News & Stories

Virtual tutoring provides model for hybrid student services

Virtual tutoring has been an essential resource for Seattle students over the past two years. Key Library programs like Homework Help have been unavailable in person during the pandemic. But donor support has helped the Library offer more than 4,000 live tutoring sessions on the Tutor.com platform since 2020.

The virtual program has been a major success. Ninety-five percent of participating students report that they would not be able to finish their homework without it.

Tutor.com has improved the tutoring experience for students in many ways. It provides access for those who may not have transportation to or from the Library. It expands time for students outside of in-person hours. And it delivers additional services in Spanish and Vietnamese.

But we also know that many students miss the quiet study space, one-on-one instruction, and sense of community that Homework Help provided. Over the next year, the Library will work to restore in-person Homework Help programs while keeping Tutor.com services in place. The Foundation is excited to support both versions of free tutoring to benefit all types of learners.

Eighty percent of Homework Help participants have parents who speak a language other than English at home. Students shared that their parents can’t always help them with their homework, and that they often need more time to understand their assignments. Fifty-five percent of Homework Help students report receiving better grades after attending the program.

Tutor.com has made this kind of support more accessible for high school students. Only 10 percent of pre-pandemic Homework Help users were in high school, while Tutor.com has more than doubled the high schooler participation rate.

Recent feedback from teenage participants makes it clear that both Homework Help and Tutor.com address student needs. One 10th grader using Tutor.com shared, “This is actually really helpful! And I’m glad it’s in a chat format since a lot of kids my age are much more comfortable asking for help through text or chats. I asked a question from a physics packet I’m working on and got clear and helpful answers.”

A high schooler who used to attend Homework Help at the Lake City Branch said he misses the friends he made in the program. He also misses having a distraction-free place to work. He shares a room at home with his younger brother, where he said it’s “loud as hell” and hard to concentrate on homework.

The best way to support student success is to restore in-person programs alongside virtual offerings. Tutor.com expands hours and access, boosts participation with high school students, and provides services in more languages. Homework Help fosters connections, supports social emotional learning, and provides community (and snacks!).

The Foundation wishes to thank the many supporters who make student success programs possible, including the Loeb Family Charitable Foundation and Eulalie and Carlo Scandiuzzi. We also thank the volunteers who support in-person Homework Help. We look forward to seeing you again soon!

Find out more about Homework Help at SPL.org.

Thank you for making our spring campaigns successful!

The Foundation is so thankful for our community of supporters, who stepped up BIG this spring for Library Giving Day and GiveBIG!

Thanks to the generosity of Library lovers, these campaigns raised more than $333,000! We also met our matching challenge goals.

Together, we’re helping the Library offer equity-focused programs and an expanded collection of books and materials. You ensure that everyone – people of all ages and backgrounds – has access to knowledge and learning.

If you missed Library Giving Day or GiveBIG, don’t worry – you can still make a gift that will strengthen the Library and support upcoming programs, like the beloved Summer of Learning.

A huge thank you to everyone who invested in our community and ensured that all people who want to learn and grow can access quality Library resources and programs.

Thousands of Seattle students engaged in Global Reading Challenge

Pompeii Pineapples. Stuffie Activists. Axolotl, Gods of Reading. What do they have in common? They’re all champion literary teams from across the city in this year’s Global Reading Challenge!

The Foundation is a proud longtime sponsor of the Challenge, a partnership between The Seattle Public Library and Seattle Public Schools to promote recreational reading for fourth and fifth graders. It provides more than 9,000 books and audiobooks through dozens of schools and community partner sites, and this year involved more than 2,900 students. Schools form teams, with all kinds of creative names and costumes, to read eight books chosen by librarians, then enter trivia contests at their schools.

The winning teams move on to the semi-finals, and from there to the all-city finals, which took place virtually on Tuesday. Librarians asked detailed questions (like the ingredients needed for a recipe from “Hockey Night in Kenya“) and the eight finalist teams demonstrated their knowledge in a high-speed quiz. Congratulations to all the teams for an amazing performance, and to the Pompeii Pineapples from TOPS K-8 for coming out on top!

The program incentivizes reading for students at a critical age, when many kids – particularly boys, English language learners, or those reading below their grade level – may struggle with or lose interest in reading. Librarians selected this year’s books and graphic novels to engage reluctant readers and elevate stories that reflect diverse communities and identities. Programming such as author talks and outreach to community partners helped create even more excitement and engagement around the competition.

Participation in the program has grown steadily since it began in 1996, and over the past two years libraries, teachers, and families have worked hard to ensure equitable access during remote or hybrid learning environments. Investments in digital materials and technology have been critical for students to connect with their classrooms, join book groups, attend author events, and otherwise stay involved in this shared reading journey – investments that are possible with generous donor support from partners such as the Northwest Literacy Foundation, Ballard Rotary, and individual donors who contribute to the Foundation.

This week’s finals – full of excited young readers, dedicated educators, and more than 100 parents and supporters cheering along virtually – showcased why the Global Reading Challenge remains a highlight for kids and families across the city.

Foundation applauds the selection of Tom Fay as Chief Librarian

The Seattle Public Library Foundation congratulates Tom Fay for being selected as The Seattle Public Library’s next Chief Librarian.

“Many of us have had the pleasure of working with Tom for several years,” said Justo González, president of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. “He has proven to be an effective leader and a great partner to the Foundation. We have confidence that his leadership will continue to strengthen the community-inspired programs offered by the Library, and we are eager to support the long-term vision Mr. Fay develops along with SPL’s Board of Trustees.”

Jonna Ward, the Foundation’s CEO, added: “Tom has been instrumental in guiding the Library’s commitment to equity through quality programs and services. He is a thoughtful, creative, and open-minded leader who always puts the community at the center of his decisions. We are excited to see him take on the role of Chief Librarian. We anticipate our Seattle neighbors and SPL’s committed workforce will benefit greatly from his leadership.”

The Foundation is a nonprofit partner of the Library, providing a way for people who love libraries to contribute financial support and advocate on behalf of the Library. Last year, it provided approximately $4.5 million of support for Library programs and services.

Below is the full press release issued by The Seattle Public Library on Mr. Fay’s appointment.

BOARD OF TRUSTEES SELECTS TOM FAY AS NEW CHIEF LIBRARIAN OF THE SEATTLE PUBLIC LIBRARY

On Wednesday, March 2, The Seattle Public Library’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to select Tom Fay as the new Executive Director and Chief Librarian of The Seattle Public Library. The vote marks the culmination of a national search for the Library’s next Chief Librarian.

Fay has been serving as the Library’s interim Chief Librarian since April 2021. Prior to that, Fay served as the Library’s Director of Programs and Services.

“Tom Fay is an experienced leader with deep knowledge of our city, our patrons, and our library system. He has shown over the past year that he has the experience and skills to succeed as our next Chief Librarian,” said Carmen Bendixen, president of The Seattle Public Library’s Board of Trustees. “The Board is excited to continue collaborating with Mr. Fay as he and his team continue to build an inclusive, equitable and welcoming Library system for all.”

“I am honored and humbled to be selected as Seattle’s next Chief Librarian,” said Fay, upon accepting the position. “The Seattle Public Library is a beacon of learning, connection, opportunity and inspiration for our city. Its foundation of strength and excellence is due to the commitment of our public and our staff. I look forward to learning from the many communities we serve to help shape the future of the Library.”

The Chief Librarian is responsible for the overall vision, direction, stewardship and successful operational management of The Seattle Public Library, and leads 650 employees. Reporting directly to the Library Board of Trustees, the Chief Librarian also holds a cabinet level role on the leadership team of the City of Seattle Mayor’s Office.

ABOUT THE NEW CHIEF LIBRARIAN

Prior to his selection as the new Executive Director and Chief Librarian of The Seattle Public Library, Tom Fay served as the Library’s interim Chief Librarian and, from 2015 until 2021, its Director of Library Programs and Service. In that role, Fay led the Library’s Public Services and Programs, Collections, Materials Handling, and Information Technology departments at Seattle’s downtown Central Library and 26 neighborhood branches.

A native of southern Nevada, Fay began his 39-year career in libraries as a page for the Las Vegas Clark County Library District. Prior to joining The Seattle Public Library, he held roles as the Executive Director of Henderson Libraries in Nevada and the Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of Las Vegas Clark County Library District in Nevada.

Fay graduated with a Fine Arts degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and a Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He has been awarded the O’Callaghan Public Sector Person of the Year and selected as Nevada’s Librarian of the Year.

BACKGROUND ON THE SEARCH

In Feb. 2021, after a decade of distinguished service as Chief Librarian, Marcellus Turner announced that he had accepted a position as CEO/Chief Librarian for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in Charlotte, N.C. Turner’s last day leading The Seattle Public Library was March 31, 2021. The Library Board appointed Tom Fay to serve as interim Chief Librarian beginning on April 1, 2021.

In April 2021, the Library Board of Trustees launched the hiring process to find Seattle’s next Chief Librarian. The Library Board appointed a nine-member Search Advisory Committee to develop a process and timeline for recruiting the Library’s next chief executive. Members of the committee were identified due to their experience and expertise in the Library field, and for their commitment to the community the Library serves.

The Library Board hired search consultant Koya Partners to conduct a national search with guidance from the Library Board and in collaboration with the Search Advisory Committee.

Finalists for the Chief Librarian position were announced Jan. 25, 2022 and interviewed by the Library Board on Feb. 9 and 10, 2022. As part of the final stage of the hiring process, each finalist participated in a forum with Library staff and a forum with patrons and community members.

Learn more about the search process on our website.

A recording of Fay’s public forum is available online.

 

 

$25K in matching funds available for Library Giving Day!

The Seattle Public Library Foundation is ready for Library Giving Day! Alongside more than 350 library systems, the Foundation is committed to raising awareness of how donors can enhance our Library above and beyond what public funding alone supports.

Libraries provide essential services our neighbors rely on, including physical collections, ebooks, job search help, online tutoring, and mobile book delivery. The Seattle Public Library enriches our community and entertains people of all ages.

And you can help by putting your gift to work now!

You can help bolster the book collection and support more than 40 programs to help people develop an early love of literacy and build skills throughout their lives.

A generous donor will double every gift to The Seattle Public Library Foundation up to $25,000. This means your donation today will go twice as far.

Make a gift online here.

Friends like you have always kept The Seattle Public Library strong. Your support ensures our Library can be here for everyone today and for generations to come.

Thank you for helping your Library and your community! Give now and see your gift doubled!

$10,000 in scholarships available to local students

Ten thousand dollars will be split between three student essayists this spring for the Stim Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship.

Submissions are now being accepted for the contest until March 15. The scholarship is hosted by The Seattle Public Library Foundation and was created in honor of the late Stimson Bullitt, a Seattle attorney, civil rights activist, and environmentalist.

The contest challenges college-bound high school students and current college students to write about a Washington state figure or group of people who effected change in their communities by demonstrating civic courage. The winner earns $5,000 for college tuition aid, while two runners-up win $2,500.

The top three essayists will also have their submissions catalogued in The Seattle Public Library’s Special Collections. Library patrons can read all the available essays by visiting the Seattle Room at Central Library.

“This is a critical moment in our nation’s history to explore what civic courage means,” says Jonna Ward, CEO of The Seattle Public Library Foundation. “We challenge students to develop their writing and research skills while learning about local heroes. And of course, participants can tap Library resources to help them complete their work!”

A panel of distinguished local authors pick the winners. Past winning essays covered Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, the Gang of Four, and Maru Mora-Villalpando.

More details, including the rules and eligibility requirements and resources for research, are available at the Foundation’s Stim Bullitt scholarship page.

2021 Advocacy Achievements

Since its inception, The Seattle Public Library Foundation has advocated on behalf of the Library to ensure it has the public and private resources necessary to support our neighbors.

In 2021, those advocacy efforts increased substantially to educate the public and elected officials on the importance of libraries in President Biden’s Build Back Better Framework.

Guided by the Foundation’s Advocacy Committee and with support from donors and The Friends of The Seattle Public Library, the Foundation established a strategy to connect with policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels.

The results have been positive and include successful advocacy on the following

  • Protecting the $5.8 million restorations in Mayor Durkan’s budget that fully restored all COVID-19-related funding and staffing cuts for SPL in 2021.
  • Advocating for and securing an additional $434,000 from the General Fund to repair branches vandalized during pandemic branch closures. Councilmember Debora Juarez prompted research into the impacts of vandalism and Councilmember Tammy Morales supported the funding’s inclusion in the final budget.
  • Supporting Councilmember Alex Pedersen’s amendment, which allocated an additional $99,000 to increase the number of WiFi Hotspots at SPL.
  • Developing our first legislative framework to focus on three central bodies of policy work, including 1) Advocating for sustainable library funding, 2) Safeguarding and expanding access to opportunity and imagination, and 3) Creating a resilient library system. The Foundation shared this framework with municipal, state, and federal elected officials to build the case for library support.

The Foundation wishes to thank Mayor Durkan and members of the Seattle City Council, with additional gratitude to Councilmembers Juarez, Morales, and Pedersen, for their advocacy and support of library priorities this year.

Aging in Place Series Launched for Older Adults

Chances are, you or someone you know are planning for the future. This October and November, the Library’s Older Adult Program will host a three-part series to learn about Aging in Place. The Library’s Older Adult Program is made possible by a grant from The Seattle Public Library Foundation.

Aging in Place: Virtual Villages
Tuesday, October 26th at 6:30 pm

A virtual village is not a place. Rather, it is a set of resources that enable you to remain where you want to live, more comfortably, for as long as possible.

Register for Aging in Place: Virtual Villages

Aging in Place: Homesharing
Tuesday November 9th at 6:30 pm

Homesharing is a model that increases affordable housing options, creates opportunities to earn additional income, combats social isolation and loneliness, and supports intentional roommate matching.

Register for Aging in Place: Homesharing

Aging in Place: Universal Design
Tuesday, November 16th at 6:30 pm

What is universal design? How do we look at accessibility in our living spaces as we consider our current and future needs? Barry Long, a local accessibility-focused realtor, will describe some of the most common examples of universal design in housing and suggest ways for you to evaluate your current home.

Register for Aging in Place: Universal Design

Better together with Your Next Job

North Seattle resident Dorothy Darrow credits the Library’s Your Next Job program with rejuvenating her job search as she seeks employment until she retires. (Photo credit: Lynsi Burton)

Dorothy Darrow worked as a part-time freelance production designer, laying out catalogs and ads for businesses.

But when the pandemic-induced economic crisis hit, “everything pretty much dried up” in terms of work, she says. She plans to retire in a few years and needs income until that time.

She learned about Your Next Job in The Seattle Times and turned to the Library for help.

Your Next Job started as The Seattle Public Library’s response to economic conditions and grew into a joint effort with Sno-Isle Libraries and the King County Library System to help job seekers throughout the region.

While various organizations in the area help people with different aspects of employment challenges, the Library saw the need for a “one-stop shop” – and one that would help people in need of technological support in several different languages.

“Getting people resources and information is what libraries are about,” says Marion Scichilone, assistant managing librarian at Central Library. “It just seemed like a very appropriate thing to do.”

So they trained Library staff and contracted multilingual navigators to listen to job-seekers’ needs and either refer them to the appropriate Library services or link them with partner organizations that can offer more specialized assistance, such as Seattle Jobs Initiative or Puget Sound Welcome Back Center.

“Any resource that a patron doesn’t have access to, we can be that bridge to get them connected to what they need,” says Meira Jough, program manager for adult basic education and workforce development.

Another powerful partnership is the one with Building Our Bridge, a group of Seattle Housing Authority residents who contract with organizations to provide multilingual technology training. They’re uniquely positioned to help immigrants and refugees who call in with the digital skills often required in job-seeking.

They provide service in Vietnamese, Oromo, Somali, Amharic, Korean, Arabic, and Tigrinya. Library staff cover English, Russian, Spanish, and Chinese.

Between June and December, 265 patrons received Your Next Job services.

As for Darrow, she’s still looking for steady work, but Your Next Job connected her with contacts who could advise her on job training – and it boosted her morale as she secured job interviews.

“I was able to give myself encouragement to get out looking again,” she says.

To make an appointment with Your Next Job, visit www.spl.org/YourNextJob or call 206-386-4636.

This story appeared in our 2020 Report to Donors. Read the full report here, complete with stories of donor impact and financial information.

Bringing homework help home

The Library contracted with Tutor.com to bring homework tutoring and academic coaching to kids at home while after-school in-person tutoring is on hold.

The Lake City Branch was one of the busiest Homework Help sites in the city. So when branches closed at the onset of the pandemic, the students who relied on it felt its absence.

“I can’t tell you how many requests I got for Homework Help from students missing it,” says Nancy Garrett, teen services librarian at the Lake City Branch.

After a search for online alternatives, the Library contracted with Tutor.com, which provides one-on-one academic coaching via the internet. Library staff said they picked Tutor.com over other possibilities because it offered help in multiple languages and provided a voice option in addition to text-based chat.

“It gives options to connect in a way that (users) feel most comfortable with,” says Emely Perez, a teen and adult services librarian at the South Park Branch.

After activating the service in October, with options for Vietnamese and Spanish language tutoring, the next important task was to promote it to those it could help.

Perez has plugged Tutor.com on Spanish-speaking radio station El Rey, 1360 AM, and contacted community partners who could help spread the word, such as local schools, Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, Consejo Counseling and Referral Service, and Villa Comunitaria. Ayan Adem, interim K-5 program manager, appeared in a segment on a Somali-speaking radio station.

Garrett has promoted the service to Northeast Seattle organizations – such as the Lake City Collective, Literacy Source, Seattle Housing Authority, and the North Seattle Family Center – and even to adults who may want to use Tutor.com’s adult option to study for a citizenship test or get job search help.

The goal is to communicate the availability of Tutor.com to prioritized communities throughout the city where children and families are experiencing increased barriers to education due to the pandemic. Youth and families need the Library’s support more than ever, says Josie Watanabe, public service programs manager.

Tutor.com provided more than 2,700 tutoring sessions through the Library between October and December 2020, according to statistics provided by Tutor.com – mostly serving secondary grade students.

In-person Homework Help will resume eventually; students and volunteers alike miss the essential in-person connection they used to share, Watanabe says. But Tutor.com fills a vital role during the era of physical distancing.

“I’m so grateful that we were able to pivot to Tutor.com,” Garrett says. “It was really important to the community.”

If you or someone you know could use the help of a tutor, visit www.spl.org/Homework.

This story appeared in our 2020 Report to Donors. Read the full report here, complete with stories of donor impact and financial information.