News & Stories

IRA 101: Giving through your retirement savings fund

Janeine and Bob Green, supporters of The Seattle Public Library Foundation.

Do you have an IRA account for your retirement savings? You can use it to give to your favorite charitable institutions, such as The Seattle Public Library Foundation.


An IRA is a tax-deferred investment account for which you only pay income tax upon withdrawal. It’s commonly used for people who don’t have retirement accounts through their employer or who wish to consolidate retirement accounts from previous jobs.

The IRA differs from a Roth IRA because the Roth IRA requires the holder to pay taxes on contributions, and then earnings are tax-free under certain conditions.

The year the IRA holder turns 70 ½ years old, the IRS then requires that person to withdraw a certain percentage each year, known as the required minimum distribution (RMD). That RMD is a percentage of the account that varies year to year based on life expectancy.

Roth IRAs don’t impose required minimum distributions.


An IRA also allows one to issue what’s known as a qualified charitable distribution (QCD). This, too, can only happen starting the calendar year the IRA holder turns 70 ½ years old.

The QCD can make up a portion or the entirety of one’s required minimum distribution. Just tell your financial institution where to give your money and how much – you never take possession of it or pay taxes on any part of it, and the contribution is 100 percent tax deductible.

An additional bonus: You don’t have to itemize your giving through an IRA because the portion you give to charity is not taxable income to you. And, unlike with a donor-advised fund, no fees are levied.

Just make sure the charities to which you give are 501(c)(3) – The Seattle Public Library Foundation fits that bill! And specify with your financial institution whether you want your name attached to your gift.


Janeine and Bob Green, donors to The Seattle Public Library Foundation, began giving qualified charitable distributions to the Foundation last year and recently made their second contribution through their IRA.

“It’s really easy,” Janeine Green said, adding that she only had to give the charity’s name and address to make her contribution happen. Everything she needed to know she found on Charity Navigator.

Janeine and Bob frequent the Green Lake Branch to find large-print books and regular books alike, and also make heavy use out of ebooks for the book club at their condominium.

“We love our Green Lake Library,” Janeine says.

She also appreciated The Seattle Public Library’s wide array of programs, and librarians’ ability to connect patrons with resources such as housing aid and employment help.

“It just has a lot to offer,” Janeine adds.

She loves the Foundation’s personal touch in corresponding with donors and she finds the IRA contribution especially convenient because she doesn’t have to itemize it or report the withdrawal as income.

“When you do your income tax, there’s no special form you fill out,” she says.

“To me, it’s the most effective use of the money.”

This article is informational only and not intended to provide financial advice. Contact your financial institution for advice and its own requirements on qualified charitable distributions.

This story appeared in our Winter 2019 newsletter, The Next Chapter. Check out the full issue here.

The Next Chapter | Winter 2019 by Lynsi on Scribd

We passed the Levy! Now what?

Children and caregivers enjoy Kaleidoscope Play and Learn, an early learning program that will expand to new locations after the passage of the Library Levy renewal.

The Library Levy renewal passed with 76 percent voter approval in August, with the promise of extended operating hours, seismic retrofits on Carnegie buildings, and the elimination of late fines, among several other benefits.

So what happens next?

The Seattle Public Library is working on the details involved to implement the new levy, but here are the basics that we know now – check for more information at in mid-December.


One of the first changes patrons will see will occur Jan. 5, 2020, when the Library’s 26 branch locations will open an hour earlier every Sunday at noon.

After that, the Library will roll out a different combination of new hours at each branch, depending on their needs. All branch locations will add an hour Monday through Thursday, and Friday hours will come to Delridge, Green Lake, NewHolly, and Wallingford. Those changes are likely to come later in 2020.

High Point, International District/Chinatown, and South Park will also open earlier and close later. The result will be 10,000 new branch hours per year across 27 locations.


Of The Seattle Public Library’s 27 locations, seven are masonry buildings built before current seismic standards that are not structurally reinforced to minimize damage in the event of an earthquake.

Before the levy renewal, no budget existed to outfit these branches with seismic protections – but the levy provided a vehicle for securing the money to do so.

The levy renewal package includes seismic work for three of the Library’s most vulnerable buildings: Green Lake, University, and Columbia. These Carnegie-era branches, each more than 100 years old, bear landmark status and the Library hopes to maintain them for generations to come.

The work will include largely invisible changes such as reinforcements to the ceiling and walls, but will also feature some aesthetic improvements. The Library aims to make the branches more accessible for people with disabilities.

Construction will begin first at Green Lake and is expected to begin in the spring of 2021. While the branch is closed, the Library hopes to provide an alternate location for library services in the neighborhood. The University Branch will be updated next, followed by Columbia.


Patrons can expect new borrowing rules early in 2020.

A few other adjustments will also be made to improve service and help ensure materials are available for everyone – after all, the Library is more interested in materials being returned than in collecting fines.

Library staff have conducted extensive research, consulting with patrons and other libraries that have nixed fines, and expect to continuously improve and refine the system.

The Library’s research shows that most materials are returned on time or early, and that most patrons care deeply about returning their materials so others can access them. Surveys indicate fines are not a primary motivation for patrons to return their materials. And the experience of other libraries that have eliminated fines has been overwhelmingly positive.

Based on this research, the Library doesn’t expect to see a difference in return rates. It does anticipate increased use and engagement as formerly disenfranchised patrons face lower barriers to using the Library.


Donors like you have already supported the staffing of an adult social worker and part-time case worker to help adults in need who come through the Library’s doors. The Foundation’s willingness to pilot this effort led to the city of Seattle funding these positions from its general budget. Due to the success of these positions, the levy renewal will now allow the Library to add a social worker and part-time case worker dedicated to youth.

Library officials hope to add those new positions next summer. These new staffers are expected to offer both drop-in hours and scheduled appointments, and visit several branches located in communities with the most need.

The Library will also roll out technological improvements starting next year, including upgraded WiFi and hardware. The levy renewal allows the Library to keep up with advancements and maintain service and connectivity for patrons.

Furthermore, the Library’s popular early learning program, Kaleidoscope Play and Learn, will expand to new locations. The program, which incorporates toys, music, and art to help young children’s learning development, currently is offered in five branches, but could add up to six more locations. We’ll update you as developments occur.

For more information, visit the Library’s website at

We thank our fantastic Library supporters who voted to approve the levy renewal, and especially to those who volunteered their time to aid the campaign. Because of you, the Library will continue to serve as the community cornerstone that thousands depend on.

This story appeared in our Winter 2019 newsletter, The Next Chapter. Check out the full issue here.

The Next Chapter | Winter 2019 by Lynsi on Scribd

Double your impact with year-end giving opportunities!

We know you value The Seattle Public Library and understand the difference it makes in communities across the city.

This fall, you can help keep the Library strong into 2020 and beyond.

Keep an eye on your mailbox and email for opportunities throughout the fall to double your impact with several matching offers. Right now, a $30,000 matching opportunity is in place thanks to a generous anonymous donor who cares about the Library’s future as much as you do.

Donate any time right here.

Your support puts books on Library shelves, brings 3D printing technology to kids, provides career readiness for adults and teens, and teaches recent immigrants English and how to apply for citizenship.

Thank you for your continued generosity, now and always.

Learning Buddies: the ‘magic potion’ that helps kids and teens grow together

Mariyame, a 16-year-old Franklin High School student, reads to Mahta, a 10-year-old student at St. Edward School, during a Learning Buddies session at the Columbia Branch.

Elementary students look up to older kids in awe. So what happens when the Library creates a program for teens and young students to learn together? We found out when we met high school student Christina and 9-year-old Madeline.

Christina was reading “Strega Nona and the Twins” to Madeline at the Columbia Branch. Strega Nona was ready to soothe the rowdy twins in the story with a “magic potion.”

“What do you think she made?” Christina asked.

“I think she’s going to make spaghetti,” Madeline said.

It was a good guess – but the “magic potion” was warm milk and honey.

The point wasn’t to get Madeline to correctly guess the outcome of the story – it’s that Christina engaged her in a story as they read it together, nurturing and early love of reading. And that’s the whole point of Learning Buddies, a Library program for high school students and elementary-age learners who work together to learn not just reading and math, but social and emotional connection.

Learning Buddies, supported in part by donors to the Foundation, is offered at six branches and engages high school students as volunteers to give one-on-one tutoring to children in kindergarten through fifth grade. It’s a dual benefit to all involved: while “Little Buddies” work on their reading and math, the teen Learning Buddies learn how to tutor kids and gain work and leadership experience.

Ngan, a 15-year-old Franklin High School student and a Learning Buddy, says the program fits neatly into her goals of becoming a teacher.

“This program is good because I can be with kids and have some experience for my future,” she said.

The downstairs classroom used for Learning Buddies at Columbia last week was abuzz with nine teens and 13 “Little Buddies.” Parents come and drop off their children, who are paired with a teen mentor for some reading, followed by snacks and math-oriented games.

Kids picked out books from a table packed with a variety of titles, with covers and content featuring diverse characters and perspectives. Later, Henok, another teen Learning Buddy, taught three Little Buddies about prime numbers with a board game. Meanwhile, Learning Buddy Lalla helped another Little Buddy with addition and subtraction on his fingers as they played a different game.

Richard Counsil, teen librarian and facilitator of the Columbia Branch’s Learning Buddies, tries to make sure one-on-one pairings are made at each session, but that night, some teens took on two or three kids.

Richard himself recruits Learning Buddies and Little Buddies from organizations in the Columbia City area, such as Horn of Africa Services, working to ensure the teens reflect the cultures and communities they serve and the Little Buddies see successful teen role models. Many of the kids speak languages other than English at home.

“(Richard) really exemplifies what it means to partner with the community,” said Ayan Adem, public service programs manager at The Seattle Public Library, and the manager of the systemwide Learning Buddies program.

He mentors and trains the teens over months and sometimes years, and builds relationships with the young kids’ families.

One parent who appreciates that effort is Netsanet, who brings her two children, 10-year-old Mahta, and 5-year-old Kalieb, to Learning Buddies every week.

“Richard is wonderful,” Netsanet said, adding that he checks on every child and knows them by name. “Our children get supported every time.”

She especially loves the interplay between the young children and teens and what they learn from each other.

Her children benefit from the teens, she said, “They learn a lot from them, they share their knowledge, they teach them to be a leader.”

Netsanet’s kids look forward to Learning Buddies every week. Then they come home, telling their mother what they read that day.

She especially appreciates the extra education they’re getting, as English is their third language at home, after Amharic and Tigrinya.

“I want them to be a reader and writer,” she said. “If they like reading, they can do other things well, also.”

Mahta, Netsanet’s daughter who attends St. Edward School, said she’s been attending Learning Buddies for three years.

“They help me with reading and hard words so I can learn more than I ever knew before,” she said.

After the Little Buddies leave, the teens clean up and sit down for a final half-hour session of reflection and training.

Teens volunteer for Learning Buddies during the school year and gain service learning hours. The Library offers the program at the Beacon Hill, Columbia, Douglass-Truth, Greenwood, NewHolly, and West Seattle branches.

During the summer, the Library pays teens a stipend to keep the program going at two locations: Columbia and Beacon Hill. The paid summer gig incentivizes participation from kids who might otherwise need to work elsewhere to help support themselves and their families during the summer months.

Last year, 113 teens served 174 little buddies across the city, attracting 1,522 visits from the younger students throughout the year.

Learn more at

‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ shows off Seattle’s weird side at Central Library

The Level 10 ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ in the Central Library shows off the odd Seattle ephemera in The Seattle Public Library’s Special Collections.

You may not be able to fully appreciate the depth of The Seattle Public Library’s Special Collections until you see it for yourself.

That’s partly the inspiration behind the Cabinet of Curiosities now presented to the public on Level 10 of the Central Library, next to the Seattle Room.

The Library possesses thousands of rare and unique items that “never get to see the light of day,” Special Collections Librarian Debra Cox says.

Now featured in the Cabinet of Curiosities, they include a 1920 wanted poster for a man accused of killing a King County sheriff’s deputy, cartoons featuring real-life Seattle folk hero, “The Umbrella Man,” World’s Fair memorabilia, and an 1894 Republican campaign songbook.

Your donations to The Seattle Public Library Foundation support the curation and preservation of Special Collections every year.

Cox, who assembled the display, just asked her colleagues for “some weird stuff you’ve seen.”

The concept stems from “Cabinets of Wonder,” or “Wunderkammer,” which date back to sixteenth-century Europe and contained a rare and often macabre mix of items – like faked dragon blood or antique surgical instruments – intended to provoke awe.

“Traditionally they were just a collection of stuff for people to look at,” Cox says, that “left it to your imagination or forced you to research it, yourself.”

In the Library’s case, the collection includes a book of dance steps, an old bell, a Seattle Pilots parking sign, and a small old book simply titled, “Asparagus” – “It’s a literary triumph, I’m sure,” Cox jokes.

“I especially like the things where you don’t know what the heck they do or what they are,” she added.

The Cabinet of Curiosities has already provoked laughter and wonder among patrons, she says.

It’s Central’s first such display to show off the ephemera of the Special Collections, and Cox hopes it will expand or take on themes in the future, like one dedicated to bizarre postcards.

“Everything has a story,” Cox says.

Event spotlight: Book launch celebrates Seattle’s open spaces

When Seattle’s population exploded at the turn of the 20th century, in the wake of the Klondike Gold Rush, subdivisions were platted, and streets were built at a furious clip.

As the resident count swelled from 43,000 in 1890 to 237,000 in 1910, city leaders realized that they needed to build a parks system in the city, or Seattle wouldn’t have one at all.

So they turned to The Olmsted Brothers, America’s most prestigious landscape architecture firm from Brookline, Mass. who also had a hand in developing other cities’ park systems, as well as national parks.

The resulting work, which occurred on and off from 1903 to 1936, would forever shape Seattle’s landscape.

Environmental historian and author Jennifer Ott detailed this profound transformation in her latest book, “Olmsted in Seattle: Creating a Park System for a Modern City,” which launches next month with an event at the Central Library.

Today, 82 Seattle parks are directly connected with the Olmsteds, whether they were completely designed by the brothers or benefited from the advice they gave to Seattle city planners.

“If you live in Seattle, you are touched by the Olmsted parks plan today,” Ott told The Seattle Public Library Foundation. “We have this incredibly diverse and effective park system because of the work that was done 100 years ago.”

These parks include Alki Beach, Cal Anderson, Volunteer, Discovery, Golden Gardens, and Gas Works parks, as well as several scenic parkways. The last Olmsted park developed was the Washington Park Arboretum.

Ott says the development of Seattle’s extensive and iconic parks system took immense galvanization of political will – something she didn’t fully appreciate until researching for this book.

And it’s something not to be taken for granted today.

Author Jennifer Ott

“The things we love about these parks need to be invested in,” Ott says, adding they need constant maintenance. “There are so many challenges because they can be loved to death.”

When pressed to name her favorite Olmsted park, Ott instead names a chain of parks linked by scenic parkways: South Seattle’s Jefferson Park, Cheasty Boulevard, Mount Baker Boulevard and Park, and Lake Washington Boulevard Park.

It “captures Olmsted’s vision,” she says, creating accessible scenic corridors that allow people to experience views of the city, Puget Sound, Olympic Mountains, the forested hillside, the bungalow neighborhood, and access to the lake – all in one string of landscapes that one can find “only in Seattle.”

“Olmsted made it possible so that someone like me could have views,” Ott says. “I wouldn’t get to experience those amazing things about Seattle had they not been reserved.”

The launch event for “Olmsted in Seattle” takes place 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16 at the Central Library. Proceeds from books sales benefit Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks. Place a hold on the book before it hits Library shelves here.

‘Virtual user’ expands reading horizons

Madison Park resident Carolyn Fairbanks enjoys The Seattle Public Library’s catalog with e-books and downloadable e-audiobooks. Photo credit: Brian Lawrence

Carolyn Fairbanks of Madison Park opened her Library account six years ago upon moving to Seattle with a stop at the Central Library.

“I’ve since never set foot in one,” she says.

Yet she’s an avid Library patron, evangelizing its collection among her fellow bridge players.

Fairbanks calls herself a “virtual user,” relying on the Libby app to read several e-books and e-audiobooks at a time on her Kindle reader.

Last year, the Foundation supported the purchase of 6,500 e-books and e-audiobooks to maintain a robust electronic collection.

Fairbanks loves enjoying books in different formats, from reading on her Kindle in the evening to listening to audiobooks while she goes to the gym, drives, and performs household chores.

“That gives me the opportunity to vary what I read,” she says. “Now I just read everything.”

She says the Libby app is so intuitive that she’s a self-taught user, managing her holds and loans from her smart phone.

Fairbanks enjoys thrillers and romantic comedies, yet has also enjoyed recent nonfiction releases by Michelle Obama and Melinda Gates. Other recent titles she’s read include “Magic Hour” by Kristin Hannah, “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman, and Barbara Kingsolver’s “Unsheltered.”

Her use of e-books and e-audiobooks has bumped up her annual reading rate to 40 to 50 books per year, she says, making it a favorite pastime.

“It’s the most wonderful preparation for life you can have. It’s entertainment, it’s education, it connects you to the world.”

‘They’re beautiful and brilliant’: Library fosters self-expression to empower youth

Children living at Brettler Family Place in North Seattle participate in a photo shoot at a celebration capping off this spring’s Art Club, an after-school program hosted in part by The Seattle Public Library. Photo credit: Michael B. Maine

When 30-year-old pregnant mother of four, Charleena Lyles, was fatally shot by police in her North Seattle apartment at Brettler Family Place in 2017 during a reported mental health crisis, Library staff sought to explore ways to help her community.

Brettler Family Place, an apartment complex managed by the nonprofit Solid Ground, supplies permanent housing to people who previously experienced homelessness. Though idyllically set next to Magnuson Park on the shores of Lake Washington, it’s relatively isolated – the nearest grocery store is a high-end market 2 miles away, and the Northeast Branch of The Seattle Public Library is also 2 miles off, neither of them convenient pedestrian destinations.

Brettler Family Place serves as a prime example of an opportunity for The Seattle Public Library to listen to what the residents need and develop public engagement projects.

After working closely with community caregivers, Lyles’ death galvanized the Library staff to initiate a new effort: an after-school youth art club.

“The Art Club at Brettler is a really profound example of what it looks like when community voices are the focus of equity work,” says Davida Ingram, public engagement and programs manager at The Seattle Public Library, who led the implementation of the program. “When community members who deal with disproportionate violence know they matter to us and that we will help them create the 21st century healing tool they want to have, that is social justice through and through.”

Ingram’s position is one of the five Library staff roles funded by the Foundation.

The program kicked off this year, running for 16 weeks from January to April and allowing Brettler Family Place’s children the opportunity to engage in several different types of art, from printmaking to hip-hop to photography. In coordination with the City of Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture and Solid Ground, teaching artists and Solid Ground staff provided hands-on support – sometimes to show a child how to use a digital camera, and sometimes just to be a reliable adult presence and lend an ear.

“I was just trying to create a safe space for young people to express their creative genius,” says Dakota Camacho, one of the Art Club’s teaching artists who shared their dance and hip-hop talents with the youth. “I think it’s just about showing up and seeing that they’re beautiful and brilliant human beings.”

Time was divided between creative play and deep discussion about social justice issues such as police violence and racism, says Ricky Reyes, a songwriter, poet, and musician who staffed the program in his capacity as racial equity coordinator for the Office of Arts and Culture.

“I think we don’t give kids a lot of credit,” Reyes says. “We discount that they actually understand what’s going on around their community.”

Ingram says the Art Club arose from parents’ and caregivers’ desire for activities that connected art and social justice.

But staffers and artists say it not only gave kids something to do; it gave them a safe space in which to be creative and vulnerable.

Kids at Brettler Family Place Art Club experimented with drawing, hip-hop, poetry, and photography.

“The group was really an empathy experiment for a lot of kids,” says Oliver Alexander-Adams, children’s advocate at Solid Ground. Youth participated in sometimes-uncomfortable activities like listening to each other’s rhymes, sharing their art, and expressing feelings, but they became drawn to the Art Club and looked forward to it. “People were excited to be there.”

Soon, when he told kids “The Library’s coming,” it would elicit an enthusiastic reaction.

“Art empowers children to see their vision of the world has value,” says David Olivera, lead childcare specialist at Solid Ground, and a constant presence in the lives of Brettler Family Place’s children.

What helped the program’s success, Camacho says, was keeping the children’s needs central to the mission and showing them that people who look like them can achieve their dreams.

“People don’t realize that there are people who look like them traveling around the world being an artist and there are people who are very successful looking like them,” Camacho says.

Michael B. Maine, a photographer and teaching artist, says that through that effort, the kids displayed their abilities to express what they were passionate about.

“They’re obviously celebrating their environment and the people they care about,” Maine says. “They were living up to expectations that maybe they didn’t even know they had for themselves and it was beautiful to see that.”

The Library maintains its presence at Brettler Family Place with weekly art programs throughout the summer, accompanied by Library materials to check out and Foundation-funded giveaway books for the taking. During the school year, Northeast Branch librarians come to the kids’ schools and ensure Brettler Family Place kids participate in the annual district-wide Global Reading Challenge.

The Library had been making summer Bookmobile visits to Brettler Family Place, but this year has been bringing library materials to check out and Foundation-funded giveaway books inside their community room.

The efforts that work well in that location will inform potentially similar equity initiatives in other Seattle communities, says Robin Rousu, a supervising librarian on the Mobile Services team.

The Art Club might serve as inspiration. Those involved say that the culminating celebration that took place in June and featured the participating kids sharing their art with their caregivers and neighbors attracted the biggest crowd for a public program in memory at Brettler Family Place.

“I hope it gives kids a different idea of what the Library can do,” Alexander-Adams says. “Kids associate it with artists and activities now.”

It also positions the Library as a trusted partner in the community, Ingram says.

“When libraries say black lives matter and race and social justice is important, it builds trust,” she says. “It was true team effort.”

The Seattle Public Library Foundation is proud to support this program thanks to generous supporters like you.

Anyone can be a Homework Helper

Elisabeth Beaber and Jed Fowler, pictured with 2-year-old daughter Helen, have volunteered as Homework Helpers at the Douglass-Truth Branch for seven years.

Jed Fowler says you don’t need to be a brainiac to volunteer at Homework Help.

As a longtime Homework Helper, he says his role consists of “part cheerleader, part coach, part road block diagnostics.

“Sometimes it’s about the homework, sometimes it’s about the helping,” he says.

Homework Help is an after-school drop-in program for K-12 youth that supported 12,000 student visits across 11 branch libraries last year. The Foundation supports these tutoring sessions as part of the slate of Youth and Family Learning programs it funds.

Fowler and his wife, Elisabeth Beaber, have volunteered for seven years as Homework Helpers at the Douglass-Truth Branch in the Central District.

They’ve also supported the Foundation as donors for six years.

Beaber was inspired by her ancestry to start volunteering at the Library. Her grandfather immigrated through Ellis Island and never attended high school, but he emphasized the importance of education with his own children.

Beaber, herself now a staff epidemiologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, says she’s “paying it forward.”

After one year at Homework Help, Fowler – President of H.D. Fowler Company in Bellevue – joined in. Self-described math specialists, they now take turns on their weekly shift so they each volunteer once every other week.

“What I really enjoy is talking to high schoolers about their aspirations and ambitions,” Beaber says. “I like to share my path and hope it gives students some ideas.”

While most kids need direct homework help, others use Homework Help to play educational games during the period before their parents come home from work. Most of the kids at Douglass-Truth speak a language other than English at home making it difficult for their parents to look over their schoolwork, Fowler says.

The couple counts problem-solving among the most important skills as a Homework Helper.

“You don’t need to know about trigonometry, you just need to know how to learn about trigonometry,” Fowler says.

And if there’s something you don’t know, reference librarians are always there to help – giving the students and grown-ups alike some research assistance.

Thinking of becoming a Homework Helper, yourself?

“Definitely try it out,” Beaber says. “Everyone has something to offer in terms of being an adult advocate.”

Homework Help will accept volunteer applications throughout the fall. Tutors are especially needed at the Columbia, NewHolly, Rainier Beach, and South Park branches.

For questions about volunteering for Homework Help or an array of other Library programs, contact Volunteer Services Coordinator Anne Vedella at Learn more about the programs in need of volunteers at The Seattle Public Library’s website.

“I can’t imagine a place that’s more fun to volunteer than the Library,” Fowler says.

Santa Claus and catalogs: Special Collections highlight life in Seattle through history

Anyone living in Seattle 30 years ago or earlier will remember Frederick & Nelson, the retail institution whose flagship department store in Seattle once served as one-stop shopping and a cultural hub.

From its tearoom to its beauty salon to its nursery to the annual photos with Santa Claus, Frederick & Nelson was a commercial force in Seattle until its closure in 1992.

Debra Cox, special collections librarian, laid out several Frederick & Nelson staff newsletters from the 1940s in The Seattle Public Library’s possession, pointing to the profiles of employees who were sent off to war during World War II.

The twice monthly internal newsletter, titled “Between Ourselves,” serve as an “absolute snapshot of the culture of Frederick and Nelson,” Cox says.

“It wasn’t just a place to work, it was a lifestyle.”

These publications are only part of a new archive made public this month in The Seattle Public Library’s Special Collections, called the “Frederick & Nelson Collection.”

Patrons can now visit the Seattle Room at the Central Library and explore eight boxes of materials from the Northwest department store chain, including training books, catalogs, photographs, newspaper articles, and buttons. The “Between Ourselves” newsletters alone date back to 1926.

“They’re hard to resist,” Cox says.

The Frederick & Nelson collection is part of the Special Collections staff’s continual effort to gather materials critical to Pacific Northwest history and make them accessible to visitors, both online and at the Central Library. Other collections detail the World’s Fair, building surveys across Washington state, and menus throughout history from popular local restaurants.

The Seattle Public Library Foundation granted $50,000 this year to the Seattle Room and its efforts to acquire and preserve special archival materials.

These unique archives of Seattle history are why Claudia Skelton, member of The Foundation’s Board of Directors, has given her time and financial support to the Library for about two decades now.

The Special Collections are the part of the Library she’s “most addicted to,” she says.

“Having a Special Collections in a public library is particularly unusual and really special,” Skelton adds. “That’s how we learn a lot about the history and how our culture evolved over decades and centuries. You can sit there and gain access to a lot of materials you wouldn’t find in most libraries.”

A visit to the Level 10 of the Central Library will immerse you in historic maps, old high school yearbooks, and photos showing how Seattle has changed through history. As Skelton notes, the staffers there, including Cox, lend their expertise to show visitors exactly what they’re looking for.

“You get more than just the data,” Skelton says. “You get the culture and the history and the story on what was going on.”

Skelton has even helped a close friend in California writing about the Klondike Gold Rush just by stopping at the Seattle Room and locating information for him.

She’s also slowly working on piecing together her family history – her main passion – by consulting the genealogy librarians who work in Special Collections on Level 8 of the Central Library.

Skelton directs her donations to The Foundation to Special Collections so it can maintain its special place in the city and its unique access to the public.

“It’s really critical that we continue to focus on the Seattle history,” she says. “That’s really what I care the most about.”

Visit Level 10 of the Central Library to see the items for yourself.