News & Stories

Putting the ‘Global’ in Global Reading Challenge

The teen interns, children’s librarians, and program manager who coordinated the Global Reading Challenge author talks pose for a Zoom photo. (Photo courtesy The Seattle Public Library)

On a Wednesday afternoon in March, Siman Nuurali, the Somali-American author of “Sadiq and the Desert Star,” spoke openly with roughly 50 kids about what it’s like to come from an immigrant family.

“I don’t want Somali kids to feel they have to choose an identity – being Somali or being American, like they’re two different things,” Nuurali said.

Of her main character, Sadiq, she added, “The life he has at home is the same life he has at school and with his friends. I wanted Somali kids to see themselves in the book.”

Such representations were an intentional feature of this year’s Global Reading Challenge, which presented Seattle’s fourth- and fifth-grade public school students with seven books to read for the citywide trivia contest, all of which were written by Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) authors.

But Global Reading Librarian Jenny Craig and Interim K-5 Program Manager Ayan Adem also wanted to reach more of the kids reflected in these books.

In partnership with Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) and East African Community Services, the Library hosted three virtual talks with Global Reading Challenge authors throughout March. The intent was to increase access to the program and reach youth furthest away from educational justice. Expertise from SHA staff led the guidance on the program design and marketing, fulfilling the Library’s goals of delivering services by centering equity and community input.

“We really relied on their direction on how to engage families,” Craig said of the community partners. “And it was really effective.”

Author Siman Nuurali, top, and Aki Kurose Middle School eighth-grader Japhia engage in a Q&A session for Seattle Housing Authority youth.

The author talks were promoted to families in the High Point, Lake City Court, NewHolly, Rainier Vista, and Yesler Terrace locations of SHA, as well as families that receive tutoring and support from East African Community Services.

According to the Library, about 62 percent of Seattle Housing Authority residents identify as Black or African – with Somali being one of the more frequently spoken languages – making for an audience that could see itself represented in authors like Nuurali.

The talks were hosted and moderated by paid teen interns – all of whom are also SHA residents – who were trained to present the program to the audience of younger kids.

Nuurali read chapters from two of her eight books in her Sadiq series and tackled questions from the kids.

Because of her experience as a Somali-American, much of the discussion centered on racial and cultural representation in children’s literature.

“I had not seen a book where main characters and supporting characters are all Somali,” Nuurali said of her childhood, adding that she wanted to reflect her five children in her books. “I wanted them to know they were present and they were seen.”

A teen moderator, eighth-grader Japhia of Aki Kurose Middle School, chimed in that people of color in media are typically comic relief side kicks or characters carrying heavy burdens.

“There’s this person of color and that person is always hurt or has a terrible background,” she said to Nuurali, thanking her for instead writing about everyday BIPOC experiences.

Nuurali also shared her favorite author – J.R.R. Tolkien – and shared her advice on writing.

“Whatever is important to you, whatever is valuable to you, what ever is true to you, that’s what you write about,” she said, adding, “Literally just write!”

Additionally, the Library worked through SHA to distribute Global Reading Challenge books – and other promotional Library materials – to about 800 fourth- and fifth-graders, allowing them to own two of the three books discussed in the author talk series.

“This partnership was very unique in the sense that this was the first time we were able to partner with SHA (locations) throughout the city,” Adem said. “That’s really, really special.”

Typically, the Global Reading Challenge engages thousands of students across Seattle Public Schools in a citywide trivia competition based on selected books, culminating in a final contest at Central Library. This year, the Library selected seven books to read and contests occurred online, only at the individual school level.

Adem and Craig estimate the virtual author talks reached more than 165 youth and families, with more to come when the events are ultimately posted to the Library’s YouTube page for kids.

“What we saw was joy, what we saw was connection, and it was because of our intentionality from the very beginning that we were able to have such a joyful program,” Adem said.

Donors to the Foundation supported the purchase and distribution of the books, the stipends for the teens, and the operation of the Global Reading Challenge program. We’re proud to celebrate 25 years of the Global Reading Challenge’s impact on fostering early reading habits and thank the Mannix Canby Foundation for being early and longtime investors in the program.

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

The Seattle Public Library Foundation will join more than 350 library systems across North America to celebrate Library Giving Day, a national online giving event focused on library philanthropy.

Libraries continue to provide essential services our neighbors rely on, including curbside check-outs and printing, eBooks, job search assistance, online tutoring, and mobile book delivery. The Seattle Public Library has transformed the way it hosts educational classes and inspirational programs to enrich our community and entertain people of all ages.

And you can help!

Your gift can be put to work now to meet soaring eBook demand, help people build skills through online programs, and provide books to children to develop early literacy skills.

And now is a great time to give because every gift to The Seattle Public Library Foundation will be doubled up to $25,000, thanks to a generous donor. We’re also adding new match sponsors weekly.

Make a gift online here.

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

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

Secure your legacy with FreeWill


The Seattle Public Library Foundation can help you plan ahead.

As spring approaches, here’s one more item you can check off your to-do list: creating a will.

If this is something that you’ve been putting off, you’re not alone. Nearly 70% of American adults don’t have an estate plan in place. Did you know there’s a simple, cost-free way for you to create one in just 20 minutes?

We invite you try FreeWill, a free will-writing tool sponsored by The Seattle Public Library Foundation that helps you plan for your family and your favorite charities alike.

Ensure peace of mind for you, your loved ones, and the organizations you care about. Try it today at

If you would like to learn more about this tool, contact Kara McDonald at 206-413-7177 or

Thank you for looking after those you love, including your public library!

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.