News & Stories

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.

Aging in Place Series Launched for Older Adults

Chances are, you or someone you know are planning for the future. This October and November, the Library’s Older Adult Program will host a three-part series to learn about Aging in Place. The Library’s Older Adult Program is made possible by a grant from The Seattle Public Library Foundation.

Aging in Place: Virtual Villages
Tuesday, October 26th at 6:30 pm

A virtual village is not a place. Rather, it is a set of resources that enable you to remain where you want to live, more comfortably, for as long as possible.

Register for Aging in Place: Virtual Villages

Aging in Place: Homesharing
Tuesday November 9th at 6:30 pm

Homesharing is a model that increases affordable housing options, creates opportunities to earn additional income, combats social isolation and loneliness, and supports intentional roommate matching.

Register for Aging in Place: Homesharing

Aging in Place: Universal Design
Tuesday, November 16th at 6:30 pm

What is universal design? How do we look at accessibility in our living spaces as we consider our current and future needs? Barry Long, a local accessibility-focused realtor, will describe some of the most common examples of universal design in housing and suggest ways for you to evaluate your current home.

Register for Aging in Place: Universal Design

Better together with Your Next Job

North Seattle resident Dorothy Darrow credits the Library’s Your Next Job program with rejuvenating her job search as she seeks employment until she retires. (Photo credit: Lynsi Burton)

Dorothy Darrow worked as a part-time freelance production designer, laying out catalogs and ads for businesses.

But when the pandemic-induced economic crisis hit, “everything pretty much dried up” in terms of work, she says. She plans to retire in a few years and needs income until that time.

She learned about Your Next Job in The Seattle Times and turned to the Library for help.

Your Next Job started as The Seattle Public Library’s response to economic conditions and grew into a joint effort with Sno-Isle Libraries and the King County Library System to help job seekers throughout the region.

While various organizations in the area help people with different aspects of employment challenges, the Library saw the need for a “one-stop shop” – and one that would help people in need of technological support in several different languages.

“Getting people resources and information is what libraries are about,” says Marion Scichilone, assistant managing librarian at Central Library. “It just seemed like a very appropriate thing to do.”

So they trained Library staff and contracted multilingual navigators to listen to job-seekers’ needs and either refer them to the appropriate Library services or link them with partner organizations that can offer more specialized assistance, such as Seattle Jobs Initiative or Puget Sound Welcome Back Center.

“Any resource that a patron doesn’t have access to, we can be that bridge to get them connected to what they need,” says Meira Jough, program manager for adult basic education and workforce development.

Another powerful partnership is the one with Building Our Bridge, a group of Seattle Housing Authority residents who contract with organizations to provide multilingual technology training. They’re uniquely positioned to help immigrants and refugees who call in with the digital skills often required in job-seeking.

They provide service in Vietnamese, Oromo, Somali, Amharic, Korean, Arabic, and Tigrinya. Library staff cover English, Russian, Spanish, and Chinese.

Between June and December, 265 patrons received Your Next Job services.

As for Darrow, she’s still looking for steady work, but Your Next Job connected her with contacts who could advise her on job training – and it boosted her morale as she secured job interviews.

“I was able to give myself encouragement to get out looking again,” she says.

To make an appointment with Your Next Job, visit or call 206-386-4636.

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

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.