Representing and investing in people of color
According to the American Community Survey, more than a third of Seattle residents – 34% – are people of color, and 22% of the population speaks a language other than English at home.
- We launched Seattle Reads, the first “one city, one book” program, over 20 years ago. During that time most of the books selected have been by white authors, and people of color were consistently underrepresented at program events. We added equity as a program goal, and in recent years, we have selected books by authors of color and partnered with local organizations to bring the program to new audiences. In 2019, Thi Bui’s “The Best We Could Do” was the first graphic novel selection in the program’s history. We distributed 1,500 uncatalogued copies of the book, including through prioritized engagement with the Vietnamese and Asian Pacific Islander communities.
- Summer of Learning, the Library’s annual summer program for children and teens, has also undergone a big shift. Library staff give away at least 50% of a branch’s prize books to underserved audiences; and at least 50% of the programming and marketing budget is targeted for performers of color or organizations led by people of color. And the reading booklets, available in multiple languages, reflect community input.
- Our public engagement programs use community events and art programs to speak to a wide range of race and social justice topics, including the Black Panther party, abolition and transformative justice. These events have attracted an inclusive audience, who rated the events 9.5 out of 10, when surveyed.
- Since 2014, the Library to Business program has expanded its one-on-one support to branches in the most underserved parts of the city. It partners with a wide range of organizations to offer innovative services, often at community sites, such as a workshop series in Spanish that helps participants become government contractors.
- In recent years, we’ve added or expanded our world language collections for children, young adults and adults at several branches, as well as enabling an increase in world language e-books and e-audiobooks. We’ve created OverDrive lists of Black Lives Matters titles as well as A Toolkit for Anti-racism Allies, and closely monitor the demand of titles to make sure we’re meeting community needs for this work.