges. In 2023, while the Library continued to experience staffing, operational and environmental challenges that were unforeseeable when the levy was proposed in 2019, we were finally able to deliver on the promise to expand hours and programming. In 2023, the Library spent $30 million of 2019 Levy funds and $1.6 million of 2012 Levy funds in key levy investment areas.

2023 Levy Accomplishments

Hours and Access

We promised to make Library resources and services accessible to patrons when they need them.

2023 Levy Spending: $12.1 million

2023 Accomplishments

  • Expanded library open hours starting in April 2023, which added up to offering 91 more hours per week than in 2019. Overall, libraries were open 70,000+ hours in 2023 compared to 68,000+ hours in 2019.
  • Reduced the number of suspended accounts by half by eliminating fines in 2020, while the materials return rate stayed the same through 2023. Even observed a slight reduction in the number of items that are never returned.
  • Hosted events including 540+ story times in locations across the system and, up to 20 Homework Help sessions per week at nine branches (during the school year) and 26 author events at the Central Library.
  • Completed hiring for the in-house social services team, which made over 900 social service referrals in 2023. They also launched weekly “Coffee and Conversations” and “Young Adult Drop-Ins” at the Central Library to build connections between Library staff and library users in need of social services.
  • Operated pick-up lockers at High Point, Rainier Beach, Northeast, Beacon Hill and Broadview branches in 2023, which provide 24/7 access to library holds. Lockers purchased with Seattle Public Library Foundation funds and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds through the Washington State Library.
More Open Hours: 27 locations are open a total of 90+ additional hours weekly.

Provide More Books and Materials

We promised to provide a robust collection of books and materials.

2023 Levy Spending: $5.9 million (2019 Levy)

2023 Accomplishments

  • Added 113,000+ copies to the digital collection in 2023, about 3% more than we added in 2022. Over 174,000 patrons downloaded more than 5.4 million digital books (e-books and e-audiobooks), a 15% increase compared to 2022.
  • Added 211,000+ physical items using funds from all sources, including 18,000+ copies of Peak Picks titles.
  • Checked out physical books to over 124,000 patrons, a 9% increase compared to 2022. As patrons returned to our libraries, our physical circulation continued to rebound. Peak Picks remained popular, with 950,000 check outs since the collection launched in May 2017.
  • Completed a two-year diversity audit of our collection and added more than 500 titles and 2,300 copies in 2023 that amplify marginalized and underrepresented voices and perspectives for all audiences across print and digital formats.
  • In 2023, we added 800+ items to our digital local history and culture collections with additions to our Black Culture and History Collection, Century 21 Digital Collection, and Werner Lenggenhager Photograph Collection.
More physical & digital copies purchased: Added 211,000+ physical items, including 18,000+ copies of Peak Picks titles.

Technology and Online Services

We promised to promote digital equity and improve our computer and online services.

2023 Levy Spending: $2.2 million (2019 Levy), $159,000 (2012 Levy)

2023 Accomplishments

  • Loaned 1,150 hot spots in the community, including 250 outreach hot spots that are loaned long-term to communities disproportionately impacted by the digital divide. Hot spots in our catalog circulated 6,500 times. We worked with 16 community partners to loan outreach hot spots.
  • Upgraded 368 public and staff computers and 40 printers. Over 39,000 people used Library computers nearly 340,000 times in 2023.
  • Deployed 17 hybrid carts that include 4K high-definition cameras, 75-inch displays and meeting control touchscreens, which allow for hybrid (in person and online) meetings at Library locations.
  • Leveraged Federal e-rates to replace critical technology infrastructure.
Helping Patrons Get What They Need: 1,150 hot spots for loan to the community.

Programming for Children

We promised to provide additional early learning program for children ages 0-5.

2023 Levy Spending: $338,000

2023 Accomplishments

  • Held 540+ story times at Library locations and in the community.
  • Offered 219 Play and Learn sessions at Beacon Hill, Columbia, Delridge, Lake City, NewHolly, Rainier Beach and South Park branches in collaboration with partners.
Virtual Storytimes Available. Offered over 200 Play and Learn Sessions at seven Library Locations

Maintain Buildings

We promised to maintain buildings for the next generation.

2023 Levy Spending: $7.2 million (2019 Levy), $1.4 million (2012 Levy)

2023 Accomplishments

  • Made substantial progress on Green Lake Branch for construction of earthquake retrofit.
  • Installed air conditioning at Northeast and Southwest branches.
  • Began operation of new Automated Materials Handling System at the Maintenance and Operations Center.
Under Construction: Earthquake retrofit, climate upgrades and accessibility improvements underway at Green Lake Branch.

Library Levy Priority Survey

In the fall of 2021, the Library received more than 4,600 responses to a public survey we conducted asking Seattle residents about their perceptions of the Library, how Library use had shifted during COVID-19 and preferred Library hours. The survey, which was available online and in print at all Library locations, was offered in English, Amharic, Chinese, Oromo, Somali, Spanish, Tigrinya and Vietnamese.

The sample of responses were largely representative in race, age, and gender of demographics within the city of Seattle. Survey responses have helped the Library plan for expanding levy-supported hours, which we introduced in 2023. Key findings from the survey are included in a two-page summary. Thanks to all of our patrons who took the time to fill out the survey and provide us valuable feedback!

Read the Library Levy Survey Summary

Lea el resumen de la encuesta sobre impuestos de la biblioteca en español

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