News & Stories

Bringing homework help home

The Library contracted with to bring homework tutoring and academic coaching to kids at home while after-school in-person tutoring is on hold.

The Lake City Branch was one of the busiest Homework Help sites in the city. So when branches closed at the onset of the pandemic, the students who relied on it felt its absence.

“I can’t tell you how many requests I got for Homework Help from students missing it,” says Nancy Garrett, teen services librarian at the Lake City Branch.

After a search for online alternatives, the Library contracted with, which provides one-on-one academic coaching via the internet. Library staff said they picked over other possibilities because it offered help in multiple languages and provided a voice option in addition to text-based chat.

“It gives options to connect in a way that (users) feel most comfortable with,” says Emely Perez, a teen and adult services librarian at the South Park Branch.

After activating the service in October, with options for Vietnamese and Spanish language tutoring, the next important task was to promote it to those it could help.

Perez has plugged on Spanish-speaking radio station El Rey, 1360 AM, and contacted community partners who could help spread the word, such as local schools, Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, Consejo Counseling and Referral Service, and Villa Comunitaria. Ayan Adem, interim K-5 program manager, appeared in a segment on a Somali-speaking radio station.

Garrett has promoted the service to Northeast Seattle organizations – such as the Lake City Collective, Literacy Source, Seattle Housing Authority, and the North Seattle Family Center – and even to adults who may want to use’s adult option to study for a citizenship test or get job search help.

The goal is to communicate the availability of to prioritized communities throughout the city where children and families are experiencing increased barriers to education due to the pandemic. Youth and families need the Library’s support more than ever, says Josie Watanabe, public service programs manager. provided more than 2,700 tutoring sessions through the Library between October and December 2020, according to statistics provided by – mostly serving secondary grade students.

In-person Homework Help will resume eventually; students and volunteers alike miss the essential in-person connection they used to share, Watanabe says. But fills a vital role during the era of physical distancing.

“I’m so grateful that we were able to pivot to,” Garrett says. “It was really important to the community.”

If you or someone you know could use the help of a tutor, visit

This story appeared in our 2020 Report to Donors. Read the full report here, complete with stories of donor impact and financial information.

Ensuring every child has a home library

The Seattle Public Library distributed 42,600 books to Seattle youth and families with the greatest barriers to book access.

The branch closures necessitated by stay-home orders in the spring of 2020 cut off the primary access to books for thousands of families in Seattle – especially in summer, when students are encouraged to keep reading, yet the Library couldn’t distribute free books in person at Summer of Learning events.

“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.

So the Foundation supported the purchase of 42,600 books that the Library distributed to youth and families throughout Seattle. They disseminated most of the books through the donor-supported Summer of Learning program.

Librarians leveraged service agencies’ continued contact with neighbors to get books in the hands of kids and teens.

“These are the kids I would have seen just walk into the Library,” says Wendy Israel, a teen services librarian at Beacon Hill who helped with the effort. “I’m very happy we can get these books to them.”

The focus of the book distribution was different in 2020, as well. Whereas previous efforts directed at least 50 percent of the giveaway books to prioritized audiences, this year’s aim was to give 100 percent of the books to those with barriers to book access.

Books were distributed to partners such as YouthCare, Seattle Indian Health Board, Yesler Terrace affordable housing community, and Boys and Girls Clubs – more than 100 partners in all.

Librarians sought to curate books reflective of their audiences, as well, featuring characters and authors of color and representing LGBTQ-identifying people.

“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 employee at YouthCare, which houses teens and young adults experiencing housing instability.

Mayer is thankful for the chance to continue serving kids and teens and especially grateful to the donors and librarians who helped make it happen.

“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.”

This story appeared in our 2020 Report to Donors. Read the full report here, complete with stories of donor impact and financial information.

The ‘Inside Your Library: Collections’ reading list from Helen Gutierrez and Justo Gonzalez

Click here to view the full program.

The Foundation hosted its latest episode of “Inside Your Library” June 23 with featured guest Helen Gutierrez, Collection Services Manager at the Seattle Public Library.

Helen spoke with Foundation Board Member Justo Gonzalez about discovering libraries and literature as Mexican-Americans and some of their favorite titles – as well as the origins of Peak Picks and some inner workings at the Library.

We’ve put together a book list of the titles discussed by Helen and Justo so you can check them out yourself. And, if you missed it, view the program here!

  1. Ijeomo Oluo – “Mediocre: the Dangerous Legacy of White Male America” and “So You Want to Talk About Race”
  2. Alejandro Ruiz – “The Food of Oaxaca”
  3. Victor Villaseñor – “Rain of Gold”
  4. Ryan Holiday – “Stillness is the Key,” “Ego is the Enemy,” and “The Obstacle is the Way”
  5. Marcus Aurelius – “Meditations”
  6. Michel de Montaigne – “On Solitude” (Contained in “The Complete Essays”)
  7. Gabriel Garcia Marquez“Love in the Time of Cholera”
  8. Isabel Allende – “House of the Spirits”
  9. Luis Alberto Urrea – “In Search of Snow” (not available at SPL), “Nobody’s Son,” “House of Broken Angels”
  10. Kirsten Valdez Quade – The Five Wounds”
  11. Jasmine Guillory – “The Wedding Date” and “The Proposal”
  12. S.C. Gwynne – “Empire of the Summer Moon”
  13. Jacob A. Riis – “How the Other Half Lives”
  14. Gabriela Garcia – “Of Women and Salt”
  15. Astrid Lindgren“The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking”
  16. Various Authors – Star Wars books
  17. JRR Tolkien – “Lord of the Rings”
  18. Betty Smith – “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”
  19. Kimberly Brubacker Bradley – “The War that Saved My Life”
  20. Valeria Luiselli“Tell Me How it Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions”

‘It just takes 1 person to speak up’: Scholarship winner celebrates activism of Tulalip leader

Having spent childhood summers with her grandparents in Haines, Alaska, among the Tlingit Indian Tribe, Julianna Folta grew up with an appreciation for indigenous cultures.

So when she learned about indigenous rights activist Deborah Parker while searching for inspiration for the Stim Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship contest, she knew the Tulalip leader was the ideal figure for her to explore.

“It just felt like it clicked,” says Julianna, an 18-year-old junior at Cascadia College in Bothell. “It felt like the best person to write about, the person I most connected to.”

Julianna’s essay on Deborah “Tsi-Cy-Altsa” Parker earned her the first-place prize in the Foundation’s eighth-annual scholarship contest, winning $5,000 toward college tuition.

“She came from a background that was very humble and often beats down people from being able to rise up because of cycles of violence and abuse and systemic oppression,” Julianna says of Parker.

As a policy analyst for the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, Parker took a particular interest in advocating for tribes’ rights to exercise criminal jurisdiction on their reservations; previously, non-native people accused of committing crimes on native land could not be prosecuted.

Her time on the national stage arrived just ahead of the 2013 re-authorization of the federal Violence Against Women Act, which was slated to include additional reforms, such as special protections for LGBTQ and immigrant survivors.

But indigenous women were left out.

A meeting with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray in Washington, D.C. led to Parker becoming the face of the reform effort for Native American women. And, despite having never gone public with the violence she experienced, she told her story to the nation – which led to protections for indigenous women being included in the newly reauthorized law.

“Her strength and ability to fight and actively working towards promoting her community was really inspiring to me, as well as the fact that she took so many personal risks,” Julianna adds. “It just takes one person to speak up and evoke community action. It makes you feel less alone.”

Julianna grew up in Guam and Saipan before moving to the Seattle area as a teenager, where she attended Inglemoor High School in Kenmore. Running Start classes allowed her to earn enough college credit to enter Cascadia College as a junior.

She aims to earn a Bachelor of Applied Science in Sustainable Practices. She is passionate about fostering sustainable and equitable food production and improving access to healthy food in low-income communities.

Writing about Parker allowed Julianna to learn about the inspiring and transformative figures around us, she says.

“I hope it inspires people to take a deeper look at the figures surrounding the area and the impact happening around the community,” Julianna says. “And it also makes you take a look at the injustices happening around us.”

Read Julianna’s essay about Deborah Parker.

Learn more about the Stim Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship and the two runners-up.

Stim Bullitt scholarship winners celebrate trailblazers who shaped Washington

The Seattle Public Library Foundation is pleased to announce the three winners of the 2021 Stim Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship.

First-place winner Julianna Folta and runners-up Eric Anthony Souza-Ponce and Taylor Yingshi each won tuition support from the Foundation by writing essays on courageous Washingtonians who made their communities a better place by fighting for their ideals.

Running 8 years strong, 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 Washington 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.

Winner Julianna Folta, who earned $5,000, wrote about Deborah “Tsi-Cy-Altsa” Parker, a Tulalip tribal leader who advocated for the protection of indigenous survivors in the federal Violence Against Women Act. Eric Anthony Souza-Ponce and Taylor Yingshi, who won $2,500 each, wrote about Nisqually tribal activist Billy Frank, Jr., and Seattle’s first elected official of color Wing Luke, respectively.

Congratulations to our winners!

Julianna Folta
Junior, Cascadia College
$5,000 scholarship
“Deborah ‘Tsi-Cy-Altsa’ Parker”



Eric Anthony Souza-Ponce
Ballard High School
Entering Western Washington University
$2,500 scholarship
“How a Nisqually Icon Freed the River”



Taylor Yingshi
Issaquah High School
Entering Columbia University
$2,500 scholarship
“The Flap of a Wing, the Overhaul of a City: Seattle’s First Asian-American Councilman”



Learn more about the Stim Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship.

Book Bingo season is here!

The wait is over! Start your summer reading NOW with the 2021 Book Bingo!

Adult Book Bingo, created by a partnership between the Library and Seattle Arts and Lectures, employs a local artist to create a bingo board of reading challenges that can be returned to the Library for the chance to win prizes.

This year’s Adult Book Bingo was illustrated by Tessa Hulls, a local artist who is working on a graphic memoir set to debut in 2023.

“This year, Seattle Arts & Lectures and The Seattle Public Library wanted to center joy as well as a commitment to equity and inclusion in our category selections,” says Misha Stone, Reader Services librarian at The Seattle Public Library. “We are grateful to our passionate, engaged reading community!”

A Spanish Book Bingo is also available, with the help of Seattle Escribe, Washington state’s largest group of Spanish-speaking writers. Seattle Escribe contributed “transcreation,” which is a type of translation that not just provides literal translations but adapts text to Spanish-speaking culture and context.

Book Bingo categories include “speculative fiction,” “on your shelf,” and “Black joy.”

You have until Sept. 7 to achieve a bingo or even a blackout. Download your Book Bingo board – and find some book suggestions! – at

Kids take a stroll in the park with the Library

As part of the Earth Week StoryWalks, Herring’s House Park (Tualtwx), near the Duwamish Longhouse, featured a guided walk with the book, “We Are Water Protectors” by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade. (Photo by Warren Chin, SPL)

The Seattle Public Library teamed up with Seattle Parks & Recreation last month to celebrate a kid-friendly Earth Week with four StoryWalks® installed at four parks throughout Seattle.

The purpose was to offer a family-friendly activity in outdoor settings that fosters a connection between nature and literature.

Pages of children’s picture books were installed in displays throughout each park to create a guided walk as the story progresses, which makes the activity socially distant by nature. StoryWalks® encourage reading, imagination, fitness, and exploring your community.

“We brought StoryWalks® to Seattle because we knew that the community (would) find it an enjoyable and safe way to recreate,” says Lan Lum, a community naturalist at Seattle Parks & Recreation. “StoryWalks® have the potential to connect people to books, nature, and each other. They can provide meaningful shared experiences and spark conversations among families and friends.”

The book and park pairings were: Harlem Grown by Tony Hillery and Jessie Hartland at Genesee Park, The Storm Whale by Benji Davies at Magnuson Park, The Tin Forest, by Helen Ward and Wayne Anderson at Northacres Park, and We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade at Herring’s House Park (Tualtwx). The Herring’s House Park StoryWalk® was offered in partnership with the nearby Duwamish Longhouse.

Louisa Storer, Children’s Services librarian at the Broadview Branch, selected the four books to go with each park and the Foundation supported the purchase of the books used in each StoryWalk®. The four parks were chosen because they are in different areas of Seattle, are easily accessible by public transportation, and serve some of our most diverse and underserved communities.

The StoryWalks® were exhibited at the parks from April 21 to April 24. The Library and Seattle Parks & Recreation may work on future StoryWalks® together.

The StoryWalk® Project was originally created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont and developed with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg Hubbard Library.

‘The Power of Planning’: A resource list to help plan your aging journey

Watch the full program, “The Power of Planning: Taking Control of Your Own Aging Journey,” with Lisa Mayfield and Janet L. Smith.

The Seattle Public Library Foundation and King County Library System Foundation host quarterly planned giving seminars for our communities.

Certified Care Manager Lisa Mayfield, founder and co-principal of Aging Wisdom, and Elder Law Attorney Janet L. Smith, founder of Northwest Elder Law Group PLLC, joined us May 13, 2021, for their program, “The Power of Planning: Taking Control of Your Own Aging Journey.”

If you missed this informative webinar, click on the video above!

For those who tuned in, we’ve compiled a list of resources recommended by our panelists so you can continue your education on this important topic.

If you’d like to receive invitations for upcoming webinars, contact us at

Happy reading!


Curated reading lists from SPL:

The Power of Planning

Alzheimer’s and Memory Loss


Death and Dying

Estate Planning

Quick guides to keep handy:

More resources and programs for older adults can be found at SPL’s Next Chapter page.

It’s time to GiveBIG for your Library!

Now is the time to help set the Library up for success for the rest of 2021 with GiveBIG – and for a limited time, your gift to the Library will be DOUBLED!

GiveBIG, May 4-5, is an annual statewide online giving campaign that elevates your favorite local charities.

This year, five generous library champions will double each gift up to $25,000, letting your gift work TWICE as hard toward supporting books, free programs, and equity-focused community services that enrich our city.

Give now!

Summer of Learning is approaching quickly, which helps students continue learning in the crucial off-school months. Your gift today can help us achieve our summer goal of putting 9,800 books in the homes of children and teens.

Your matched gift NOW will not only support Summer of Learning, it will help fund interactive online programs, author events, and access to technology that will connect people of all ages to information, ideas, and inspiration.

Thanks to its amazing donors, the Foundation helps the Library expand its services by funding more than 45 free educational programs and about 1 in 4 books on the Library’s shelves – that’s above and beyond what public support provides. Your contribution is critical to keeping the Library strong throughout 2021.

Thank you for boosting the Library that thousands rely on each day for education and opportunity. Chip in now!

Love and affirmation in the time of COVID

Mackenzie Neusiok performs a dance piece, “Autumn,” for the November online dance festival titled “Reflections.” The event posed the question: “If you could sum 2020 up into one dance, what would it be?”

The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affects communities of color, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – not just because of limited access to health care alone, but because people of color are more likely to be essential workers and bear the economic burden of the pandemic, among a litany of other longstanding factors exacerbated by the crisis.

Working with racial justice in mind, local BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) community partners have shown the Library how community-designed solutions can address COVID in a meaningful way: with joy and affirmation.

The Library’s Public Engagement series is designed to focus on “well-being in communities of color as one solution to racism,” says Davida Ingram, the Library’s public engagement program manager.

“I’d like to be painting a picture of what institutions can do in a moment of crisis,” she says. “As we listen to communities lead, how can we be a place of safe harbor and connection and affirmation? Our goal was to watch how communities of color were doing things through mutual aid efforts and uplift that work.”

Ingram says highlighting the strengths of communities of color can be a salve for the collective trauma people of color have experienced in the past year.

Here are examples of the programs supported by the Library:

Live events

Innovative community-led events have streamed online in 2020 and 2021. Along the way, they have showcased a rich array of local artists and provided much-needed social connection.

A November dance festival called “Reflections” was performed at the newly-reopened Pier 62 on the Downtown Seattle waterfront, featuring Black and Indigenous performers. It showcased Indigenous and Black artists and cultural groups sharing a “love letter” with the city. You can watch it here on YouTube.

The annual “Legendary Children” event also came alive online. This QTBIPOC (queer and trans Black, Indigenous and People of Color) event celebrates the house and ball culture and its long history of offering safety, solace, love, and beauty to artists. You can check out Legendary Children 2020 here.

“LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID” is an ongoing virtual series addressing social justice solutions such as abolition and mutual aid, intended to bring hope through constructive community conversations. Two events last year drew more than 500 viewers.


Working with community and city partners, the Library co-created BLOOM (Beginning Leadership for Organizing and Orchard Management), a program engaging young adults in a college-level urban farming fellowship designed to promote food security.

Eleven people ages 17 to 25 gained in-the-field experience, even picking more than 300 pounds of apples that they pressed into cider at a healing event celebrating BIPOC communities.

“The most memorable part of BLOOM 2020 was meeting other youth like me who are dedicated to building community around this idea of food justice, around loving each other and loving our food and loving the land,” says Cara, one of the participants. “These are the kinds of connections I want to keep with me in moving forward in building a world I want to see.”

Ingram says the program will resume this year in partnership with Wa Na Wari, Black Farmers Collective, and BIPOC food sovereignty and food justice groups.

Art Club

Art Club was established as a community-centered arts project at a Sand Point apartment complex to foster healing after a neighbor was killed there by police in 2017.

Art Club celebrates children as civic leaders in training. Its child-led interviews with lawyers and public health advocates have occurred online throughout the pandemic. They feature dance performances and conversations, and will culminate in a zine with a child’s view of the pandemic.

Art Club participants interviewed public health leaders from African American Health Board, Fred Hutch, and UW Medical Center about the pandemic. They also met Seattle Black Panther co-founder Aaron Dixon, who discussed the Black Panthers’ historic Breakfast Program and public health campaign with Estelita’s Library co-founder and historian Edwin Lindo.

“The behind-the-scenes intention is to celebrate brilliant young people as leaders and to create space for them to meet leaders who look just like them who are doing community-centered work in careers they may not be exposed to, like arts, law, public health, mutual aid, communications,” Ingram says.

The Seattle Public Library Foundation is proud to support public engagement and arts programming at the Library. The Library as a cultural institution seeks to ground its work in racial and social justice while serving as a place where our neighbors can express themselves, learn, and grow.