News & Stories

The Library Foundation commits $250,000 in urgent Library support

Recognizing the Library’s and the City of Seattle’s economic challenges that lie ahead, The Seattle Public Library Foundation has issued an additional $250,000 in unrestricted grant support to The Seattle Public Library.

The Foundation had pledged $4 million in grants to collections and programs at the beginning of the year as part of its annual support to the Library. In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, the Foundation loosened restrictions on how that money is used so the Library can respond to areas of greatest need.

The additional $250,000 is intended to reinforce that support and allow the Library to adapt to ever-changing circumstances

“Like communities across the globe, we anticipate Seattle will be facing unheard-of challenges in the months ahead,” says Jonna Ward, CEO of the Foundation. “This is one step we can take to proactively support our Library and help them plan and prepare for the reality of the current situation.”

The new funding and existing grant commitments will shift into a response fund that will be supported by donors who are committed to helping the Library with private gifts above and beyond what public funding alone provides.

“The Foundation has always been a strong partner,” says Marcellus Turner, Chief Librarian and Executive Director of the Library. “We are fortunate to be part of a city where our people support the Library on many fronts, including private gifts to the Foundation. And knowing that our Foundation sees this time and opportunity as a space to again support the changing work of libraries means so much to the work we do and the people we serve.”

Finding comfort in eBooks, donor pays it forward

SPLF donor Lauren Ubaldo passes stay-at-home time with eBooks from The Seattle Public Library. (photo submitted by Lauren Ubaldo)

Like most of us these days, Lauren Ubaldo could use an escape.

The West Seattle resident is a house cleaner who owns a business with her husband, and work has dried up for now.

So she turns to The Seattle Public Library and its collection of eBooks and audiobooks, which makes being home all day a little less isolating.

“I have the high of going on a shopping spree, but it’s all free, which is really great,” she says.

It’s this outlet that compelled her to give to The Seattle Public Library Foundation for the first time, during April’s Library Giving Day campaign. She’s thankful to maintain easy access to digital materials while her neighborhood Library, the Southwest Branch, remains closed.

“It was just a little something I could do to help out the Library,” Lauren says. “I just was really appreciating that we still had access to books to read or listen to – 10 to 15 years ago, we wouldn’t have had that.”

Lauren grew up in a small town in Michigan, about four hours north of Detroit. She fondly recalls her mother taking her and her sister to the local library, where they would browse the stacks and sit to read. It always felt like a special day.

Now she can carry a semblance of that feeling when she peruses the titles on her e-reader.

“It’s a good way to keep your mind from reeling and taking your mind off things you can’t really do anything about,” Lauren says.

Lauren has been reading “If Beale Street Could Talk” by James Baldwin and murder mysteries by Anne Cleeves.

“Murder mysteries might not seem light,” she says, “but the way they’re written is a little lighter and it’s an escape.”

Welcome to the Foundation family, Lauren!

English conversation class presses on, virtually

Earlier this month, more than a dozen people representing seven countries gathered in a Zoom video meeting to discuss a universal passion: food.

They started off by introducing themselves and their favorite snacks: nuts, cheese, chocolate.

It was a continuation of a long-running program, but in a new way, uniting people online instead of at a Library branch. Since Libraries closed in the wake of COVID-19, English Circle (formerly known as Talk Time) has moved online.

And now much of the same community that met in person are going on Zoom, says Walter Mehring, program coordinator at Literacy Source.

“We were lucky enough to create this really cool community and it seems pointless not to keep in contact with those people,” he says.

English Circle is a joint effort between Literacy Source and The Seattle Public Library, with support from The Seattle Public Library Foundation. Participants during the years have been native speakers of more than 100 languages and come to English Circle to practice their conversational English.

After introductions, volunteers who moderate discussion and the participants looking to practice are broken up into smaller online groups for more intimate conversation about an assigned topic.

In one group, volunteer Carol Pucci continued the food conversation with Nino Antauri of Russia and Peri Aytaç of Turkey.

The women discussed more of their favorite foods. Nino, whose father is Georgian, said she loved khachapuri, a quintessential Georgian dish of bread stuffed with cheese. Peri mentioned experimenting with cooking different pasta dishes and exchanged ideas for quiche ingredients.

Peri has attended English Circle for nearly a year.

“My main goal is reaching advanced level in English and the related part of my goal with English Circle is to improve my speaking along with my accent,” she says. She also wants to improve her “listening by talking with native and non-native participants.”

Nino shares that goal and mentioned the sense of community that English Circle brings.

“All the people at English Circle (are) related by one purpose … to improve the English and maybe to find new friends at (a) new place,” she says. “And it is very good to realize that there are people who want to help you to adapt faster and with lots of fun. That is appreciated so much.”

Volunteers say they’ve witnessed tremendous progress among the participants. Volunteer Mark Taylor mentioned Roberta, a woman from Taiwan who attended what was then known as Talk Time.

People who knew her through the class watched as she blossomed and became fluent enough in English to curate and host a photography exhibit at Seattle Central College and gave a presentation in English to a class of students that stopped by.

She became a volunteer at the Nordic Museum, and once she got legal authorization to work, she got a job there, Mark says.

Volunteers and participants alike also say they enjoy learning about other cultures. They share what they learn at the end of each class.

As for food, people learned about how Colombian food is different from Mexican food, how American Thai food is made “too sweet,” and that rosemary is an easy-to-find shrub in the Pacific Northwest.

“It’s a social event,” says volunteer Carol Pucci. She says English Circle is a low-pressure environment in which English language learners can practice without being put on the spot. “The whole idea is to have conversation.”

For a schedule and to register for Virtual English Circle, visit

‘May there always be Story Time’: Virtual Story Time attracts thousands of young readers

Southwest Branch Children’s Librarian Amanda Hua, known as “Miss Amanda,” reads “Tomorrow Most Likely” by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Lane Smith for Virtual Story Time.

When Southwest Branch Children’s Librarian Amanda Hua greets Seattle children for Story Time now, she does so from her living room. Or her kitchen.

She still says hello to Cora, Owen, Ward, and Sylvie, but it’s via video feed.

Those are perhaps the biggest and only differences between Story Time now and Story Time a couple months ago. But otherwise, “Miss Amanda” maintains familiarity for Seattle’s little readers with Virtual Story Time, complete with the “hello song” she sings in the beginning and Frankie the Letter-Eating Monster with the letter of the day.

The Seattle Public Library now offers six Virtual Story Times per week, broadcast live on Facebook, but also retrievable on SPL’s Facebook page if families can’t make the events live.

“Families are craving normalcy and familiarity, as well as early literacy learning,” Hua says. “Providing Virtual Story Time is a great way to connect families with their neighborhood librarians. I know I’ve been happy to see my Virtual Story Times reaching my regular patrons.”

And the Virtual Story Times reach more people than can be packed into an in-person Story Time – video views reach up to nearly 3,000 plays at a time.

The Story Times are still specialized, with Toddler Story Time, Preschool Story Time, and Baby Story Time, among others. The dates and times are posted on The Seattle Public Library’s website.

“This is a very challenging time for parents and caregivers as they are expected to be full-time parents, full-time employees, and also part-time educators,” says Josie Watanabe, managing librarian for Youth and Family Learning Services. “We hope our Story Times entertain children, but most importantly give parents and caregivers tips and support for helping their children continue to grow their literacy skills at home.”

It’s a little different to emote to a camera instead of to a group of children, Hua says. She can’t see the kids’ funny faces, or read the energy in her audience. But she can still interact with the children’s caregivers, who type the kids’ reactions into the video’s chat function on their behalf.

Grown-ups write greetings from Lucy and Jack. They communicate the kids’ guesses on where the felt mouse is hiding on a felt board. And Hua is sure to read the children’s input when she sings the closing “May There Always Be” song. “What should there always be?” she asks her audience.

The answers pour in. Cuddles. Star Wars. Chocolate. Unicorns. Hua incorporates them into the song.

This way, she says, she still maintains that connection with the audience, even from afar.

“Thank you so much!” one caregiver wrote. “Our 14-month-old loved it! May there always be online story time!”

For more on Virtual Story Time – and for event listings on virtual Play and Learn meetups – visit Look for more digital early learning experiences as SPL continues to develop content.

You’re invited: Join our free estate planning webinar

SPLF and KCLSF will host a planned giving seminar next month to help you get your estate in order.

Recent legislation may change your estate plans.

Learn about how the CARES Act and SECURE Act might impact you during our free planned giving seminar on May 12, hosted in partnership with King County Library System Foundation.

Attorney Tiffany R. Gorton and Certified Financial Planner Kathryn Haggitt Fisher will walk your through these updates and help you navigate how these new laws may affect your charitable giving.

The webinar takes place from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Register at Please register by May 5. Helpful instructions for how to join the webinar will be sent in advance to registered guests.


Tiffany Gorton is a partner with the firm of KHBB Law in Seattle. Her practice focuses primarily on the areas of trust and estate litigation and tax and estate planning. She is a frequent lecturer and author on trust, estate and probate issues.




Kathryn Haggitt Fisher is the Director of Financial Planning and a Senior Advisor at Fulcrum Capital in Seattle. A Certified Financial Planner,®  she has been providing philanthropic and financial planning to clients for over 15 years, and enjoys helping people understand and take control of their money.

Keep our Libraries strong this Library Giving Day

On April 23, The Seattle Public Library Foundation will celebrate the second Library Giving Day, a national online giving event focused on library philanthropy.

Libraries continue to serve the community with critical online materials and services, from e-audiobooks to Virtual Story Time. They continue to provide patrons with important links to educational materials, entertainment, employment resources, and online tools.

And you can help our neighbors!

Your gift can be put to work now to help kids continue to learn during school closures, and help combat feelings of social isolation with Library programs that inspire and engage.

And now is the best 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 daily.

Make a gift online here.

If you consider yourself among our most passionate supporters, we invite you to join the fun and try out our new fundraising tool that allows you to create your own campaign and invite friends to donate. For helpful step-by-step instructions on how to set up your campaign, check out our Library Giving Day toolkit.

Your support for the Library comes at a critical time. The Foundation canceled its March fundraising luncheon, which was anticipated to help the Library with $450,000 in funding for Library collections and programs. That brings added significance to Library Giving Day.

Friends like you have always kept our libraries strong. With your help, you’re ensuring our Library can be there for our Seattle neighbors today, tomorrow, and forever!

Thank you for your support! Give now at

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.