News & Stories

Guest Curators bring new perspectives to Library programming

Navoti (bottom right) partnered with Writers in the Schools for his
first discussion on childhood. (Photo courtesy of SPL YouTube channel)

“People are still telling stories around the campfire,” said D.A. Navoti. “It’s just on Zoom now.”

At a time when stories — and the connections they create — were urgently needed, the Library launched a new donor-supported Guest Curator program. Navoti, a multidisciplinary writer and storyteller, and Olaiya Land, a pleasure and empowerment coach, were the inaugural curators. They each developed a series of five virtual discussions with writers and community members throughout 2021, centering voices from historically excluded communities.

The program was designed to introduce new and diverse perspectives on Library programming, said Stesha Brandon, literature and humanities program manager for the Library’s Community Engagement Services.

“These curators are folks who have been doing amazing work around town for years, and the program gives the Library an opportunity to feature their voices and celebrate the topics they are interested in,” Brandon said.

Curators had complete control over their series and were compensated for their work. Land appreciated the leeway to tackle challenging issues like sexuality and race. After the past several years, she observed, such conversations are sorely needed.

“People are ready to talk about more real topics, and explore them and find meaning,” Land said. Her series was about radical self-acceptance as a form of activism, building on a theme she noticed in her own life and societally during the pandemic. Every part of her series focused on welcoming women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, those with neurodivergence or different body types, and others often excluded from traditional programming.

Both Land and Navoti wanted everyone involved to be able to bring their own lived experiences to the virtual campfire. Navoti sought a theme to unite people across generations and cultures. His subject, the trials of growing up, was both weighty and light-hearted. “Humility or embarrassment is a great mix for bringing people together,” he noted.

More than 300 people viewed the Guest Curator events live. Navoti and Land both heard positive feedback from the writers, activists, and attendees who appreciated the chances to share vulnerable feelings, have unfiltered conversations, and join spaces that felt intentional, welcoming, and safe.

Many attendees joined from communities that don’t usually access the Library, and hundreds more people have viewed the event videos on YouTube. Land has also used the audio from her series in her Lionesse podcast.

The experience will help future Guest Curators and other Library programs reach overlooked audiences, Navoti said. “There are opportunities for stories to live outside the walls of the Library and go into the communities themselves.”

The full Guest Curator series are available to watch here.

World Language Story Time keeps the Library a key part of children’s lives

Tania Hino at the Greenwood Branch, where she led in-person Spanish Story Time programs. (Photo by Will Livesley-O’Neill)

“The Library is my happy place,” said Tania Hino, sitting in the Greenwood Branch. She was enjoying the return to full open hours and, soon, the chance for programs like her Spanish Story Time to return in-person.

For the past 16 years, Hino has been an instructor for the donor-supported World Language Story Time, a core part of the Library’s equity-based youth programming. For the past two years, she’s had to make creative adjustments to continue providing a program that so many families have come to rely on for community connection.

“It’s well-loved,” Hino said of her Story Time. Many of the same families have attended for years and built close relationships with Hino. After the COVID-19 shutdown, “my patrons were asking, can we do it outside? At a park? Can we figure out some way to do it?” Hino remembered.

The Library quickly provided instructions and support so Hino and other storytellers could restart programs virtually, through live Zoom calls and recorded videos posted to YouTube. “Families missed being able to convene in person,” said CiKeithia Pugh, early learning program manager for the Library’s Youth and Family Learning Services. “It was nice to see familiar faces online — storytellers were missed.”

Making sure the Library remains a key part of children’s lives is deeply personal for Hino. She came from Mexico to Texas with her family as a child, where she fell in love with reading thanks to free access to books and summer programs. When they moved to Seattle they experienced housing insecurity, and would spend whole days reading at the Central Library before finding a shelter. “I’m a product of the Library being open, having programs, and being welcoming,” Hino said. “And now I’m giving back because of that experience.”

It was important to Hino to find ways to make kids feel involved in a virtual Story Time. “I’m very interactive,” Hino said. “I like to involve everybody and make them feel welcome, and I think that was the hardest part.”

Running this program virtually for two years provided some important lessons, according to Pugh. In 2021, early learning content on the Library’s youth YouTube channel was viewed more than 5,000 times. “Families desire multiple ways to access early learning programming,” Pugh said. “And they learn information from events from trusted community people and other organizations they are connected to.”

Hino hopes the future of World Language Story Time includes more programs and books in more languages and formats. “Immigrant communities need to feel belonging,” she said. “When people are feeling connected, they give back, too. I’m a perfect example of that.”

Donor support for World Language Story Time helped the Library provide more than 8,000 books, 6,000 animal and alphabet cards, and 16,000 Early Learning at Home booklets in nine languages in 2021.

Read more from the Foundation’s 2021 Annual Report on Donor Impact.

Announcing the 2022 Stim Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship winners

The Seattle Public Library Foundation is pleased to announce the three winners of the 2022 Stim Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship.

First-place winner Sidra Wernli and runners-up Marysia Koltonowska and Olivia Turner each won tuition support from the Foundation by writing essays on courageous Washingtonians who improved their communities by fighting for their ideals.

In its ninth year, the essay contest honors the legacy of the late Library supporter, community leader, and activist Stimson Bullitt, who believed that civic leadership could make a lasting positive impact on society. The contest challenges local high school and college students to write an essay about an individual or group from our state who demonstrated the courage to advance an important community issue at great personal, political, or professional risk.

Each year, $10,000 is divided among three outstanding students and their essays are permanently cataloged in The Seattle Public Library’s Seattle Room.

We are grateful for the time and efforts of the local authors who judged the finalists: Kristen Millares Young, Jon Krakauer, and Jonathan Raban.

Congratulations to our winners!

Sidra Wernli
$5,000 scholarship
School: Garfield High
Entering Lewis & Clark College
Library Branch: Douglass-Truth
Read the essay: “Rosalinda Guillen: The Fight for Food Justice



Marysia Koltonowska
$2,500 scholarship
School: University of Washington
Library Branch: Northeast
Read the essay: “Florestine ‘Flo’ Ware (1912-1981): A Community-Minded Change-Maker



Olivia Turner
$2,500 scholarship
School: Chief Sealth International High
Entering University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Library Branch: Delridge
Read the essay: “The Environmental Activism of Hazel Wolf



Learn more about the Stim Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship.

Virtual tutoring provides model for hybrid student services

Virtual tutoring has been an essential resource for Seattle students over the past two years. Key Library programs like Homework Help have been unavailable in person during the pandemic. But donor support has helped the Library offer more than 4,000 live tutoring sessions on the platform since 2020.

The virtual program has been a major success. Ninety-five percent of participating students report that they would not be able to finish their homework without it. has improved the tutoring experience for students in many ways. It provides access for those who may not have transportation to or from the Library. It expands time for students outside of in-person hours. And it delivers additional services in Spanish and Vietnamese.

But we also know that many students miss the quiet study space, one-on-one instruction, and sense of community that Homework Help provided. Over the next year, the Library will work to restore in-person Homework Help programs while keeping services in place. The Foundation is excited to support both versions of free tutoring to benefit all types of learners.

Eighty percent of Homework Help participants have parents who speak a language other than English at home. Students shared that their parents can’t always help them with their homework, and that they often need more time to understand their assignments. Fifty-five percent of Homework Help students report receiving better grades after attending the program. has made this kind of support more accessible for high school students. Only 10 percent of pre-pandemic Homework Help users were in high school, while has more than doubled the high schooler participation rate.

Recent feedback from teenage participants makes it clear that both Homework Help and address student needs. One 10th grader using shared, “This is actually really helpful! And I’m glad it’s in a chat format since a lot of kids my age are much more comfortable asking for help through text or chats. I asked a question from a physics packet I’m working on and got clear and helpful answers.”

A high schooler who used to attend Homework Help at the Lake City Branch said he misses the friends he made in the program. He also misses having a distraction-free place to work. He shares a room at home with his younger brother, where he said it’s “loud as hell” and hard to concentrate on homework.

The best way to support student success is to restore in-person programs alongside virtual offerings. expands hours and access, boosts participation with high school students, and provides services in more languages. Homework Help fosters connections, supports social emotional learning, and provides community (and snacks!).

The Foundation wishes to thank the many supporters who make student success programs possible, including the Loeb Family Charitable Foundation and Eulalie and Carlo Scandiuzzi. We also thank the volunteers who support in-person Homework Help. We look forward to seeing you again soon!

Find out more about Homework Help at

Thank you for making our spring campaigns successful!

The Foundation is so thankful for our community of supporters, who stepped up BIG this spring for Library Giving Day and GiveBIG!

Thanks to the generosity of Library lovers, these campaigns raised more than $333,000! We also met our matching challenge goals.

Together, we’re helping the Library offer equity-focused programs and an expanded collection of books and materials. You ensure that everyone – people of all ages and backgrounds – has access to knowledge and learning.

If you missed Library Giving Day or GiveBIG, don’t worry – you can still make a gift that will strengthen the Library and support upcoming programs, like the beloved Summer of Learning.

A huge thank you to everyone who invested in our community and ensured that all people who want to learn and grow can access quality Library resources and programs.

Thousands of Seattle students engaged in Global Reading Challenge

Pompeii Pineapples. Stuffie Activists. Axolotl, Gods of Reading. What do they have in common? They’re all champion literary teams from across the city in this year’s Global Reading Challenge!

The Foundation is a proud longtime sponsor of the Challenge, a partnership between The Seattle Public Library and Seattle Public Schools to promote recreational reading for fourth and fifth graders. It provides more than 9,000 books and audiobooks through dozens of schools and community partner sites, and this year involved more than 2,900 students. Schools form teams, with all kinds of creative names and costumes, to read eight books chosen by librarians, then enter trivia contests at their schools.

The winning teams move on to the semi-finals, and from there to the all-city finals, which took place virtually on Tuesday. Librarians asked detailed questions (like the ingredients needed for a recipe from “Hockey Night in Kenya“) and the eight finalist teams demonstrated their knowledge in a high-speed quiz. Congratulations to all the teams for an amazing performance, and to the Pompeii Pineapples from TOPS K-8 for coming out on top!

The program incentivizes reading for students at a critical age, when many kids – particularly boys, English language learners, or those reading below their grade level – may struggle with or lose interest in reading. Librarians selected this year’s books and graphic novels to engage reluctant readers and elevate stories that reflect diverse communities and identities. Programming such as author talks and outreach to community partners helped create even more excitement and engagement around the competition.

Participation in the program has grown steadily since it began in 1996, and over the past two years libraries, teachers, and families have worked hard to ensure equitable access during remote or hybrid learning environments. Investments in digital materials and technology have been critical for students to connect with their classrooms, join book groups, attend author events, and otherwise stay involved in this shared reading journey – investments that are possible with generous donor support from partners such as the Northwest Literacy Foundation, Ballard Rotary, and individual donors who contribute to the Foundation.

This week’s finals – full of excited young readers, dedicated educators, and more than 100 parents and supporters cheering along virtually – showcased why the Global Reading Challenge remains a highlight for kids and families across the city.

Foundation applauds the selection of Tom Fay as Chief Librarian

The Seattle Public Library Foundation congratulates Tom Fay for being selected as The Seattle Public Library’s next Chief Librarian.

“Many of us have had the pleasure of working with Tom for several years,” said Justo González, president of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. “He has proven to be an effective leader and a great partner to the Foundation. We have confidence that his leadership will continue to strengthen the community-inspired programs offered by the Library, and we are eager to support the long-term vision Mr. Fay develops along with SPL’s Board of Trustees.”

Jonna Ward, the Foundation’s CEO, added: “Tom has been instrumental in guiding the Library’s commitment to equity through quality programs and services. He is a thoughtful, creative, and open-minded leader who always puts the community at the center of his decisions. We are excited to see him take on the role of Chief Librarian. We anticipate our Seattle neighbors and SPL’s committed workforce will benefit greatly from his leadership.”

The Foundation is a nonprofit partner of the Library, providing a way for people who love libraries to contribute financial support and advocate on behalf of the Library. Last year, it provided approximately $4.5 million of support for Library programs and services.

Below is the full press release issued by The Seattle Public Library on Mr. Fay’s appointment.


On Wednesday, March 2, The Seattle Public Library’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to select Tom Fay as the new Executive Director and Chief Librarian of The Seattle Public Library. The vote marks the culmination of a national search for the Library’s next Chief Librarian.

Fay has been serving as the Library’s interim Chief Librarian since April 2021. Prior to that, Fay served as the Library’s Director of Programs and Services.

“Tom Fay is an experienced leader with deep knowledge of our city, our patrons, and our library system. He has shown over the past year that he has the experience and skills to succeed as our next Chief Librarian,” said Carmen Bendixen, president of The Seattle Public Library’s Board of Trustees. “The Board is excited to continue collaborating with Mr. Fay as he and his team continue to build an inclusive, equitable and welcoming Library system for all.”

“I am honored and humbled to be selected as Seattle’s next Chief Librarian,” said Fay, upon accepting the position. “The Seattle Public Library is a beacon of learning, connection, opportunity and inspiration for our city. Its foundation of strength and excellence is due to the commitment of our public and our staff. I look forward to learning from the many communities we serve to help shape the future of the Library.”

The Chief Librarian is responsible for the overall vision, direction, stewardship and successful operational management of The Seattle Public Library, and leads 650 employees. Reporting directly to the Library Board of Trustees, the Chief Librarian also holds a cabinet level role on the leadership team of the City of Seattle Mayor’s Office.


Prior to his selection as the new Executive Director and Chief Librarian of The Seattle Public Library, Tom Fay served as the Library’s interim Chief Librarian and, from 2015 until 2021, its Director of Library Programs and Service. In that role, Fay led the Library’s Public Services and Programs, Collections, Materials Handling, and Information Technology departments at Seattle’s downtown Central Library and 26 neighborhood branches.

A native of southern Nevada, Fay began his 39-year career in libraries as a page for the Las Vegas Clark County Library District. Prior to joining The Seattle Public Library, he held roles as the Executive Director of Henderson Libraries in Nevada and the Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of Las Vegas Clark County Library District in Nevada.

Fay graduated with a Fine Arts degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and a Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He has been awarded the O’Callaghan Public Sector Person of the Year and selected as Nevada’s Librarian of the Year.


In Feb. 2021, after a decade of distinguished service as Chief Librarian, Marcellus Turner announced that he had accepted a position as CEO/Chief Librarian for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in Charlotte, N.C. Turner’s last day leading The Seattle Public Library was March 31, 2021. The Library Board appointed Tom Fay to serve as interim Chief Librarian beginning on April 1, 2021.

In April 2021, the Library Board of Trustees launched the hiring process to find Seattle’s next Chief Librarian. The Library Board appointed a nine-member Search Advisory Committee to develop a process and timeline for recruiting the Library’s next chief executive. Members of the committee were identified due to their experience and expertise in the Library field, and for their commitment to the community the Library serves.

The Library Board hired search consultant Koya Partners to conduct a national search with guidance from the Library Board and in collaboration with the Search Advisory Committee.

Finalists for the Chief Librarian position were announced Jan. 25, 2022 and interviewed by the Library Board on Feb. 9 and 10, 2022. As part of the final stage of the hiring process, each finalist participated in a forum with Library staff and a forum with patrons and community members.

Learn more about the search process on our website.

A recording of Fay’s public forum is available online.



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

The Seattle Public Library Foundation is ready for Library Giving Day! Alongside more than 350 library systems, the Foundation is committed to raising awareness of how donors can enhance our Library above and beyond what public funding alone supports.

Libraries provide essential services our neighbors rely on, including physical collections, ebooks, job search help, online tutoring, and mobile book delivery. The Seattle Public Library enriches our community and entertains people of all ages.

And you can help by putting your gift to work now!

You can help bolster the book collection and support more than 40 programs to help people develop an early love of literacy and build skills throughout their lives.

A generous donor will double every gift to The Seattle Public Library Foundation up to $25,000. This means your donation today will go twice as far.

Make a gift online here.

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

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

$10,000 in scholarships available to local students

Ten thousand dollars will be split between three student essayists this spring for the Stim Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship.

Submissions are now being accepted for the contest until March 15. The scholarship is hosted by The Seattle Public Library Foundation and was created in honor of the late Stimson Bullitt, a Seattle attorney, civil rights activist, and environmentalist.

The contest challenges college-bound high school students and current college students to write about a Washington state figure or group of people who effected change in their communities by demonstrating civic courage. The winner earns $5,000 for college tuition aid, while two runners-up win $2,500.

The top three essayists will also have their submissions catalogued in The Seattle Public Library’s Special Collections. Library patrons can read all the available essays by visiting the Seattle Room at Central Library.

“This is a critical moment in our nation’s history to explore what civic courage means,” says Jonna Ward, CEO of The Seattle Public Library Foundation. “We challenge students to develop their writing and research skills while learning about local heroes. And of course, participants can tap Library resources to help them complete their work!”

A panel of distinguished local authors pick the winners. Past winning essays covered Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, the Gang of Four, and Maru Mora-Villalpando.

More details, including the rules and eligibility requirements and resources for research, are available at the Foundation’s Stim Bullitt scholarship page.

2021 Advocacy Achievements

Since its inception, The Seattle Public Library Foundation has advocated on behalf of the Library to ensure it has the public and private resources necessary to support our neighbors.

In 2021, those advocacy efforts increased substantially to educate the public and elected officials on the importance of libraries in President Biden’s Build Back Better Framework.

Guided by the Foundation’s Advocacy Committee and with support from donors and The Friends of The Seattle Public Library, the Foundation established a strategy to connect with policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels.

The results have been positive and include successful advocacy on the following

  • Protecting the $5.8 million restorations in Mayor Durkan’s budget that fully restored all COVID-19-related funding and staffing cuts for SPL in 2021.
  • Advocating for and securing an additional $434,000 from the General Fund to repair branches vandalized during pandemic branch closures. Councilmember Debora Juarez prompted research into the impacts of vandalism and Councilmember Tammy Morales supported the funding’s inclusion in the final budget.
  • Supporting Councilmember Alex Pedersen’s amendment, which allocated an additional $99,000 to increase the number of WiFi Hotspots at SPL.
  • Developing our first legislative framework to focus on three central bodies of policy work, including 1) Advocating for sustainable library funding, 2) Safeguarding and expanding access to opportunity and imagination, and 3) Creating a resilient library system. The Foundation shared this framework with municipal, state, and federal elected officials to build the case for library support.

The Foundation wishes to thank Mayor Durkan and members of the Seattle City Council, with additional gratitude to Councilmembers Juarez, Morales, and Pedersen, for their advocacy and support of library priorities this year.