Recap: Future of the Library October 3
Marcellus Turner, Executive Director and Chief Librarian, has invited everyone to join him at informal meetings at locations across the city to talk about the future of The Seattle Public Library. This Community Conversation was focused on our innovative services that meet the public's changing needs and interests, and our goals and priorities that support learning for everyone. The conversation was held at the Southwest Branch from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. About 30 people attended.
Turner shared an overview of our Strategic Direction, which guides planning and decision-making for the Library. The Strategic Direction focuses on three things: what we're doing to promote individual growth and learning, how we're impacting the greater community and how efficiently we're performing as an institution.
Turner discussed Library service and resource improvements that were made possible by the 2012 Library Levyincluding:
- increased hours - now all Library locations are open on Sunday
- improvements to Library collections, digital services, and building maintenance
Turner also shared two budgeting charts to help patrons understand where Library funds come from and how they are spent. He said our budget concentrates on the "three B's: books, bodies and buildings"
Turner discussed the importance of developing programs and services with equity in mind to make sure we are helping to level the playing field for Seattle’s underserved communities.
He described how our Fresh Start program, funded by The Seattle Public Library Foundation, has cleared fines and fees for over 700 teens so that they can continue reading and learning.
He also said the Library holds many listening sessions throughout the year and throughout the city to learn more about their needs and interests. Once a year, the Southwest Branch does a "community listening" refresher.
Turner acknowledged the local partners that regularly support and enhance the work being done at the Southwest Branch, including the Southwest Historical Society, Friends of the Southwest Branch, Senior Center West Seattle, and Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action.
Rules of Conduct
Turner addressed a recent South Seattle Emerald article about the Library’s Rules of Conduct (ROC) and youth excluded for inappropriate behaviors from libraries in the southeast region. He noted that "your use of the library is a private matter—we don't track anyone." This practice limits the Library’s ability to monitor the comings and goings of patrons. Patron behavior is monitored by Library staff who use our Rules of Conduct as their guide. Exclusions are a last resort – staff often have many conversations with patrons to help them understand Library rules before an exclusion is ever considered. Librarians live in the communities they work in, and know the kids and families that frequent our libraries. To put these exclusions in perspective, last year, the Library had 852 exclusions out of over 5 million successful visits. That's less than one-half of 1% of the visits.
You can now walk into a library and pick up a bestselling book, thanks to our Peak Picks program – no holds, no wait.
Turner assured the audience we will always buy print materials, but that we are buying more digital materials than we used to. In 2011, 92% of our collection was print materials. Now, 75% of the collection is print materials because digital demand has risen sharply.
The Changing Needs of Library Patrons
Turner mentioned that the Library is constantly evaluating the community’s needs and interests in order to provide the most relevant services and resources possible. Some recent additions to Library services include:
- FlexTech devices – tablets and laptops that are available for in-library use
- Free Wi-Fi at every location
- Wi-Fi hotspots that you can check out and take home for three weeks
- Kanopy a free Netflix-style video streaming service.
- PlayBack, an online local music collection featuring free music by Seattle artists that you can stream or download.
Turner briefly mentioned other Library services, including the Museum Pass program, Lynda.com, access to Consumer Reports, language learning services, genealogy tools, and access to market research databases for your business.
Questions from Patrons
Are building renovations covered under the maintenance portion of the budget?
Turner confirmed that building renovations are covered by the maintenance section of the budget.
Is the Library allowed to pursue grants?
Turner told the audience that The Seattle Public Library Foundation often helps the Library pursue grants to develop new or better programs and services.
Do you approach local businesses to request in-kind services?
Turner said "No, but let us know if you're interested!"
When I was growing up, librarians were strict. But now, kids are often noisy while playing games on computers, sometimes multiple people per one computer. It goes against what I feel is the proper use for the Library.
Turner replied that kids learn differently now. In Seattle Public Schools, they do a lot of learning in groups and that carries over into their play. We try to make sure noise levels are managed, but we also allow for post-school energy to be expressed.
Different libraries seem to allow different levels of noise. Can we have a maximum noise level?
Turner noted that each of our libraries has different communities who use the Library, and each Library space is very different. We try to arrange our spaces so that noise is manageable. For instance, there's a laptop bar just outside of Rainier Beach's main space, which is designed to keep noise and food out of the main Library area while allowing people a warm indoor space to eat and charge their devices.
If there's a group that gets consistent complaints, can they be removed?
Turner said yes, when a behavior repeatedly violates our Rules of Conduct and is not corrected, we then look at whether an exclusion is needed.
I have inadvertently viewed material on the public computers at the Central Library that I didn't want to see. What is being done to prevent that?
Turner told the patron the Library equips all computer screens with privacy filters that block viewing from the side, and patrons are asked to use headphones. We also set up public computers away from Children’s Areas. We look at what we can move around to prevent inadvertent viewing, but some of our smaller Library locations limit what we are able to do.
How is the Library addressing the needs of people who need quiet vs. people who need to make noise?
Turner replied that it depends on the space. At the Northeast Branch, there's no air conditioning, so additional walls can’t be added due to issues of airflow in the summer months. At the Lake City Branch, the Library is developing new rooms to contain noise as part of a re-imagining project.
Can the Library have resources, programs and outreach focused on people with dementia?
Turner said the Library will look into ways we might support individuals with dementia.
Could we have more Young Adult titles in Peak Picks?
Turner said that it was a budget request for 2019 that is being considered.
Can the Library loan more physical objects? For instance, a wooden shoe that kids could learn to tie shoes with.
Turner referenced the concept of a seed library, and the seed swap event every spring at the West Seattle Branch. He also said the Library has space and time constraints on loaning physical objects, but that we do loan out experiences like access to the Zoo and museums with our Museum Pass program.
If nobody is waiting for a book, why are we limited to only two renewals?
Kevin Tracey, the manager for Southwest Branch, said that he is on the Library's lending committee and that topic is under discussion right now.
Please don't shelve juvenile non-fiction with adult non-fiction – it makes it hard for me to find the kids books.
Turner noted that is not the case at every branch, and is also currently under discussion. Libraries with separate juvenile non-fiction sections include the Montlake and Northgate branches.
Is the Wi-Fi turned off at night?
Turner replied yes.
I want to see book groups at every branch.
The Library does have book groups and they are listed in the SPL.org calendar as well as the West Seattle Blog calendar. Turner added that we've been phasing out librarian-led book groups because staff time is needed elsewhere. Public-led book groups are provided with book kits and questions. There's one at every Library in this area except Delridge.
Comments from Patrons
- I haven't been affected by the noise level of children and teens. I love that teens are off the streets and off their cellphones! The Library has had a really positive impact.
- Rainier Beach has three private rooms like the ones being added at the Lake City Branch and they are great.
- I love the Somali children’s board book – great job!
- “Your Next Five Books” is really useful feature, especially for elementary students. The mobile app is buggy (it is no longer supported).
- Novel List – the "reserve at your library" button doesn't work.
- We really love using the Oxford English Dictionary database!
- If there is a librarian who purchases Arabic children’s books, please send me some recommendations.
- Lend jigsaw puzzles!
- More homeschooling activities at the Southwest Branch or in West Seattle, please.
- My sister says that the Library needs more book club sets – their club is in need!
- Thank you for continuing to purchase audiobook CDs, especially in non-fiction.
- Please add more large paperbacks to the Peak Picks program.