News & Stories

You keep our libraries going: a letter from CEO Jonna Ward

Patrons across Seattle flocked to neighborhood branches March 13 to check out books before SPL’s temporary closure. Writer Melissa Koosmann took this photo at the Beacon Hill Branch.
Dear Library Supporters,
Jonna Ward

On a typical Friday at The Seattle Public Library, about 13,000 physical books and materials are checked out. Friday, March 13 was far from typical. On that last day before the Library temporarily closed to help protect the public from COVID-19, more than 100,000 books were checked out. In branches across the city, many shelves were picked clean.

The Library is rapidly shifting gears to change how it provides services to our public without the use of buildings or in-person visits. And the Library Foundation is doing the same to ensure the Library has funding to deliver services that our community needs right now.

We can do this because of the generosity of people like you who love and rely on the Library, have a deep belief in the value of its mission, and recognize the essential role libraries have in reducing social and economic inequalities.

People need their libraries strong and ready to support the community. Thanks to you, SPL can do this! And I look forward to sharing its stories with you.

I want you to know that our dedicated Foundation team is safe and fully operational. We are unwinding our canceled fundraising luncheon, and are working hard to meet a $70,000 challenge match put forward by two incredibly generous donors who possess a deep commitment to our Library. All donations of $250 are being doubled, right now.

We are also gearing up for Library Giving Day on April 23. We expect this online fundraising event to fuel many of the expanded services SPL will roll out to help our community during this challenging time.

When SPL once again opens its doors, our patrons will return the 100,000 books they checked out on March 13. In the meantime, I hope you will try some of the fantastic resources SPL already provides through its Virtual Library.

Be safe my friends,

Jonna Ward, CEO
The Seattle Public Library Foundation

2020 Discover Your Library Luncheon canceled

We are committed to the health and safety of our supporters. We also want to do our part to contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect those at the highest risk.

Given the recommendations of Public Health – Seattle & King County – and with input from our Board, event committee, and wonderful sponsors – we have canceled the 2020 Discover Your Library Luncheon that was scheduled to take place March 17.

But you still have an opportunity to give. Thanks to our fantastic challenge match sponsors, all online gifts of $250 or more will be doubled until we hit $70,000. You can still help us reach our goal of $450,000. Give today!

We thank our incredible sponsors for their leadership in supporting The Seattle Public Library and its services. We also thank each of you for your commitment to thriving libraries.

You’re welcome to enjoy great moments from last year’s event to serve as inspiration! Last year, we met 9-year-old West Seattle resident Halima, who detailed how she became a star student with aspirations to become a doctor by using Homework Help at the High Point Branch. Watch her story here. During the live program, keynote speaker Franklin, 18, recounted how he moved to Seattle from Nigeria and learned English and developed a passion for computer science at the Library. Watch Franklin’s powerful speech!

Thank You to Our 2020 Sponsors!

Technology for All – Title Sponsor

Civic Engagement Sponsor

Cultural Enrichment Sponsors

Literacy Sponsors

Toni Meyers and Skip Kerr

In-kind sponsors

Storytelling Partner

Library Census outreach aims to count every person

A Foundation grant will help The Seattle Public Library perform 2020 Census outreach and assistance. The Census will be available online for the first time; patrons will be able to complete it at any Library branch.

The Seattle Public Library wants to ensure every person in Seattle is counted for the 2020 Census and is partnering with community organizations to achieve this goal.

Library staff will offer a variety of census assistance to the public during the coming months. The outreach is part of an effort to guarantee the most accurate representation possible in drawing legislative and congressional maps, allocating tax dollars and federal grants, and informing emergency response. The Census, conducted every 10 years, is a Constitutionally mandated survey.

Every home will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census April 1, and this year, residents will have an option to complete the survey online.

Here are some of the ways the Library will deliver Census outreach to the public:

  • Staff at each branch will be prepared to answer questions about the 2020 Census. They can provide basic information, including how to access tools and resources designed to help patrons complete the Census.

  • Between March 12 and April 18, United Way King County tax help sites at the Central, Douglass-Truth, and University Branches will offer Census aid to all tax help users during their open hours. Find those sessions here.

  • The Library will offer Census assistance sessions with the City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods and the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. At least three sessions are scheduled on Census Day, April 1, taking place from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Lake City, Rainier Beach, and Ballard Branches. Additional sessions will be announced in the coming weeks.

  • Every Library branch will have computers available for people to fill out their Census form starting March 12. No library card needed!

The Library is also offering meeting rooms for Census staff training as they prepare Census workers to canvass the community.

This work is supported by a $30,000 donor-funded grant by The Seattle Public Library Foundation. If you’re interested in supporting these efforts, make a contribution today.

Learn more about the Library’s Census efforts.

New Bookmobile hits the road with style

Look for The Seattle Public Library’s new Bookmobile on the streets!

The Library’s Mobile Services department acquired a new rig for its Bookmobile routes with several upgrades that will make it a more efficient and convenient means of bringing Library services to the masses.

This new Bookmobile will visit low-income housing complexes for seniors and people with disabilities, retirement homes, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes. Each month, the Bookmobile makes 52 such visits, serving 605 patrons, providing Library access for those with barriers to visiting a Library branch.

This new Bookmobile gets better gas mileage than the previous truck, and seats up to six staff people instead of three, increasing opportunities for training. This truck provides several safety upgrades, as well.

Mobile Services also sends Bookmobiles to preschools and childcare centers serving low-income families, homeless encampments, community fairs and festivals throughout the city, and more, bringing Library access to at nearly 3,500 patrons every month.

Donors support a full-time Mobile Services librarian each year with gifts to The Seattle Public Library Foundation. Learn more about the full range of the Library’s Mobile Services.

‘We’re going to support you in your learning’: Adult Education Tutoring supports learning at every stage

Barbara Moreland and volunteer Nick Crivello work together to advance Barbara’s studies at the University of Washington.

Barbara Moreland, 67, wanted to help her 10-year-old grandson, who is deaf, when she realized he wasn’t receiving the support he needed in public school.

Not only did she decide to homeschool him, but she went back to school herself at the University of Washington to study special education – all this on top of her job as a King County corrections officer.

But like many people in our community, she struggled with learning math.  And in college, more than 100 other students in her classes need help from the instructors.

So she turned to The Seattle Public Library’s Adult Education Tutoring program at the Rainier Beach Branch, where she receives individual support on her homework, which has allowed her to earn her special education degree.

“I would not have been able to get that degree without some help,” Barbara says.

Adult Education Tutoring is a Foundation-supported program that helps adults achieve their goals at three Library branches: Central, Broadview, and Rainier Beach. There, trained tutors work with students on a variety of skills.

While the most frequently cited goals by students are attaining employment (36 percent) or learning English (35 percent), they come in with several different needs to improve their lives.

That can range from trying to obtain a driver license to learning the English vocabulary to shop for groceries. Others are working toward high school equivalency, U.S. citizenship, or, like Barbara, trying to complete their homework.

What sets Adult Education Tutoring apart among Seattle’s various tutoring services is that no one needs to be a formal student anywhere or meet any special qualifications, says program manager Meira Jough – and it’s all free. It’s the only walk-in tutoring program in the city, she indicates.

“Because of Foundation support, we can say, ‘Anybody who needs to come can come,’” she says.

The Foundation supports the purchase of books and beginner literacy and citizenship instructional materials that are given to students, also free. That’s meaningful to attendees, Jough says, who often face cost barriers to education.

“We’re going to support you in your learning, whatever that means,” she says. “That’s the message we’re sending.”

Barbara has felt that support and says she’s appreciative of the consistency of tutors throughout her last 3 ½ years of attending Adult Education Tutoring.

“They know my style and they know what I’m studying,” she says. “I feel that I’m successful because of them.”

She and other students – from college undergraduates to fellow grandmas – share in each other’s successes and even their trials. Though another grandson – other than the one who is deaf – was tragically killed in a 2017 shooting, Barbara kept coming to Adult Education Tutoring to press ahead with her studies.

“I never stopped coming to tutoring,” she says. “To be able to come here and spend time with people who knew I was grieving and just helping with the math, it was therapeutic because we have a relationship here.”

She now feels better equipped to help her grandson and continues to work on her math so she can achieve a minor geared specifically for educating the deaf and hard of hearing. She also brings him and another 16-year-old grandson to the Library for Homework Help after school.

Barbara credits her longest-term tutor, volunteer Nick Crivello, with much of her success, namely in graphing.

“It’s great how she’s trying to help her grandson,” Nick says. “We’ve made a lot of progress.”

To learn more about Adult Education Tutoring and other Library programs for adult learners, visit the SPL website at

What a difference a year makes: Lake City, reimagined

Your support made a difference in the Lake City community.

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the re-opening of the Lake City Branch, which, thanks to donors, was “reimagined” to better support community needs.

The Lake City Branch now sports new furniture, more study rooms, flexible walls, and mobile shelving units that allow for adaptation to community events.

Every year, The Seattle Public Library Foundation supports the Library to help provide new furniture and select improvements, but the Lake City effort was a big project, and you came together to make it happen!

So, how has the community responded to these updates? The reports are positive! Because of your gifts, Lake City sees:

-Higher attendance at programs: Story Times attract three to five more people per session, and cultural celebrations welcome up to 20 more attendees per event than before! Now that staff can open up community room walls, they can provide additional seating or tables so they no longer have to turn people away from popular programs.

-Greater use of study rooms: Study room use has jumped from 60 uses per month pre-remodel to 335 monthly uses today. That’s because Lake City now offers five study rooms instead of one. The conference and study rooms allow staff to combine the two largest rooms to host Homework Help.

-Expanded community partnerships: The Hunger Intervention Program uses the new community/café space to provide snacks for students during Homework Help sessions four days a week and additional meals to kids on early release school days. The branch also has more room for organizations such as SeaMar and Sound Transit to table at the Library and inform the public on their services. Library staff are now working to bring in organizations such as WorkSource and REACH to use these rooms for occasional drop-in times for clients.

-Greater safety: The new shelving configurations allow Library staff clear sight lines so they can ensure the branch remains open and safe to all.

-Jump in children’s collection circulation: Mobile shelving units allowed staff to bring the children’s nonfiction collection from the adult area to the children’s section. They credit this move with the boost in children’s materials circulation.

-More rooms, better accommodations: More rooms with flexible walls offer space for neurodiverse children who need more quiet and less stimulation during Library visits.

Your support has made a difference to the Lake City community, and we are grateful to all who brought this change to life. For every smile on a child’s face at Homework Help, and seat offered to a parent at a popular free program, we have you to thank.

$10K in tuition aid up for grabs with Stim Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship

Do you know a teen or college student seeking tuition aid for college?

We’re taking submissions NOW for the Stim Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship, an essay contest in which we’ll split $10,000 among three worthy essayists.

This competition asks students to write an essay about and individual or group of individuals from Washington state who demonstrated civic courage on an issue of importance to the community at great personal, political or professional risk. We offer some ideas here to spark inspiration.

Distinguished judges will review the entries and award the first-place winner with a $5,000 prize. Two runners-up will win $2,500 each. The top three essays will also be added to the collection in the Hugh and Jane Ferguson Seattle Room at The Seattle Public Library.

Stimson Bullitt was a lawyer, soldier, outdoorsman, civil rights activist, developer, philanthropist, broadcaster, environmentalist, and community leader in Seattle. He believed that courageous civic leadership could improve the lives of people in our community both now and in the future. His family established this scholarship with The Seattle Public Library Foundation as a tribute to his legacy.

The deadline for this contest is March 15. To learn more about the eligibility requirements and how to enter, visit our scholarship page.

Did you consider your fines your gift to the Library?

You can continue supporting the Library with a gift to the Foundation.

Many Library fans have happily paid their late fines while simply considering it a donation to the Library. After all, you appreciate the robust collection, the free programs, and the helpful staff. That’s worth the small price you may have paid for your occasional fines and fees.

While the 2019 Library Levy replaces fine revenue, The Seattle Public Library Foundation still offers you the chance to make your Library stronger. Last year, the Foundation supported the purchase of more than 1 in 4 books; made possible 40 popular programs like Homework Help, Adult Education Tutoring, and Story Times; and supported facility upgrades to branches like Lake City and South Park. In total, the Foundation provided more than $5 million in financial and in-kind support to the Library.

If you want to continue showing the Library you care, please consider becoming a Page Turner and joining our monthly giving club. Donations can be made starting at $5 per month. Or make a one-time gift by donating here.

It’s a double bonus! You’ll never have a late fee again AND you’ll be doing your part to strengthen your community’s greatest treasure – a vibrant public library!

KidsTeam: Where the grown-ups learn from the kids

Alex, 9, designs a 3D model of a prosthetic dog leg during a problem-solving exercise at KidsTeam, a participatory design program offered at four SPL branches in partnership with the University of Washington.

One late afternoon in the The Seattle Public Library’s Greenwood Branch, graduate students from the University of Washington asked a group of kids what problems they encountered that day.

The kids discussed a few issues, like difficulty keeping their Harry Potter book open while trying to read it, or the pet dog who lost his leg after a car crash.

The next question: How can these problems be solved with 3D printing?

That question was the premise of the 9-week program this fall called KidsTeam, in which professors and graduate students at the University of Washington iSchool test digital- and design-focused curriculum on children ages 7 to 12 and use their feedback to refine their future Library programs – an approach known as “participatory design.” The iSchool uses that feedback to help improve and expand the program throughout the SPL system.

Kids are not only engaged by the interactive curriculum, but pleased to know that their opinion matters to the adults teaching them. They have buy-in on the whole effort.

“There’s such rare time that an adult wants to sit down and listen to a kid,” said Jason Yip, assistant professor and director of KidsTeam UW.

While largely supported by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, donors to The Seattle Public Library Foundation cover the equipment used in the program, such as the laptops children use, and the staff to support the effort, led by Juan Rubio, who administers KidsTeam in four Library branches: Columbia, Greenwood, Rainier Beach, and Broadview.

In the past, KidsTeam hosted participatory design classes exploring sumo-wrestling robots, electronic circuitry, and storytelling through video games. In the spring, the KidsTeam will collaborate with kids at the Broadview Branch on “e-textiles,” or how to create wearable items that light up.

But back to the 3D printing.

By the time kids were asked to solve everyday problems with 3D printing technology, they already knew how to use TinkerCAD, a computer program that allows them to design objects that can then be created in a 3D printer. They also used other approaches to design their solutions that day, such as markers, construction paper, pipe cleaners, and Play-Doh.

Talia, 10, used Play-Doh to construct a solution to the real problem in her life: it was her dog, Henry, who lost his leg. So she molded a prosthetic leg and harness to help him. Alex, 9, took on her problem and got to work on TinkerCAD to create a prosthetic leg that could be 3D-printed.

“We’ve learned a lot about how kids react to 3D printing,” Yip said of the course. With Yip’s help, the children explored many related questions throughout the quarter: How do we make the 3D printer more inviting? Can shapes help me make sense of 3D design? How do we transform from 2D to 3D? How do we talk about the objects we made? Each of those sessions was thoroughly documented by Yip and his graduate students to make improvements for future Library programs.

Not only is the kids’ beneficial to the Library, but it will inform how KidsTeam expands across the country. The UW team will take what it learned from the Library and implement their lessons at new iterations of the program at library locations in Spokane, rural areas of Eastern Washington, and even San Diego.

At The Seattle Public Library, the program will eventually be used by teen and children’s librarians and administered by teen volunteers who will work with the children. That model is already underway at the Columbia Branch.

Erin Moehring, a children’s librarian at the Greenwood Branch who assisted with KidsTeam sessions, plans to host the program at her branch.

“I’ve just been so excited to see what we can learn from the kids and engage with all the technology,” she says.

KidsTeam hosted a capstone party for the kids and their caregivers earlier this month during the ninth and final week of the 3D printing program. Yip reviewed what they learned in a slideshow while kids enjoyed chips, candy, and sparkling water.

Michelle Martin, mother of 9-year-old participant Alexis, said this was her daughter’s second time participating in KidsTeam.

“She never wanted to leave at the end,” she said.

Of the participatory design model, she added: “(The kids) enjoy being asked their opinions. It’s neat that they’re such an important part of this research.”

Ilya Goldberg, dad to the intrepid prosthetic leg designer Alex, said, “It was good because we like to get him to do new things. He definitely seems to enjoy the variety.”

Sisi, 11, treasured the heart she designed and had 3D printed, with her name etched onto it.

“I like working with the kids and I like that we got to learn about 3D printing,” she said.

Sisi also understood how 3D printing technology fits into modern society.

“Now it seems like we have a new solution, like if someone has a bone that couldn’t be replaced, you can use 3D printing,” she said. “It’s a new way to solve a problem.”

Books By Mail brings joy to patrons’ doorsteps

Roberta Wells receives Books By Mail.

A few years ago, Ballard resident Roberta Wells injured herself twice, prompting extended nursing home stays and affecting her mobility.

“My whole life was altered,” she says. Once a fixture at the Ballard Branch of the Library, Roberta turned to another service to keep her Library books coming: Books By Mail.

The Seattle Public Library – as part of its Foundation-supported Mobile Services that include the Bookmobile and home book delivery – serves about 75 people through Books By Mail, which allows patrons unable to leave their homes to check out up to 15 items per month with an easy system that’s free to users.

They can even check out Wi-Fi Hotspots to gain internet access. Roberta maxes out her monthlyallotment with books, CDs, and movies on DVD, she says: “I push them to their limits.”

She enjoys checking out historical romances, Christian books, and Ken Burns documentaries.

“It works really well for me,” she says of the service.

Tyler Bosma, who processes the Books By Mail materials, says its popularity has soared since the Library increased patrons’ monthly limit of items a few years ago from five to 15. They circulate about 250 items – or 90 packages – every month.

Any Seattle resident who is unable to travel to the Library due to disability or illness for six months or longer can call or email the Library to discuss  whether this service would meet their needs.

Books By Mail serves 75 people and sends 90 packages to patrons each month.

“It’s so easy to add them to our service,” he adds.

Patrons receive a green pouch full of Library treasures and, when it’s time to return items, they simply flip the attached address label and let the Postal Service take the bag back to the Library.

Roberta says her neighbors at her senior apartment complex know when she’s received her green bag: “They usually see me smiling.” And several of her neighbors use Books By Mail, too.

Are you or a loved one unable to visit the Library and want to sign up for Books By Mail? Contact the Library at 206-386-4636 or email

Bosma says patrons can request specific items, or explain what they’re interested in and allow librarians to pick for them. One patron, for example, requests four large-print mysteries per month and allows librarians to select the titles.

Roberta, a former fifth-grade and Sunday school teacher, says she’s grateful to continue reading with the help of the Library; books are her “drugs of choice,” she says.

Books By Mail keeps her from venturing out into dangerous terrain during the winter and minimizes her risk for more injury.

“I really want to spread the news because I am delighted with this,” she says.

Learn more at

This story appeared in our Winter 2019 newsletter, The Next Chapter. Check out the full issue here.

The Next Chapter | Winter 2019 by Lynsi on Scribd