News & Stories

Celebrating 40 years of championing the Library

The Seattle Public Library Foundation was a novel idea when it began in 1980 – it was the first library foundation in the Pacific Northwest.

Nov. 25 marks The Seattle Public Library Foundation’s 40th birthday – and while 2020 has thrown so many challenges our way, our decades of uplifting our beloved Library give us so much to celebrate.

Most importantly, we extend our gratitude to the people who make the Library the community cornerstone it is: You, our donors, volunteers, supporters, and Library staff.

From our humble beginnings as a band of volunteers in 1980, we’ve grown to become the largest library foundation in the United States in assets under management and have acted as pioneers in the world of library philanthropy.

Let’s take a quick look at our journey:

1980s

Virginia Burnside, SPLF founder

-Retiring from the Library Board of Trustees, Virginia Burnside recruits members of her book club to establish The Seattle Public Library Foundation. Its mission was twofold: to raise money for the Library and to showcase the Library’s materials and services. It was the first library foundation to exist in the Pacific Northwest.

-Early fundraising accomplishments included supporting new carpeting and furnishings for renovated Carnegie-era branches, new Bookmobiles, and equipment for low-vision readers at the Library Equal Access Program lab.

-The Foundation’s first staff member was fundraiser Terry Collings, who would later become the Foundation’s first executive director. Before he was hired, the Foundation’s average annual fundraising amounted to $33,732. In 1991 – his third year on the job – the Foundation raised $503,604.

1990s

-The Foundation supported the hiring of Library staff for the first time with a literacy program coordinator and English language learner coordinator.

-Perhaps the Foundation’s most famous Board member, Faye Allen (mother of Paul Allen), served on the Foundation’s Board from 1993 to 2005. She served on the Emeritus Board from 2005 until her passing in 2012.

-In 1998, Seattle voters approved the largest library bond measure in American history, with the $196.4 million Libraries for All measure, which led to the construction of the current Central Library and the renovation of branches across the city. Initially, the Foundation pledged to support the effort with $40 million. By 2005, it raised $83 million in capital and collections support.

2000s

Central Library opened in 2004.

-Central Library re-opened in 2004, with 25,000 people flocking to tour the building on opening day.

-More than a dozen branch libraries were renovated and reopened to the public thanks to the bond measure advocated by the Foundation and the additional millions it raised from private donors for the effort.

-Terry Collings retired in 2007 and Jonna Ward became executive director of the Foundation in 2008. She has since become CEO.

2010s

-Seattle Foundation launched GiveBIG, a regional day of giving, in 2011. SPLF was a top finisher that year and continues to participate every May.

-The Foundation secured the first gift from Google for a Wi-Fi hotspot pilot in 2014. Wi-Fi hotspots would become the Library’s most-circulated item.

-That same year, the Foundation launched the 10-year commitment to the Stim Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship, with the estate gift from Stim Bullitt.

-Fresh Start began in 2018 to help restore library accounts to teens with suspended access to the Library.

-The Foundation established Library Giving Day, an annual day of library philanthropy, in 2019. That first year, about 192 libraries across North America participated, raising $737,000 for libraries — 27 percent more than projected.

So much of what you love about the Library is credited to donor and volunteer support: the thousands of free programs that educate and inspire us; the volume of collections, including e-books, audiobooks, and our historical archives in Special Collections; and the innovative ways the Library seeks to deliver more equitable service, such as community resource specialists and Wi-Fi hotspot circulation.

Because of your generosity, the Library can adapt with changing technology, provide innovative programs, and enhance its services. During this year’s pandemic, Foundation support has helped the Library pivot to online programs and reach families with the greatest barriers to access and technology.

Collectively, the Foundation has provided more than $203 million in private support and it has helped advocate for $567 million in public funding to support the Library our neighbors love and rely on.

For 40 years of outstanding work uplifting our Library, we thank you!

The Foundation Board of Directors – taken in 2019. (Photo by Elizabeth Carpenter)

$50,000 Challenge Match Kicks off Fall Giving Season!

The Foundation kicked off its fall giving season with a special $50,000 challenge match, which helps to make donor support have twice the impact.

The challenge was provided by a donor who believes in the power of libraries to strengthen our community for everyone, regardless of age or economic circumstance.

Funding from the fall campaign will be used to help support the Library’s collections and programs that are offered above and beyond what public funding alone can provide.

Donors can make a gift online and the match will be automatically applied until the matching gift is achieved. Give at https://give.supportspl.org/donate.

Young leaders bring ‘Black Joy’ through the power of stories

Teen intern Leeah reads “The Patchwork Bike” in a virtual session of Black Joy and Mindful Movements.

While grown-ups strive to stay safe during a global pandemic, juggle work and childcare, and keep stress down during a contentious election season, anxious feelings can also extend to kids – especially Black children whose families are disproportionately affected by systemic racism and its related effects.

“The stress of COVID for children in addition to the stress if you are a child of color right now is unbelievable,” says Jennifer Bisson, children’s librarian at the Greenwood Branch.

Late this summer, the Library provided a response to help ease that tension: Black Joy and Mindful Movements Story Time.

It employs the usual virtual Story Time format, with picture books read aloud to children on video, but it intentionally features stories about Black families and incorporates “mindful” breathing techniques that kids and parents alike can use to manage stress.

The program is hosted in partnership with the Bureau of Fearless Ideas, which brought the social and emotional dimension to the Library’s already-successful Story Time formula. The Black Joy and Mindful Movements readers asked viewers questions about their feelings on the stories and cultivated empathy with the characters.

“That’s not something SPL typically does,” Bisson says.

The Bureau of Fearless Ideas also hired paid teen interns to do the storytelling: three Black young women who by now have just started college.

The intent is to spotlight Black role models for younger children.

“Children seeing a teenager reading to them (is valuable), especially seeing teens that look like them, excited about and modeling good reading about characters that also look like you!” one intern said in her evaluation of the program.

Three paid teen interns from Bureau of Fearless Ideas led the Black Joy and Mindful Movements sessions.

And that paid off in attendance, too. Program organizers estimate that between 600 and 800 kids and caregivers tuned into the three Black Joy programs that aired in August and September.

“The kiddos and I enjoyed this and we look forward to watch more,” one viewer commented. “Awesome idea. And my little girl was so excited to see a Black girl that looks like her and Mommy.”

The mindfulness portion is simple – before and after each story, the teen storyteller leads viewer through an easy-to-understand breathing exercise.

During one program, teen intern Leeah asked participants to pretend they were holding a birthday cake covered in candles, and then take a few breaths to blow them all out.

The teens also indicated the program exposed them to representations of Black people they didn’t see as younger kids, themselves.

“Seeing a mom in a headscarf as ‘normal’ could really make the difference for a kid who also just wants to feel ‘normal’ in their school and community,” one teen reported. “Seeing Black people reading AND in the stories challenges (the idea) that white is the ‘default normal’ and makes space for you.”

In all, it was a learning experience for younger and older kids alike, says Faith Eakin, lead program manager at Bureau of Fearless Ideas.

“At the core, this was amazing inter-generational programming with Black teens as the leaders and was hugely empowering to the interns,” she says. “It was great to collaborate and showcase our wonderful partnership (with the Library) by presenting programming that represents both organizations, literacy, mindfulness, social emotional learning and youth leadership. It was really relevant and fresh!”

Bisson says she hopes to continue and expand the program in the new year.

The Seattle Public Library Foundation applauds the partnership between the Library and the Bureau of Fearless ideas and is proud to support the Library’s Story Time programming.

Check out more of the Library’s Story Time programs at SPL.org/storytime.

Library Link brings wealth of resources to Seattle students

Library Link gives automatic Library access to all Seattle Public Schools students, allowing them to check out books and access the Library’s online educational tools.

In a partnership with Seattle Public Schools, The Seattle Public Library has offered middle and high school students automatic access to Library books and resources since 2017 through a program called Library Link.

But when COVID-19 shut down in-person schooling, SPL accelerated its plans to expand the program to elementary grades, bringing access to all 55,844 students in the school district.

Library Link eliminates the need for Seattle Public Schools students to sign up for a library card. If they’re a student, they’re automatically assigned a library card number and PIN, unlocking availability of not just books, but online databases for research, digital picture books and graphic novels, and educational videos.

“The idea that there is nothing that anybody has to do to get a library card—that you automatically have one – is the center of Library Link,” says Erica Delavan, a children’s services librarian at the Northeast Branch who also helps to manage Library Link.

Together, SPL and Seattle Public Schools are trying to close learning and access gaps for those with barriers to remote education, through efforts like Library Link, the school district’s distribution of donated Chromebook laptops, and the Library’s issuance of Wi-Fi hotspots to communities like Seattle World School families.

“It’s amazing,” says TuesD Chambers, teacher-librarian at Ballard High School. “We are so lucky to have it.”

Her students can check out books that may not be available at the school library, and she also makes use of SPL’s “always available” books that can be checked out by an entire book club, class, or grade level.

Additionally, Chambers and her colleagues have made extensive use of SPL’s digital resources such as Biography in Context for history projects, ProQuest for cited sources, Kanopy for historical videos, and Flipster for magazines. She also assigned students to use SPL’s Your Next 5 Books service to compile summer reading lists.

“Every single time I teach, I use it,” she says. “Teachers are like, ‘Holy smokes, I didn’t know the Library had all of this!’”

Ellie Ratliff, teacher-librarian at Licton Springs K-8 School, was a pilot user of Library Link when it was first rolled out. It was a useful way to teach fourth- and fifth-graders about how to find information.

“I try to teach them about technology, using computers, and learning to search (using Library Link),” she says.

When she shared Library Link with fourth-graders during quarantine, they were excited to see the selection of “always available” children’s e-books and audiobooks, and the television shows and music they could access
on Hoopla.

“I would use it a lot because it is the free digital resource that I and my students all have access to without having to purchase anything additional,” Ratliff says. “It’s getting books into kids’ hands right now.”

Thanks to donor support, the Foundation helped launch the Library Link program with a 3-year grant in 2017.

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

‘Reading About Race’ collection meets surging demand

A community member independently posted a sign near Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park encouraging people to check out the Library’s “Reading About Race” collection, which features more than 30 always-available titles about race issues. (Photo by @nbd1232/Twitter)

The Monday after nationwide protests first broke out decrying the May death of George Floyd, Frank Brasile found that demand for digital books about race at The Seattle Public Library suddenly skyrocketed.

The Library tries to keep the holds down to five or fewer people for every book. But Brasile, a selection services librarian, found that holds grew to 15 to 1 on a wide array of titles covering race issues—“remarkable demand,” he says.

Brasile immediately sought approval to buy more licenses for digital titles such as “Sister Outsider” by Audra Lorde and “Black Liberation” by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor.

“We really want to be able to provide patrons with as much access as possible,” Brasile says.

Demand continued to surge within days, building to 400 holds per day per certain titles, prompting another large acquisition of digital licenses, supported in part by donors to The Seattle Public Library Foundation.

Today, the Library offers more than 30 “always available” titles in its “Reading About Race” collection, offering immediate access to some of the most popular books addressing anti-racism and issues that have historically affected people of color. These include “Me and White Supremacy,” “The End of Policing,” “Ain’t I A Woman,” and “Redefining Realness.”

The “Reading About Race” collection consists almost entirely of e-audiobooks. Because the Library was closed to checking out hard copy books to protect the public from COVID-19, it was limited to acquiring digital materials to build its stock. And publishers tend to offer more generous and accessible licensing for e-audiobooks than for e-books, Brasile says. But by offering these e-audiobooks, people can listen to them immediately and absorb them while driving or doing other activities around the home.

“By having unlimited access, we’re able to meet patrons where the demand is,” Brasile says.

This surge in popularity for these titles highlights a movement in recent years to promote “own voices,” or stories written by people of the very population the subject affects—for example, “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee” (2019) was an effort by Native American writer David Treuer to reclaim the narrative of indigenous Americans put forth by the white-written “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” in 1970.

Last year, Treuer was the Library’s featured speaker at the A. Scott Bullitt Lecture in American History, supported by a Foundation endowment.

Brasile has selected titles for “Reading About Race” written mostly by people of color who can lend their own experience or viewpoints to the issues they spotlight.

“Elevating and amplifying those voices highlights their importance and it puts them on the same level as all of the familiar voices, historians, and writers we know about,” he says.

Patrons have noticed the expanded offerings.

“Y’all I beg you to download the OverDrive app,” college student Alina wrote from her Twitter account. “Seattle Public Library has a bunch of books on race, including audiobooks, that are always available. Including Freedom is a Constant Struggle (read by Angela Davis), Sister Outsider, The New Jim Crow, Citizen. The best free resource.”

OverDrive and Libby are apps patrons can download on their devices to access and check-out digital materials. Alina has listened to at least four of the Reading About Race titles already during her commute to work and plans to check out more.

Another Twitter user spotted a poster near Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park that read, “Learning about systemic racism isn’t hard…. When you have a library card!” It listed several titles from the “Reading About Race” collection.

“It’s the beginning of what I hope is a sea change, that we’re going to see more diversity in authors, which is going to create a more diverse slate of books that people will read,” Brasile says. “Hopefully it will change people’s minds.”

Find the “Reading About Race” collection at www.spl.org/ReadingAboutRace.

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

Library-loaned Wi-Fi brings connectivity to more neighbors

The Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) is one of the partners of the Library’s Wi-Fi hotspot loan program. Here, hotspots are installed at Georgetown Village, a tiny house community for the insecurely housed. (Photo by LIHI)

Wi-Fi hotspots are The Seattle Public Library’s most-circulated item, with 675 devices checked out nearly 8,000 times last year, bringing free internet access to people three weeks at a time.

But another set of hotspots are intentionally distributed to local organizations and housing communities in need for up to six months at a time to help people most likely to be affected by Seattle’s digital divide – those who don’t have the devices or internet access to perform basic tasks that now require an internet connection. When Libraries closed in the wake  of COVID-19, that need for easy internet access grew.

Donor support to The Seattle Public Library Foundation allowed the Library to acquire 125 additional hotspots after the branch closures for this special outreach program, building the stock to 375 hotspots for community partners. Since then, the Library has outfitted several groups and schools with internet access for their clients.

Fifty hotspots went to Seattle World School, a culturally and linguistically diverse school in the Seattle Public Schools district that serves more than 300 immigrant and refugee secondary students.

Additional hotspot outreach is targeted to serve people experiencing  housing instability, immigrants and refugees, English language learners, and people who identify as LGBTQ+, among many other people in need of internet access to pursue learning opportunities, seek information, or look for jobs and housing.

People living in poverty are five times more likely to lack internet access, according to a 2018 study by the City of Seattle. Of the city’s 5 percent of residents without internet, 61 percent say cost is a primary barrier to obtaining access.

“Internet means you can connect to people, information, apply for relevant resources you need in order to live,” says Nadiyah Browne, an outreach program manager at the Library who manages the Wi-Fi hotspot distribution. “What exists in our city is a gap between people who have access to internet (and those who don’t) that holds people back from fully engaging in society.”

The Library has worked with organizations like the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) to distribute hotspots to some tiny house villages and an emergency shelter, as well as the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, Villa Communitaria, and Solid Ground.

“Having the hotspots at the villages is especially important now,” says Andrew Constantino, LIHI site coordinator at the Georgetown Village tiny house community. “They allow residents to stay in contact with family members and friends, stay informed about the crisis, and not feel isolated and alone. They return a sense of normalcy and dignity during this time.”

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

Foundation supports families with Wi-Fi hotspots for Seattle World School students

The Library purchased 50 new Wi-Fi hotspots to lend to families with children enrolled at Seattle World School, with the help of individual gifts to the Foundation.

The Library, in partnership with Kandelia (formerly the Vietnamese Friendship Association), is also supporting these families by distributing learning kits containing books and other resources. The families received the hotspots and learning kits in August and will keep the hotspots for the duration of the school year.

The Seattle World School, located in the Central District, is a culturally and linguistically diverse school in the Seattle Public Schools district. It serves more than 300 secondary students, ages 11 to 20. It is one of only a few schools in the country designed as an entry point for children new to the United States, and helps them in their quest for academic achievement and full participation in American society.

“The goal of the partnership is to support remote learning and access to critical information during the pandemic for immigrant and refugee students and families who are also experiencing housing insecurity,” says Ayan Adem, student success manager at The Seattle Public Library. “Seattle World School families are among those most affected by COVID-19.”

The families will also receive instruction in their home language on using the hotspots. The learning kits include books selected for English language learners, student success resources, school supplies, and resources for adult learners.

The hotspots are part of the Library’s SPL HotSpot loan program, which now includes an inventory of 1,050 hotspots – 675 available to any Library cardholder for 21 days, and 375 loaned on a long-term basis to communities with barriers to accessing the internet.

The Library offers other services to students and individuals seeking resources. Seattle Public Schools students can access all digital Library resources through Library Link; connect to remote learning resources; and explore high-interest topics through Exploration Guides. Individuals facing challenges related to job loss can make a one-on-one appointment (by phone or online) through Your Next Job. The Library has posted COVID-19 community resources on its website.

Youth librarians engage kids with summer book giveaways

Lake City Collective, a grassroots minority-led neighborhood advocacy group, received a donation of 35 books from The Seattle Public Library earlier this month as part of the Summer of Learning book giveaway. (Photo credit: Lake City Collective)

Every summer, branch librarians would give away free donor-supported books at outreach events with community partners and at summer Library events to ensure Seattle kids have access to books in their home.

But in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, kids and families are not convening in person. The book giveaway was almost lost.

This is a critical part of the annual Summer of Learning program because it helps prevent the “summer slide” of education. Studies show that the bigger that kids’ home libraries are, the better they perform in school, with educational benefits lasting into adulthood – and the impact is greater for kids in lower-income homes.

This year, the Summer of Learning book giveaway looks different. Children’s and teen librarians from branches across The Seattle Public Library system are working to secure books for prioritized neighbors who have faced barriers to accessing books because of the sudden shutdown of schools and libraries.

“We were hearing from our community partners that families wanted and needed books for their children and teens,” says Lauren Mayer, a children’s services librarian at Central Library who is part of this effort. “They really wanted books and they really want non-digital learning supports.”

In past years, the Library committed to giving at least 50 percent of its Summer of Learning books to prioritized kids. This year, the goal is 100 percent.

“This year our book giveaway is more focused,” says Wendy Israel, teen services librarian at the Beacon Hill Branch. “I like this because I know it’s going to support our local community organizations.”

Israel is working with organizations like WA-Bloc, Young Women Empowered, Mount Baker Village, and El Centro de la Raza to distribute books for kids and teens in virtual leadership programs, limited-capacity summer camps, low-income housing, and more.

“It’s really been incredible,” Israel says. “It just feels like a huge blessing to have the funding to do this.”

Richard Counsil, teen services librarian at the Columbia Branch, is working to find organizations with the capacity to distribute books. Some groups have relocated, his contacts have lost employment, or staff capacity to handle the books is reduced.

But he is sending 50 books to YouthCare, an organization that assists and youth and young adults experiencing housing instability. YouthCare plans to use many of the books to start a library at one of its housing programs for people ages 18-21 and another portion will go to its home for youth who identify as LGBTQ+.

Not only do Counsil and his colleagues strive to “lead with race” and​ to seek out youth furthest from academic and social justice, but they also select titles and authors from BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities so youth can find joy in seeing themselves while reading.

“The attempt and the effort librarians put into curating (book) lists that represent authentically who people are – you get really positive responses,” Counsil says.

Holly Williams, the in-kind specialist at YouthCare, says that the books help them engage youth when quarantine orders have limited their activities.

“This donation came at a really great time when youth had been spending a lot of time inside,” she says, adding that teens plan to start a book club at various housing communities.

And she was able to pass along the residents’ requests to the Library to obtain titles relevant to them.

“Having young people read about individuals, places and situations that are similar to theirs helps them to see that they are not alone in the struggles they face,” says one YouthCare employee who works at the 18-21 house. “When people read something that resonates with their own life experience, it is earth-moving. It is especially important when an underrepresented population gets to read that their experience is valid and important.”

Other examples of the 66 (and growing) organizations served by the Summer of Learning book giveaway include the Ballard Food Bank, the Yesler Terrace low-income housing community, Seattle Indian Health Board, Boys and Girls Clubs, and more.

Israel says she is glad to be able to serve Seattle kids, even while she can’t see them.

“These are the kids I would have seen just walk into the Library,” she says. “I’m very happy we can get these books to them.”

Mayer is thankful for the donors and Library staff who make this work possible.

“We’re just so grateful to the Foundation for their support,” she says. “It’s because of that support, and the hard work of our community partner organizations and Library staff that books are getting out to youth and families even in difficult times.”

The annual Summer of Learning and its book giveaways are possible because of donor support to The Seattle Public Library Foundation.

‘Older adults can do anything’: New SPL programs aim to bring connection, empowerment to older adults

Alie and her 10-year-old daughter, Veronica, have taken several of the Silver Kite arts classes offered through The Seattle Public Library as part of its new offerings for adults 50 and older. Though the programs are targeted at older adults, they’re also meant to be enjoyed among different generations. (Photo credit: Alie)

The Seattle Public Library (SPL) has rolled out a slate of programs designed to inform and engage older adults throughout the year, even as COVID-19 pushed events online.

One-fourth of King County residents are projected to be 60 and older by 2040, according to the Age Friendly Seattle Action Plan, making them an important audience to engage in the coming years.

In order to meet these needs, SPL partnered with Silver Kite Community Arts to offer frequent virtual arts classes for Library patrons. These participatory sessions include painting, dance, journaling, and poetry – with several classes intended for people experiencing dementia and their care partners.

One Friday morning in July, people tuned in on the Zoom video conferencing platform to learn to draw still life with a pencil, practicing different kinds of shading and ways to depict light patterns.

Alie was one of those participants. While the programs are designed for people 50 and older, they also invite intergenerational engagement. That’s the case with Alie – technically in the target demographic – and her 10-year-old daughter, Veronica.

“When COVID happened, I needed something for my daughter and I to do together,” the substitute teacher says.

They’ve taken acrylic and watercolor painting classes together, journaling, and puppet-making – “I’ve taken them all,” she says. The classes have brought the former art student and interior designer in Alie to life.

“It was so nice to know I had this secret ability and I could help my daughter with it.”

Lesley, a high school band teacher, enjoyed the drawing class because it taught her techniques she can practice in future projects. The COVID era has inspired her creatively and learning new artistic skills have proved therapeutic.

“I think the arts are the most important thing we can do in normal times, but in these times, it gives us a way we can cope with all these emotions,” Lesley says. “What a great service this is to us in any time, but especially when we’re stuck away from each other and can’t do these things in person.”

She’s since cleaned out her garage to use it as her art studio.

Upcoming SPL events also partner with community organizations to help understand important subjects such as Medicare coverage and end-of-life planning. Another program will inform participants about PEARLS, a program that started in Seattle and King County about in-home counseling services offered to lower-income elders experiencing depression. PEARLS counselors also work closely with veterans and veteran spouses.

Yet another program, in partnership with the Washington Poison Center, will be a COVID-specific three-part series educating people on the safety of cleaners and sanitizers, medication management, and considerations on using cannabis for older adults.

The programs have proved popular. A recent Medicare Made Clear informational workshop attracted 97 participants, says Nancy Slote, program manager for older adults programming at The Seattle Public Library.

She hopes that the Library’s offerings will help older adults feel socially connected and well-informed on finances and health.

“As ageist attitudes change, there’s more of a sense of older adults can do anything,” Slote says. “It’s a change in how older adults approach life and create new opportunities.”

To check out the upcoming events, visit www.spl.org/fiftyplus and sign up for classes yourself!

The older adult program at SPL is supported by a pilot grant from The Seattle Public Library Foundation.

South Park Branch blossoms with revamped space

The new study room mural at the South Park Branch was painted by local teens, led by teaching artist Angelinaa Villalobos. (Photo courtesy The Seattle Public Library)

The South Park Branch underwent a makeover last year.

Built in 2006, it was already starting to show its age, given the proliferation of smart phones and laptops since that time. There were only four power outlets for people to connect their devices, limiting patrons’ time to work and play before their batteries ran dry.

Furniture was also often in the way or hard to move for the cultural events the South Park Branch is known for, like Día de los Niños (Children’s Day) and Spanish Story Time.

But with donor support, that all changed. A Reimagined Spaces grant to the South Park Branch allowed the Library to replace much of the furniture, add colorful new murals, and install new outlets all over the building.

“It’s been working out really, really well,” says Lupine Miller, assistant branch manager at South Park. “It has made our work a lot easier in many ways.”

The welcome desk pops with bright colors.

Furniture and shelves are now movable to make way for public programs. The teen space is no longer invaded by people needing to use its electrical outlet. A tree motif on the walls makes the space feel bigger and brighter. The computer area includes enough outlets for everyone.

Now, the Library can better accommodate crowds at its events, making room for everyone to participate and find a comfortable seat.

“It’s definitely much more in tune with the needs of the community right now,” says Beatriz Pascual-Wallace, the children’s librarian known as “Miss Bea.” “The re-imagining has been a positive thing.”

Perhaps most spectacular is the collaboratively painted mural in the study room, created by teen patrons led by local artist Angelina Villalobos. It’s a tree inspired by the Duwamish River, which runs through the South Park neighborhood.

That project has inspired story walks in which elementary students took walking field trips discussing art and community, ending at the South Park Branch with a look at the mural.

“They really worked together to create this beautiful, beautiful, beautiful work of art,” Miller says of the collaborative effort. “It adds so much to the Library.”

This story appeared in our 2019 Report to Donors. Read the full report here, complete with stories of donor impact and financial information.