News & Stories

African-American archives brought online with donor-supported effort

Newly digitized items from the Library’s African-American Ephemera Collection include posters promoting community celebrations, photos from Library-hosted events, and Seattle Urban League newsletters.

When Stephanie Johnson-Toliver found out about the Library bringing its African-American Ephemera Collection online, she said it made “the hair on the back of my neck stand up!”

In a good way.

As president of the Black Heritage Society of Washington State (BHS), she loves any effort that helps document, preserve, and promote local African-American history.

“If the Library has these collections … what better way to get it out more broadly than to digitize collections?” she says.

This Black History Month, you can check out the African-American Ephemera Collection for yourself. The Library has begun the process of scanning and uploading items from the collection in recent months for broader access.

The collection is composed of photos, community newsletter, and leaflets documenting local African-American history. In the last few months, Joe Bopp, Special Collections librarian, has scanned more than 240 pages, allowing material to be readily accessible on any digital device.

“It runs the full gamut of civil rights to community celebrations,” Bopp says.

Included are materials dating back to the 1950s, photos from Northern Lights Neon Naturals events – hosted by the Library to feature Black women performing and lecturing for the public in the early ‘80s – and a poster for the first known citywide Juneteenth celebration at Seattle Center in 1980. And Bopp has only scanned about 10 percent of the Library’s collection so far, with the intent of digitizing the entire trove over time.

The African-American collection occupies a unique place at the Library, having been officially launched with a donation of books by the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. to the Douglass-Truth Branch (formerly known as Yesler) in 1965. Located in the heart of Seattle’s historically Black neighborhood, Douglass-Truth has housed the African-American Collection ever since. It has since grown to include the historic materials scanned in recent months, contributed by members of the community throughout the decades.

“It’s a reflection of the public’s trust in The Seattle Public Library as a historic repository for their culture and history,” Bopp says.

BHS also collects and preserves items from Washington’s Black history. Johnson-Toliver herself is a fourth-generation Seattleite whose great-grandparents migrated here from Mississippi and New Orleans. Preservation and digitization work often face barriers in funding and labor, she says – obstacles also reflected at the Library.

Johnson-Toliver says that BHS and the Library share a special relationship. BHS puts on an annual Black history display at Douglass-Truth every Black History Month – the display from February 2020 is still there, she says, noting that the pandemic shut down branches before they could disassemble the exhibit.

Additionally, BHS is working with King County Metro to add historical information to eight bus stops along the 23rd Avenue corridor in the Central District, including information about the history of the Douglass-Truth Branch at the bus stop across the street.

Local Black history is in high demand from area teachers and students, Johnson-Toliver says.

Bopp agrees, adding that the newly scanned items will show researchers that many of the issues debated today – policing, gentrification, and housing affordability to name a few – are “nothing new” and have been discussed for generations.

“When people come across this material, they are going to find a lot of conversations, celebrations, and issues within the greater Seattle community that are very relevant to conversations that we’re having today,” he says.

Find this collection online at this link.

This digitization work is made possible in part by donors to the Foundation.

The Foundation expresses its gratitude to the members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Delta Upsilon Omega Chapter and the Dynamic Urban Opportunities Foundation for their unwavering support helping build the African-American Collection at The Seattle Public Library.

SPLF applauds outgoing chief librarian Marcellus Turner’s decade of service to Seattle

The Board and staff of The Seattle Public Library Foundation wish to thank outgoing Chief Librarian and Executive Director, Marcellus Turner, for his nearly 10 years of admirable leadership at The Seattle Public Library.

Turner, known to most at the Library and Foundation as “MT,” will leave his post March 31 to become CEO and Chief Librarian of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in Charlotte, N.C.

“MT’s love of community, fervent belief in libraries’ power, and vision of libraries of the future have inspired us during a pivotal 10 years for The Seattle Public Library,” said Pat Walker, Board President of The Seattle Public Library Foundation. “We are thrilled for the new chapter in his career and wish him the very best.”

During his tenure in Seattle, Turner and the Foundation have partnered in securing two successful Library levy measures to increase the Library’s capacity to meet the community’s needs. The Library and Foundation have also collaborated on addressing the “digital gap” by building up the Library’s Wi-Fi Hotspot lending program, steering the Library through the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and deploying the equity-based programs and services that secured the Library its 2020 Library of the Year recognition from Gale/Library Journal.

“We have shared a wonderful journey with MT making The Seattle Public Library the best it can be for our community,” said Jonna Ward, CEO of the Foundation. “We at the Foundation have been proud to support his vision of a library that centers equity in its service delivery and continually innovates to meet emerging challenges in our city.”

The Foundation will host a virtual donor reception with MT at 10:30 a.m. March 24. An invitation will follow.

Here’s the Feb. 8 announcement from The Seattle Public Library:

The Seattle Public Library announced that Executive Director and Chief Librarian Marcellus Turner, who has led the Library since 2011, is accepting a new post as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Librarian for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in Charlotte, N.C.

“I am so grateful and proud to have led a passionate and creative team of people at The Seattle Public Library who deliver library services to one of the greatest cities of literature in the world,” said Turner. “I am confident the Library – with its dedicated board, strong leadership, committed staff and community support – will make a smooth transition, and I personally can’t wait to see how that unfolds. Thank you, Seattle, for the opportunity to be a part of your story.”

In a statement, The Seattle Public Library Board of Trustees president Jay Reich praised Turner’s leadership and accomplishments during his nearly 10 years of service, which he says leaves the Library in an ideal position to make the transition.

“While the Library Board of Trustees is very sad to see Chief Librarian Turner leave, his leadership has created a foundation of excellence that I know will sustain us through this transition and beyond,” said Reich. “Under his watch, the Library has earned national recognition and has underscored and reinforced its commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. He leaves the Library well prepared for continued success. We wish him well in his new role.”

Reich said the Library Board will name an interim Chief Librarian very soon and will immediately begin the search for a permanent replacement. View Reich’s complete statement on

Turner’s last day at The Seattle Public Library will be Wednesday, March 31. He will begin his new position as CEO and Chief Librarian of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library on Thursday, April 1.

Short-story dispenser gives a shot of literature with your latte

The Short-Story Dispenser resides at The Station coffee shop on Beacon Hill, for stories on demand.

Customers of The Station coffee shop on Beacon Hill can now grab a free story to read with their cup of joe.

The Seattle Public Library’s first short-story dispenser, produced by French publishing company Short Édition and supported by donors to the Foundation, was installed at the café near the Beacon Hill light rail station in December.

Users can choose between a 1-minute, 3-minute, or 5-minute story by waving their hands over the buttons, producing a free story on eco-friendly BPA-free paper in a contact-free experience.

“As a beloved community space in the heart of Beacon Hill, The Station is the perfect location to test-drive this new way of connecting people to literature,” says Andrew Harbison, the Library’s assistant director of Collections and Access. “We hope that it will introduce an element of surprise and delight in Seattle residents’ days during this difficult time and remind them of the Library’s role in bringing literature to the community.”

The Library aims to move the short-story dispenser to different locations throughout the city over time in areas where a bit of literature can inspire and entertain. More than 300 machines are installed throughout the world in places such as airports, train stations, and museums. The one at The Station is the first in Washington state.

“We are excited to share stories with our community,” says Luis Rodriguez, co-owner of The Station. “Every human has a story, my community is my book, and every day is a new chapter. We are all a poem in the making.”

The Station is a well-known community hub in the heart of North Beacon Hill, at 1600 S. Roberto Maestas Festival St., near El Centro de la Raza and right off popular bus and light rail stops.

The Short-Story Dispenser offers a contact-free experience.

The kiosk now generates contemporary and classic adult fiction, but the Library may change or add genres to fit its various locations. Writers can also submit their own stories for consideration at Short Édition.

“At a time when we are more isolated, finding stories and creative expression in unexpected places can help connect us,” says Jonna Ward, CEO of the Foundation.

The short-story dispenser isn’t the only way Library lovers can find literary delight on demand – anyone can find new stories by calling the Library’s Lit Line, which launched last summer, or seek new book recommendations with Your Next 5 Books.

Volunteer spotlight: Jody Crow

Jody Crow, right, volunteers as project manager for the Foundation’s Stim Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship. She and her partner Lisa, left, have supported the Foundation since 1998. (Photo courtesy Jody Crow)

Growing up in Tracyton, Wash. on the Kitsap Peninsula, going to the library was a way of life for Jody Crow.

“In our community, everyone I knew went to the library,” she says. “It was kind of life, I guess.”

Back then, the library was in an out building at a local Methodist church, then moved to a space in the volunteer fire station just a block from her house.

“If you needed to know something, you went to the library,” Jody says.

As a teen, Jody worked at the Tracyton library as a page and a cleaner to earn extra money. Jody spent her career in the fashion industry, which has taken her across the world – first as a patternmaker and then as a project manager.

Today, she’s a 23-year donor to The Seattle Public Library Foundation with her partner, Lisa Johnsen, and a volunteer project manager for the Foundation’s Stim Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship.

Jody uses her organizational skills to shepherd the Foundation’s launch and operation of the scholarship that awards $10,000 in tuition aid to students each year. The 2021 contest will be her third year assisting the Foundation with this effort.

The Stim Bullitt essay contest challenges students to write about a figure or group in Washington state history who ushered in positive societal change at personal or political risk. Three winners each year not only win scholarship money, but have their essays cataloged in the Library’s Seattle Room.

This isn’t Jody’s first time helping award scholarships to the leaders of the future – she had also served on the scholarship committee for the Seattle chapter of the Fashion Group International.

“In so many cases a scholarship can get you over that edge so you can actually go (to college),” she says. “For the effort we put in to make it happen, it can change a life.”

The Foundation extends its gratitude to Jody for her ardent support of the Library and her part in securing access to a college education for Seattle’s youth.

“I think the youth of our country are the providers of a lot of hope these days,” she says.

If you are interested in volunteering for the Foundation, please email We have occasional opportunities for special events, donor stewardship, administrative needs, and project support.

Make a year-end gift today to see your donation doubled!

Now is the time that people step up to support their neighbors – about 12 percent of annual giving occurs in the last three days of the year!

To maximize that giving spirit, two generous Board members of The Seattle Public Library Foundation will MATCH each gift up to $15,000 from now until the clock strikes midnight on 2021.

That means if you make a gift now, your contribution will go twice as far toward supporting the Library’s collection, offering free programs that educate and inspire, and providing access to information and technology that enrich our community.

Donate today. And thank you for your invaluable support of your Seattle Public Library.

Take advantage of this one-time charitable tax deduction before the year’s end!

Take advantage of a special charitable giving tax deduction thanks to the CARES Act, expiring at the end of this year.

As part of the COVID relief package Congress passed in March, taxpayers can take a deduction of up to $300 for cash donations made to qualifying organizations during 2020.

Previously, taxpayers could only take charitable deductions if they itemized their deductions. This year, those taking a standard deduction will be able to take an additional $300 up to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income (up from 60 percent) for cash donations made this calendar year.

According to the New York Times, changes to the federal tax code in 2017 only allowed for charitable deductions if people itemized their deductions, leading to a tax disincentive for giving. This one-time “universal” deduction makes it easier to receive a tax benefit for cash donations. The deduction will reduce the adjusted gross income by $300, which helps determine eligibility for tax credits and other deductions. It will also reduce taxable income.

Further reading:

“It’s Easier to Get a Tax Deduction for Donations This Year,” New York Times

“How to Be Effective With Your Generosity in 2020,” NerdWallet

This is not intended to serve as financial advice. Consult a tax adviser for questions you may have on this tax benefit.

Why I give: Sara Miller

Donor Sara Miller and her 7-year-old daughter, Hazel, show their love of the Library outside their home branch at NewHolly. (Photo courtesy Sara Miller)

Sara Miller’s home library—the NewHolly Branch—may be closed for now, but she and her family are using the Library as much as ever.

She and her 7-year-old daughter, Hazel, check out e-books using the Libby app and have used the Curbside Services at the Rainier Beach Branch.

“It’s amazing,” says Sara, a social worker at Casey Family Programs. “We’ve been really happy with the Library.”

Sara also, with the encouragement of a friend, participated in Summer Book Bingo, reading about 25 books between July and September. Hazel completed the kids’ version.

“It definitely made me stretch and I discovered some really cool authors,” says Sara, who has also explored new titles using the “Your Next 5 Books” service.

For these reasons and more, Sara has become a Page Turner for The Seattle Public Library Foundation, giving a designated amount every month to maintain a continuous contribution to the Library her family relies on. She has also joined the Legacy Society, designating the Foundation as a beneficiary in her will.

“This is a place that most folks can access and it’s a public service that we definitely love supporting,” Sara says.

Both Sara and her husband grew up going to the library and they’ve come to find a sense of community at the NewHolly Branch, running into neighbors there and getting to know Library staff.

With NewHolly temporarily closed for COVID-19 safety measures, she has since explored the greater world of e-books and has found an emotional lifeline through reading.

“I’m so thankful to be doing a lot of reading now, especially in these times when things are so stressful,” Sara says.

Sara and her husband have passed that passion on to Hazel, who will sometimes fall asleep amid a pile of books.

Hazel enjoys the “Ordinary People Change the World” series of books by Brad Meltzer and has recently read about strong women such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Malala Yousafzai.

“I really want her to grow up with a critical mind,” Sara says.

Reading is something that not only the family can enjoy together—but that they can also share with their entire community.

“The Library is part of our community and there are so many services and so many resources out there that are hard for folks to access,” Sara says. “But the Library (has) a lot of locations and even during COVID, they’re working really hard to ensure they’re able to reach the community.”

To become a Page Turner yourself, visit To learn more about joining the Legacy Society, contact Kara McDonald, director of major and planned gifts, at or 206-413-7177.

This story appears in the Fall 2020 edition of our newsletter, “The Next Chapter.” Find the full edition here.

LEAP head begins new chapter after 30 years of service

Cleo Brooks, supervising librarian of the Library Equal Access Program, will retire next year after 30 years in her position. She is a well-known champion of Library access for people with disabilities. (The Seattle Public Library)

Cleo Brooks is such a fixture at the Library that even Camille Jassny’s guide dog knows where to find her office at Central Library.

Brooks has headed LEAP—the Library Equal Access Program—for 30 years. Next year, she will retire from her decades of service as the Library’s ambassador for patrons with disabilities.

“She’s just so caring and so warm,” says Jassny, who founded the Low-Vision Book Group with Brooks in 2006. “I’ve never met anybody quite like her.”

Brooks maintains a lifelong connection to The Seattle Public Library. Having grown up in Bellevue, her mother, then a science teacher, would take her and her siblings to story time at the Central Library and check out books and 8mm films.

Since starting her job at the Library in 1990—the year the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed by Congress—she has overseen LEAP nearly from its inception to what it has become today—a hub of resources and technology that help people of all abilities access Library materials or even just use the computer.

That technology has changed quite a bit in 30 years. She recalls a man older than 60 with visual impairments who came to the Library with his 85-year-old mother so she could read him the materials. When the Library offered its first reading machine in 1991, the man could enter the Library and use it himself.

“Now I feel like an adult, like I’m part of the world,” Brooks recalls him saying.

But perhaps what’s changed more, Brooks says, is the culture of acceptance and advocacy for people with disabilities, and their increased sense of independence. She’s had patrons use the assistive technology at the LEAP Lab to find professional work and pursue higher education thanks to Library resources.

“I receive so much support in my life to feel independent and capable and I just wanted to provide that as a library service,” she says.

She’s known to work tirelessly to support her patrons, using her fluency in American Sign Language to talk to patrons with hearing loss and providing access for people using wheelchairs.

“She’s willing to go as far as she can to meet the many needs that our patrons have,” says C.J. Glenn, a library associate who supports Brooks in her capacity as LEAP supervisor and ADA coordinator. “Seeing how deftly Cleo met those patrons’ needs was inspiring to me and taught me a lot about my own role to help people.”

Jassny says that even after the Low-Vision Book Group meets, Brooks helps each member find the transit they need or has walked them across the street in a human chain to the soup café for a post-meeting lunch.

“She’s gone beyond the call of duty,” Jassny says. “She has a heart of gold.”

Dan and Dave Ortner, two brothers who are now the facilitators of the Low-Vision Book Group, say they’ve missed Brooks during the Library closures and will miss her presence in the Library after her retirement.

“She’s just the sweetest, nicest person and she’s always available to help,” Dan Ortner says.

Her work has even inspired the Ortner brothers and Jassny to advocate for the Library on matters such as Levy renewal and City budget funding.

“She’s been a wonderful asset to the Library—and an advocate for LEAP programs,” Dan Ortner says.

Meanwhile, she remains busy adapting services to the SOVID era, accommodating people seeking to attend remote events. She also continues to develop Sensory Story Time, a Foundation-supported program that started before COVID closures to include children with autism.

Her secret for nurturing the kindness and perseverance she’s known for? She recalls a simple, universal adage her family instilled in her throughout her life.

“Just remember to be kind and remember to treat people the way you would like to be treated,” she says.

Learn more about LEAP and its services at

This story appears in the Fall 2020 edition of our newsletter, “The Next Chapter.” Find the full edition here.

Library collects COVID stories for future generations

A woman and child pose in North Beacon Hill with a sign that reads “Take Care of Yourself” in the native language of Lushootseed in this photo archived in the Library’s COVID Collection. The sign was created by Hailey Tayathy, a Quileute drag queen and artist. (The Seattle Public Library)

How will you remember the covid-19 era?

Betsy Kluck-Keil posted a joke of the day in the front yard of her Crown Hill home to entertain her neighbors.

Ruth Quinet, inspired by a pre-covid Library rental of “American Gigolo,” watched nearly every Richard Gere film—and reviewed them each.

These memories and more will be kept for generations to come in the Library’s Special Collections, as staff collect submissions from the public on their musings about the coronavirus and more.

It’s a novel project for the Special Collections team, which usually fixes its lens on the past.

“This is really a first in our Library’s collection work where community members are contributing materials in real time,” says Jade D’Addario, digital projects librarian.

So far, the Library has collected more than 150 submissions from 34 people—and they’re already available online for people to see.

The materials range from written stories to photos to poetry to artwork. They not only describe life in quarantine, but also other events that have characterized 2020, such as protests supporting Black Lives Matter.

What has surprised D’Addario the most is the sheer diversity of the submissions, from a West Seattle street musician’s narrative to a woman’s story about being medically induced into a coma before the pandemic had spread to Seattle—and waking up a month later right in the middle of it.

The aim of the collection, D’Addario says, is to give future generations personal stories and a glimpse of what people’s lives were like in 2020 and what they were feeling at a time when so many monumental events were converging.

“Hopefully the collection will be able to provide a variety of viewpoints that aren’t just a formal history told 10, 20, 30 years after the fact,” she says.

You can submit your own contributions at Peruse the collection yourself at

This story appears in the Fall 2020 edition of our newsletter, “The Next Chapter.” Find the full edition here.


Seattle Post-Intelligencer now available to Library cardholders with Foundation grant

The Seattle P-I was Seattle’s first newspaper, first publishing Dec. 10, 1863. Anyone with a Library card can now access the full print archive for free.

Seattle’s oldest and longest-running newspaper is now available to the public on the Library’s website at

The Library used Foundation support to secure the archives of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which can now be explored via the Library’s website.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which started as “The Seattle Gazette” in 1863, printed weekly – and then daily – until 2009, when it became the online-only publication it remains today. While the Library has offered access to The Seattle Times since 2010 with Foundation support, the P-I now provides an alternate perspective of life in Seattle.

“This is a game-changer for our community’s and staff’s ability to more fully research local history, whether for deep academic research, family history, casual inquiry, student papers, or anything in between,” said Andrew Harbison, the Library’s assistant director for Collections and Access. “From family wedding announcements, to obituaries, to photos and stories of historic news events, patrons can explore our region’s stories with greater breadth and depth on their own, or with the assistance with our staff.”

Prior to this acquisition, anyone hoping to dive into the Seattle P-I’s records (even present-day P-I reporters) had to sort through microfiche at the University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library and the Museum of History and Industry stacks – a barrier of time, travel, and effort for many.

The Library bought the archives dating from 1901 to 1935 and obtained the license to offer everything published afterward through NewsBank, with the intent of eventually buying the remainder of the archive over time. The difference to the user is negligible.

Content before 1901 is available through the Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers project jointly sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.

The P-I began when Seattle settler Henry Yesler invited J.R. Watson to move to Seattle from Olympia and begin a newspaper.

“It is neither so large as a barn door nor the London Times; but it is the best we can offer for a beginning and is, we trust, sufficient for the time and place,” Watson wrote in the first edition’s message to readers, published Dec. 10, 1863.

Though both the Times and P-I shifted in perspective over time, the P-I grew to be known as the more liberal competitor to the Times’ traditionally conservative editorial bent.

David Wright, reader services librarian, is excited the Library can now offer access to the P-I, not least because his father, Walter Wright, was an investigative reporter for the paper during the 1970s.

“I have zero doubt that this is going to become one of our most-cited and used resources,” he says. “The kind of granularity and personality and depth it gives to all kinds of local stories is massive.”

He continues to peruse the archives himself to send his dad – now living in Hawaii – his old stories.

Susanna Ryan, library staff member and author of “Seattle Walk Report: And Illustrated Walking Tour Through 23 Seattle Neighborhoods,” says that adding the P-I perspective to the Library’s archives is “a major win” for historians, students, and anyone exploring an aspect of Seattle’s past.

Additionally, the archive is easy to navigate.

“Without digital access, you more or less have to know exactly what you were looking for–a certain article, on a certain page, in a certain issue. Just finding that information can be a challenge on its own!” Ryan says. “(Now), whether you’re searching for the name of a family member for genealogy research, the address of a property you’re curious about, or information about an event from Seattle’s past, you need only put the search term in and see what happens.”

John LaMont, genealogy librarian, appreciates the value this paper adds to genealogy research. It increases his chances of helping a patron find something they knew was in some kind of local paper without knowing which one – not just articles and photos, but obituaries, wedding and birth announcements, and funeral notices.

“I can tell you that just about any question we get related to individuals, businesses, or events in Seattle history, we’re using this database alongside The Seattle Times to find the answer,” LaMont says. “The two papers were different, each with their own emphasis and interpretation of events.”

Explore the archive for yourself right here.

The Foundation expresses its gratitude to The Huge and Jane Ferguson Foundation, as well as other supporters of the Library’s Special Collections program, for making this gift to the Library possible.