News & Stories

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.

LEAP head begins new chapter after 30 years of service

Cleo Brooks, supervising librarian of the Library Equal Access Program, will retire next year after 30 years in her position. She is a well-known champion of Library access for people with disabilities. (The Seattle Public Library)

Cleo Brooks is such a fixture at the Library that even Camille Jassny’s guide dog knows where to find her office at Central Library.

Brooks has headed LEAP—the Library Equal Access Program—for 30 years. Next year, she will retire from her decades of service as the Library’s ambassador for patrons with disabilities.

“She’s just so caring and so warm,” says Jassny, who founded the Low-Vision Book Group with Brooks in 2006. “I’ve never met anybody quite like her.”

Brooks maintains a lifelong connection to The Seattle Public Library. Having grown up in Bellevue, her mother, then a science teacher, would take her and her siblings to story time at the Central Library and check out books and 8mm films.

Since starting her job at the Library in 1990—the year the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed by Congress—she has overseen LEAP nearly from its inception to what it has become today—a hub of resources and technology that help people of all abilities access Library materials or even just use the computer.

That technology has changed quite a bit in 30 years. She recalls a man older than 60 with visual impairments who came to the Library with his 85-year-old mother so she could read him the materials. When the Library offered its first reading machine in 1991, the man could enter the Library and use it himself.

“Now I feel like an adult, like I’m part of the world,” Brooks recalls him saying.

But perhaps what’s changed more, Brooks says, is the culture of acceptance and advocacy for people with disabilities, and their increased sense of independence. She’s had patrons use the assistive technology at the LEAP Lab to find professional work and pursue higher education thanks to Library resources.

“I receive so much support in my life to feel independent and capable and I just wanted to provide that as a library service,” she says.

She’s known to work tirelessly to support her patrons, using her fluency in American Sign Language to talk to patrons with hearing loss and providing access for people using wheelchairs.

“She’s willing to go as far as she can to meet the many needs that our patrons have,” says C.J. Glenn, a library associate who supports Brooks in her capacity as LEAP supervisor and ADA coordinator. “Seeing how deftly Cleo met those patrons’ needs was inspiring to me and taught me a lot about my own role to help people.”

Jassny says that even after the Low-Vision Book Group meets, Brooks helps each member find the transit they need or has walked them across the street in a human chain to the soup café for a post-meeting lunch.

“She’s gone beyond the call of duty,” Jassny says. “She has a heart of gold.”

Dan and Dave Ortner, two brothers who are now the facilitators of the Low-Vision Book Group, say they’ve missed Brooks during the Library closures and will miss her presence in the Library after her retirement.

“She’s just the sweetest, nicest person and she’s always available to help,” Dan Ortner says.

Her work has even inspired the Ortner brothers and Jassny to advocate for the Library on matters such as Levy renewal and City budget funding.

“She’s been a wonderful asset to the Library—and an advocate for LEAP programs,” Dan Ortner says.

Meanwhile, she remains busy adapting services to the SOVID era, accommodating people seeking to attend remote events. She also continues to develop Sensory Story Time, a Foundation-supported program that started before COVID closures to include children with autism.

Her secret for nurturing the kindness and perseverance she’s known for? She recalls a simple, universal adage her family instilled in her throughout her life.

“Just remember to be kind and remember to treat people the way you would like to be treated,” she says.

Learn more about LEAP and its services at

This story appears in the Fall 2020 edition of our newsletter, “The Next Chapter.” Find the full edition here.

Library collects COVID stories for future generations

A woman and child pose in North Beacon Hill with a sign that reads “Take Care of Yourself” in the native language of Lushootseed in this photo archived in the Library’s COVID Collection. The sign was created by Hailey Tayathy, a Quileute drag queen and artist. (The Seattle Public Library)

How will you remember the covid-19 era?

Betsy Kluck-Keil posted a joke of the day in the front yard of her Crown Hill home to entertain her neighbors.

Ruth Quinet, inspired by a pre-covid Library rental of “American Gigolo,” watched nearly every Richard Gere film—and reviewed them each.

These memories and more will be kept for generations to come in the Library’s Special Collections, as staff collect submissions from the public on their musings about the coronavirus and more.

It’s a novel project for the Special Collections team, which usually fixes its lens on the past.

“This is really a first in our Library’s collection work where community members are contributing materials in real time,” says Jade D’Addario, digital projects librarian.

So far, the Library has collected more than 150 submissions from 34 people—and they’re already available online for people to see.

The materials range from written stories to photos to poetry to artwork. They not only describe life in quarantine, but also other events that have characterized 2020, such as protests supporting Black Lives Matter.

What has surprised D’Addario the most is the sheer diversity of the submissions, from a West Seattle street musician’s narrative to a woman’s story about being medically induced into a coma before the pandemic had spread to Seattle—and waking up a month later right in the middle of it.

The aim of the collection, D’Addario says, is to give future generations personal stories and a glimpse of what people’s lives were like in 2020 and what they were feeling at a time when so many monumental events were converging.

“Hopefully the collection will be able to provide a variety of viewpoints that aren’t just a formal history told 10, 20, 30 years after the fact,” she says.

You can submit your own contributions at Peruse the collection yourself at

This story appears in the Fall 2020 edition of our newsletter, “The Next Chapter.” Find the full edition here.


Seattle Post-Intelligencer now available to Library cardholders with Foundation grant

The Seattle P-I was Seattle’s first newspaper, first publishing Dec. 10, 1863. Anyone with a Library card can now access the full print archive for free.

Seattle’s oldest and longest-running newspaper is now available to the public on the Library’s website at

The Library used Foundation support to secure the archives of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which can now be explored via the Library’s website.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which started as “The Seattle Gazette” in 1863, printed weekly – and then daily – until 2009, when it became the online-only publication it remains today. While the Library has offered access to The Seattle Times since 2010 with Foundation support, the P-I now provides an alternate perspective of life in Seattle.

“This is a game-changer for our community’s and staff’s ability to more fully research local history, whether for deep academic research, family history, casual inquiry, student papers, or anything in between,” said Andrew Harbison, the Library’s assistant director for Collections and Access. “From family wedding announcements, to obituaries, to photos and stories of historic news events, patrons can explore our region’s stories with greater breadth and depth on their own, or with the assistance with our staff.”

Prior to this acquisition, anyone hoping to dive into the Seattle P-I’s records (even present-day P-I reporters) had to sort through microfiche at the University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library and the Museum of History and Industry stacks – a barrier of time, travel, and effort for many.

The Library bought the archives dating from 1901 to 1935 and obtained the license to offer everything published afterward through NewsBank, with the intent of eventually buying the remainder of the archive over time. The difference to the user is negligible.

Content before 1901 is available through the Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers project jointly sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.

The P-I began when Seattle settler Henry Yesler invited J.R. Watson to move to Seattle from Olympia and begin a newspaper.

“It is neither so large as a barn door nor the London Times; but it is the best we can offer for a beginning and is, we trust, sufficient for the time and place,” Watson wrote in the first edition’s message to readers, published Dec. 10, 1863.

Though both the Times and P-I shifted in perspective over time, the P-I grew to be known as the more liberal competitor to the Times’ traditionally conservative editorial bent.

David Wright, reader services librarian, is excited the Library can now offer access to the P-I, not least because his father, Walter Wright, was an investigative reporter for the paper during the 1970s.

“I have zero doubt that this is going to become one of our most-cited and used resources,” he says. “The kind of granularity and personality and depth it gives to all kinds of local stories is massive.”

He continues to peruse the archives himself to send his dad – now living in Hawaii – his old stories.

Susanna Ryan, library staff member and author of “Seattle Walk Report: And Illustrated Walking Tour Through 23 Seattle Neighborhoods,” says that adding the P-I perspective to the Library’s archives is “a major win” for historians, students, and anyone exploring an aspect of Seattle’s past.

Additionally, the archive is easy to navigate.

“Without digital access, you more or less have to know exactly what you were looking for–a certain article, on a certain page, in a certain issue. Just finding that information can be a challenge on its own!” Ryan says. “(Now), whether you’re searching for the name of a family member for genealogy research, the address of a property you’re curious about, or information about an event from Seattle’s past, you need only put the search term in and see what happens.”

John LaMont, genealogy librarian, appreciates the value this paper adds to genealogy research. It increases his chances of helping a patron find something they knew was in some kind of local paper without knowing which one – not just articles and photos, but obituaries, wedding and birth announcements, and funeral notices.

“I can tell you that just about any question we get related to individuals, businesses, or events in Seattle history, we’re using this database alongside The Seattle Times to find the answer,” LaMont says. “The two papers were different, each with their own emphasis and interpretation of events.”

Explore the archive for yourself right here.

The Foundation expresses its gratitude to The Huge and Jane Ferguson Foundation, as well as other supporters of the Library’s Special Collections program, for making this gift to the Library possible.

Celebrating 40 years of championing the Library

The Seattle Public Library Foundation was a novel idea when it began in 1980 – it was the first library foundation in the Pacific Northwest.

Nov. 25 marks The Seattle Public Library Foundation’s 40th birthday – and while 2020 has thrown so many challenges our way, our decades of uplifting our beloved Library give us so much to celebrate.

Most importantly, we extend our gratitude to the people who make the Library the community cornerstone it is: You, our donors, volunteers, supporters, and Library staff.

From our humble beginnings as a band of volunteers in 1980, we’ve grown to become the largest library foundation in the United States in assets under management and have acted as pioneers in the world of library philanthropy.

Let’s take a quick look at our journey:


Virginia Burnside, SPLF founder

-Retiring from the Library Board of Trustees, Virginia Burnside recruits members of her book club to establish The Seattle Public Library Foundation. Its mission was twofold: to raise money for the Library and to showcase the Library’s materials and services. It was the first library foundation to exist in the Pacific Northwest.

-Early fundraising accomplishments included supporting new carpeting and furnishings for renovated Carnegie-era branches, new Bookmobiles, and equipment for low-vision readers at the Library Equal Access Program lab.

-The Foundation’s first staff member was fundraiser Terry Collings, who would later become the Foundation’s first executive director. Before he was hired, the Foundation’s average annual fundraising amounted to $33,732. In 1991 – his third year on the job – the Foundation raised $503,604.


-The Foundation supported the hiring of Library staff for the first time with a literacy program coordinator and English language learner coordinator.

-Perhaps the Foundation’s most famous Board member, Faye Allen (mother of Paul Allen), served on the Foundation’s Board from 1993 to 2005. She served on the Emeritus Board from 2005 until her passing in 2012.

-In 1998, Seattle voters approved the largest library bond measure in American history, with the $196.4 million Libraries for All measure, which led to the construction of the current Central Library and the renovation of branches across the city. Initially, the Foundation pledged to support the effort with $40 million. By 2005, it raised $83 million in capital and collections support.


Central Library opened in 2004.

-Central Library re-opened in 2004, with 25,000 people flocking to tour the building on opening day.

-More than a dozen branch libraries were renovated and reopened to the public thanks to the bond measure advocated by the Foundation and the additional millions it raised from private donors for the effort.

-Terry Collings retired in 2007 and Jonna Ward became executive director of the Foundation in 2008. She has since become CEO.


-Seattle Foundation launched GiveBIG, a regional day of giving, in 2011. SPLF was a top finisher that year and continues to participate every May.

-The Foundation secured the first gift from Google for a Wi-Fi hotspot pilot in 2014. Wi-Fi hotspots would become the Library’s most-circulated item.

-That same year, the Foundation launched the 10-year commitment to the Stim Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship, with the estate gift from Stim Bullitt.

-Fresh Start began in 2018 to help restore library accounts to teens with suspended access to the Library.

-The Foundation established Library Giving Day, an annual day of library philanthropy, in 2019. That first year, about 192 libraries across North America participated, raising $737,000 for libraries — 27 percent more than projected.

So much of what you love about the Library is credited to donor and volunteer support: the thousands of free programs that educate and inspire us; the volume of collections, including e-books, audiobooks, and our historical archives in Special Collections; and the innovative ways the Library seeks to deliver more equitable service, such as community resource specialists and Wi-Fi hotspot circulation.

Because of your generosity, the Library can adapt with changing technology, provide innovative programs, and enhance its services. During this year’s pandemic, Foundation support has helped the Library pivot to online programs and reach families with the greatest barriers to access and technology.

Collectively, the Foundation has provided more than $203 million in private support and it has helped advocate for $567 million in public funding to support the Library our neighbors love and rely on.

For 40 years of outstanding work uplifting our Library, we thank you!

The Foundation Board of Directors – taken in 2019. (Photo by Elizabeth Carpenter)

$50,000 Challenge Match Kicks off Fall Giving Season!

The Foundation kicked off its fall giving season with a special $50,000 challenge match, which helps to make donor support have twice the impact.

The challenge was provided by a donor who believes in the power of libraries to strengthen our community for everyone, regardless of age or economic circumstance.

Funding from the fall campaign will be used to help support the Library’s collections and programs that are offered above and beyond what public funding alone can provide.

Donors can make a gift online and the match will be automatically applied until the matching gift is achieved. Give at

Young leaders bring ‘Black Joy’ through the power of stories

Teen intern Leeah reads “The Patchwork Bike” in a virtual session of Black Joy and Mindful Movements.

While grown-ups strive to stay safe during a global pandemic, juggle work and childcare, and keep stress down during a contentious election season, anxious feelings can also extend to kids – especially Black children whose families are disproportionately affected by systemic racism and its related effects.

“The stress of COVID for children in addition to the stress if you are a child of color right now is unbelievable,” says Jennifer Bisson, children’s librarian at the Greenwood Branch.

Late this summer, the Library provided a response to help ease that tension: Black Joy and Mindful Movements Story Time.

It employs the usual virtual Story Time format, with picture books read aloud to children on video, but it intentionally features stories about Black families and incorporates “mindful” breathing techniques that kids and parents alike can use to manage stress.

The program is hosted in partnership with the Bureau of Fearless Ideas, which brought the social and emotional dimension to the Library’s already-successful Story Time formula. The Black Joy and Mindful Movements readers asked viewers questions about their feelings on the stories and cultivated empathy with the characters.

“That’s not something SPL typically does,” Bisson says.

The Bureau of Fearless Ideas also hired paid teen interns to do the storytelling: three Black young women who by now have just started college.

The intent is to spotlight Black role models for younger children.

“Children seeing a teenager reading to them (is valuable), especially seeing teens that look like them, excited about and modeling good reading about characters that also look like you!” one intern said in her evaluation of the program.

Three paid teen interns from Bureau of Fearless Ideas led the Black Joy and Mindful Movements sessions.

And that paid off in attendance, too. Program organizers estimate that between 600 and 800 kids and caregivers tuned into the three Black Joy programs that aired in August and September.

“The kiddos and I enjoyed this and we look forward to watch more,” one viewer commented. “Awesome idea. And my little girl was so excited to see a Black girl that looks like her and Mommy.”

The mindfulness portion is simple – before and after each story, the teen storyteller leads viewer through an easy-to-understand breathing exercise.

During one program, teen intern Leeah asked participants to pretend they were holding a birthday cake covered in candles, and then take a few breaths to blow them all out.

The teens also indicated the program exposed them to representations of Black people they didn’t see as younger kids, themselves.

“Seeing a mom in a headscarf as ‘normal’ could really make the difference for a kid who also just wants to feel ‘normal’ in their school and community,” one teen reported. “Seeing Black people reading AND in the stories challenges (the idea) that white is the ‘default normal’ and makes space for you.”

In all, it was a learning experience for younger and older kids alike, says Faith Eakin, lead program manager at Bureau of Fearless Ideas.

“At the core, this was amazing inter-generational programming with Black teens as the leaders and was hugely empowering to the interns,” she says. “It was great to collaborate and showcase our wonderful partnership (with the Library) by presenting programming that represents both organizations, literacy, mindfulness, social emotional learning and youth leadership. It was really relevant and fresh!”

Bisson says she hopes to continue and expand the program in the new year.

The Seattle Public Library Foundation applauds the partnership between the Library and the Bureau of Fearless ideas and is proud to support the Library’s Story Time programming.

Check out more of the Library’s Story Time programs at