News & Stories

Buying Books is a Balancing Act

Building a library collection used to be a lot easier. You just bought books. But today, creating a library collection that meets the needs and preferences of a tech-savvy community like Seattle is a real balancing act. Many popular titles are purchased across many formats in order to maintain broad access and appeal for our diverse community of readers. For example, when Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air became a runaway bestseller, the Library purchased many copies of regular print and large print books, audiobooks on CD, e-books, and e-audiobooks.

Story of a title across formats

Each of these formats had different price points and rates of use. Due to licensing terms, e-books and e-audiobooks are three or four times more expensive, per item, compared to other formats. This disproportionate cost is represented above, as percentages of total cost and total circulation.

E-books and e-audiobooks are the fastest growing formats in terms of demand at The Seattle Public Library. So as we celebrate the increased use of e-content and the way it expands our reading culture, we also experience budgetary challenges purchasing enough copies across formats.

In addition, readers increasingly use more than one format to fit their lifestyles. For example, someone might check out a print book to read at home and the same e-book to read on the bus. Even though it’s costly, the Library’s ability to meet the community’s interests and preferences with e-content is a true success story. To serve one of the country’s most literate and tech-savvy cities, The Seattle Public Library has among the highest e-content circulation per capita in the country.

Your gifts to The Seattle Public Library Foundation play an important part in the collection balancing act, helping us keep our collection robust in all forms and formats. Last year, Foundation donations added $1.1 million to the Library’s collection budget. That’s thousands of books in every form and format for our community to enjoy!

Donor Dollars at Work: Digital Learning Programs at the Library

Juan and kid smileyIn the Library’s new digital learning programs, leading-edge robots and engineering kits are put in the hands of kids in our community who probably would not have the chance to work with them otherwise. Students have a chance to attend workshops to learn how to use the kits after school or during the summer where they problem-solve, troubleshoot, and design projects of their own.

“Kids today are immersed in technology; it’s where their interest is,” says Juan Rubio, The Seattle Public Library’s Digital Media and Learning Program Manager. His mission, part of a two-year pilot project funded by donors to The Seattle Public Library Foundation, is to add a new dimension to the Library’s youth programs.

“The key is giving them access to resources to play with and then linking the learning to academic skills and potential careers. The programs also provide an opportunity to demystify technology and move the kids from mere consumers to creators and producers using technology.”

Workshops with littleBits, Finch robots, game design and even 3-D design and 3-D printing are opening new opportunities for learning at the Library. “These kits and materials are costly and it would be hard for the average family to afford one,” says Juan. “By making these resources available in our libraries we can give kids the chance to have hands-on experience with design and engineering.”

Juan’s work is one more example of how donors to The Seattle Public Library Foundation are helping the Library go beyond books to bring exciting learning experiences to children in our community.

2016 Stim Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship Winners

The Seattle Public Library Foundation congratulates Ellis Simani, Luisa Moreno, and Sarah Tocher, recipients of the 2016 Stim Bullitt Civic Courage scholarship.


Ellis Simani, age 20 – $5,000 scholarship

“In Search of a Home: The Fight for Open Housing in Seattle”

Ellis grew up in Seattle’s Rainier Valley neighborhood using the Columbia City Branch. He attended the Lakeside School and will graduate from Claremont McKenna College in 2017.








Luisa Moreno, age 18 – $2,500 scholarship

“The Four Amigos: Uniting Cultures and Crossing Boundaries”

Luisa uses the Green Lake Branch and graduated from Roosevelt High School. She is attending the University of Washington as a freshman in 2016.









Sarah Tocher, age 18 – $2,500 scholarship

“A Legacy of Justice”

Sarah uses the Green Lake Branch and graduated from Holy Names Academy. She is attending Claremont McKenna College as a freshman in 2016.






The Seattle Public Library Foundation thanks all the students who submitted essays. Thanks also goes to the many volunteers who helped us read and judge the essays submitted.

Karen Joy Fowler Shares Her Seattle Reads Story

Karen Joy Fowler
Karen Joy Fowler shows off tiny dinosaurs, with tiny copies of her books in hand and mouth, at the West Seattle Branch. (Photo Credit: Katrina Shelby Photography)

The very first reading I did on my very first tour with my very first novel was at the beautiful Elliott Bay bookstore in Seattle.  My editor flew in from New York City to support me.  At her urging, I had my very first crème brulee.  (What more could you ask for in an editor?)  I fell in love with the city, but was warned that it was already full to bursting with Californians.    The year was 1991.

So when I learned that my sixth novel, We are all completely beside ourselves, had been selected for the storied Seattle Reads program – brainchild of superheroes, Nancy Pearl and Chris Higashi – I saw something in my life that I seldom see.  I saw Return and Renewal.  I saw Plot.

Nancy Pearl is a longtime heroine of mine.  Chris Higashi has been newly added to that list.  At night when I can’t sleep because of the endless presidential election, I try to tell myself that things can never go too horribly wrong with women like this in the world.

Because Chris was still recovering from a serious fall, I was given into the care of librarians, Linda Jones and Andrea Gough.  No one takes better care of you than a librarian.  You are always returned in mint condition and in good time.

My three days in Seattle were packed.  I spoke at six branches – Northeast, Beacon Hill, Capitol Hill, West Seattle, Queen Anne, and the Central library, and each event was as pleasant as the last.  I love doing Q and A and these events were mostly that.  I was asked about my attachment to science fiction, my work on the Tiptree Award, my personal history with animals, my daily routine (I need a better daily routine, if only to have a better answer to that question), my research methods, and my vocabulary.  I was asked what I really thought of psychologists?  I was asked what I really thought of science?  (For the record, I am pro both of those.)  Special thanks to the West Seattle Branch where my book was also apparently chosen for their Dinosaurs Read program and two plastic dinosaurs appeared, tiny copies of my book in their tiny hands.  When my own extinction event arrives, I hope I am reading a novel.

The Book-It Repertory Theatre production of We are all completely beside ourselves was a once-in-a-lifetime thrill.  The cast was wonderful and the young woman who played my Rosemary a stand-out.  Bryan Burch’s adaption did a wonderful job compressing and illuminating the piece, as did Kelly Kitchen’s direction.  I was a bit embarrassed to find myself in tears during a couple of the speeches.  Poor Fern!  Exiled from her family!

One of the unexpected advantages of being a writer has been how often I find myself in the company of the bookish, who are the best sort of people.  Seattle has uncommonly beautiful libraries and uncommonly beautiful librarians and uncommonly beautiful patrons and writers and readers.  All this and also Elliott Bay Bookstore.  To be there is to remember that books matter and that I’m not the only person who thinks so.  Thank you, Seattle, for every minute of it.

Your Next Skill


Librarians at The Seattle Public Library are ready to partner with you in your pursuit of lifelong learning. What new skill would you like to learn? A computer programming language? Cooking a new cuisine? A new craft or hobby? Perhaps a new language? The possibilities are as endless as your curiosity.

Just as librarians can help you find Your Next Five books, they now can help you learn Your Next Skill. All you need to do is fill in an online form letting them know what you would like to learn and how you would like to learn it. Within a few days, librarians will provide you with a personalized learning list with books, videos, websites, and interactive apps. For Seattle-area users they can also recommend in-person classes or workshops.

Check out some of the examples of skills they’ve helped patrons learn. Be one of the first to try out this new Library service, and visit again and again to develop Your Next Skill!

A New Bookmobile Hits the Streets


The Library has rolled out a brand new bookmobile that’s dedicated to serving children throughout the city. The new bookmobile will visit 42 child care facilities and preschools that serve low-income families, providing books to over 2,200 children each month. On the weekends, it will drop by community events and festivals. Your donations to the Foundation made this much-needed purchase possible!

As we celebrate this exciting new road warrior for early literacy, here’s a look back at Bookmobile service in Seattle.

The first bookmobile in Seattle took to the road on May 4, 1931.  Seattle’s first bookmobile delivered library services to schools and neighborhoods that did not have their own branch library. The truck was specially designed with revolving shelves to allow access to books from inside or outside, depending on the weather.

The bookmobile was staffed by a librarian and a driver and could carry 600 books. It ran on five different routes each week. The last stop on Mondays was at Boeing!

Budget cuts in the wake of the Great Depression caused the library to halt bookmobile service in August 1932, and the truck was later sold. Bookmobile service resumed in 1947 and has run continuously in various forms since then.

Today, the Library’s Mobile Services operates a small fleet of vehicles delivering books, movies, music, and more to people across the city who are unable to visit their neighborhood library.  Your gifts to the Foundation help keep this important special service rolling.

Thousands Visit Shakespeare Folio Exhibit


The public checks out a Shakespeare First Folio on exhibit at the Seattle Public Library in Seattle, WA (photo © Karen Ducey)
The public checks out a Shakespeare First Folio on exhibit at the Seattle Public Library in Seattle, WA (photo © Karen Ducey)

More than 12,800 people, including theatre aficionados, middle and high school students, seniors, and families, visited the Central Library between March 21 and April 17 to see First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare. Support from donors to the Foundation made it possible for the Library to host the exhibit.

For many visitors, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. One elderly patron, who is losing her sight, she15-FSL-0117_logo_thumbnail+FSLd tears of joy as she gazed at the rare book of Shakespeare’s works. A group of high school students discovered, much their delight, that the copy of the Third Folio (on loan from the Pigott Collection) was opened to “As You Like It.” The students had recently staged a production of the play, and, as they stood gazing into the display case, they couldn’t help but pick out their lines and recite them aloud.

In addition to the gallery exhibits, local artists, both amateur and professional, used a specially built stage on Level 3 perform Shakespeare’s works and music of the period. Shakespeare films were also shown in library branches throughout the city.

Foundation donors made this exhibit happen. City tax dollars only go so far in providing funds for our libraries. But with the help of our generous donors to the Foundation the Library is able to embark on ambitious projects like the First Folio and have a major impact on the cultural life of our city.

Here’s one great comment, overheard in the gallery while a family was looking at the First Folio:

Dad: Remember The Lion King?

Son: Yup!

Dad: Yeah, Shakespeare wrote that.

Well, in a way, he did.  Truly Shakespeare was not of an age, but for all time.

See the Library of the Future


The Rainier Beach Branch, which had been closed since August 2015 for building maintenance and interior renovations, is now re-opened! The renovation project included replacing the roof on an older section of the building; installing beautiful new carpet, paint and furniture; and creating more flexible and useful spaces for children, teens, adults and families. The Library also reconfigured the interior layout to create flexible spaces for children, teens and adults.

The interior changes at the Rainier Beach Branch are part of City Librarian Marcellus Turner’s vision for The Seattle Public Library. One of his five service priorities is “reimagined spaces” – creating new uses for spaces in our libraries to better meet the changing needs and expectations of patrons.

One of the biggest changes patrons will notice is the openness of the new floor plan, as well as the bright new lighting. A “quiet zone” has been established in the adult area, a new Friends of the Library Multipurpose Room has been added, and a lobby seating area has been installed where patrons can eat and charge devices.

Another interior addition is the new Digital Media Studio, where patrons can use Adobe Creative Suite software on Library computers to edit videos and music, touch up photos and create graphics. Additional software for developing video games and graphic manipulation will be added in the future.

The branch will also have some new devices available for checkout – six laptops and two iPads will be available for patrons to use in the branch.

You Helped Find the Next Great Business Idea

StartUp on 10

In November, the Foundation helped the Library host Startup Weekend EDU, which brought together a community of people focused on solving problems related to education. Our business librarians were available all weekend to provide reference and research support to 90 education technology entrepreneurs.

During the first session, all participants — college students, educators, designers, engineers, and business people — gathered in the Central Library Reading Room to pitch their ideas for a product that would impact education. Participants then formed teams around the 10 strongest ideas and got to work crafting a viable product and business model to present to the public on Sunday. The teams worked throughout the weekend, researching market trends with librarians, validating their ideas by interviewing potential customers and stakeholders, building models and websites, seeking advice from mentors and coaches, and crafting a final presentation to show the event judges.

Each of the 10 presentations was well thought out, creative, and high-quality. Several teams created websites and platforms that were fully functional. It was awe-inspiring to see how each team worked together to accomplish so much in just one weekend.

The judges at the event awarded third place to Campfire, the crowd favorite, an idea to bring an immersive experience to children’s books. Second place went to Class Volt, a platform where teachers can share ways they successfully use technology in the classroom. Finally, the first place prize went to Floop, a tool that allows students to submit assignments through mobile devices and get instant feedback from their teachers. These top three teams each won prizes to help them continue their business startup ideas.

The larger aim of Startup Weekend is for all participants to network, exchange ideas, and learn important skills and concepts for starting a business. Thanks to support from The Seattle Public Library Foundation, the Library became an entrepreneurial think tank for the weekend and 10 ideas were developed into budding business startups that have the potential to create jobs and fund our economy.

Thanks for Helping Make Learning Fun

TY notes from Kimball students cropped

Kazuhiro “Kazu” Kibuishi is a Japanese–American graphic novel author and illustrator who is a rock star for young readers. Donations to the Foundation helped bring Kazu to the Central Library and helped several public schools arrange field trips to hear him talk about his books.

Here’s a letter we received soon after the event from a teacher at Kimball Elementary School:

Dear Library Foundation,

A couple weeks ago I was invited to bring the 4th and 5th graders from my school to the Central Library to hear author Kazu Kibuishi speak. It was a marvelous opportunity to hear from a tremendously talented man and my students just drank it up. Mr. Kibuishi talked about his art and his books and how he became an author/illustrator. Moreover, he talked about persistence, and doing what you love and about overcoming hardship to turn it into something positive and important. It was the most fascinating and worthwhile author presentation I’ve ever attended, and I was so thrilled that my students and students from Beacon Hill Elementary were able to experience it. The Kimball kids have been buzzing about Mr. Kibuishi and his books ever since, and show no signs of stopping.

I want you to know how important experiences like this are for my students. They really felt special to be invited to this event, and I believe many of them learned lessons they won’t soon forget. We owe a huge debt of thanks to the Seattle Public Library Foundation for making this all possible. I want you to know that you touched hundreds of young lives in a very special way through this single event, and thousands more through the work you do throughout the year.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Yours Sincerely,

Carter Kemp
Teacher, Kimball Elementary