A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in our changing county | KCLS

  • Thursday, August 10, 2017 11:47am
  • Opinion

Anyone who has visited the 48 libraries in the King County Library System, as I have done since becoming KCLS’ interim director, appreciates the breadth of this county we call home.

Given traffic, it is no small feat to drive from Federal Way to Skykomish, Vashon to North Bend, or Muckleshoot to Duvall.

King County is one of the largest counties in the nation in size and population, and as we all know, its cities and rural areas are changing rapidly. I grew up in Bellevue when it was a mere suburb; it is now the fifth largest city in the state.

When we talk about our changing county, it’s not just about population growth. It’s about changes in cultural norms and expectations; language, ethnicity; religious affiliations; socioeconomic factors; gender identity. Today, the increasingly complex needs of our diverse county span demographics—newcomers and long-time residents; young and old; rich and poor – and reflect human conditions found all over the world.

KCLS has long pledged, and recently recommitted itself, to breaking down barriers, broadening connections and forging new links to people, information and resources. Our recently adopted Strategic Focus, and Mission, Vision, and Values statements make clear our dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion. Our vision of “a world where knowledge allows diverse communities to prosper and grow” plays out in many ways.

We focus on literacy and reading, offering Story Times and other programs in languages such as Spanish, Russian, Chinese and others.

We offer access to digital technology, knowing that 20 percent of King County households lack computers or internet service.

KCLS offers citizenship classes to assist those who desire to become U.S. citizens, and celebrates this milestone by hosting naturalization ceremonies. Last year, at just one ceremony, new citizens hailed from 17 countries – Belarus, Bosnia, Burma, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Mexico, Moldova, South Korea, Sudan and Ukraine.

In April, we opened the new Tukwila Library, which was designed to reflect one of the most diverse cities in the nation. The name Tukwila itself is the Duwamish word for “hazelnut,” and today, 80 different languages are spoken by Tukwila School District students, 40 percent of whom take advantage of English Language Learner services.

Our library programs and services reflect the needs and interest of all of our communities, ranging from autism awareness to social justice awareness; early childhood services to older adult services; Native American history to women’s history; Ramadan to Kwanzaa celebrations.

KCLS has always been committed to equity, ensuring that all communities have equal access to the services and resources they need. It is a core value of all public libraries. Today, our communities face new and different challenges brought on by complex, socioeconomic issues. KCLS will face these challenges in partnership with our communities so that our vision of prosperity and growth for all King County residents becomes a reality.

Stephen A. Smith is interim director of the King Country Library System.

More in Opinion

Tribes celebrate the return of salmon | Loomis

We must continue recovery efforts

Straw pulp looks like a good option | Brunell

Columbia Pulp project is a win-win for the environment and the economy

Taking the guess work out of recycling with the Waste Management Recycle Corps

At its core, recycling is an act of optimism. An investment in… Continue reading

Signature of registered voter is a coveted commodity

The competitive nature of the initiative and referendum season now peaking in Washington.

Lt. Dan needs lots of helping hands | Brunell

Gary Sinise making year-around commitments to help veterans and their families

Growth, knowledge, learning at your library | KCLS

Spring is the time of year when many of us focus on… Continue reading

Photo by Michael O’Leary/Everett Herald
                                Photo by Michael O’Leary/Everett Herald
Eyman says he will spend $500K of his own money on initiative

The conservative activist’s self-financing claim points to a lack of deep-pocketed donors.

New approaches needed to fight super wildfires | Brunell

With Western States wildfires growing in size and destroying more homes, farms… Continue reading

Cleaning up the complex | Metzler

Solving the multifamily recycling puzzle

Eyman putting his latest fight on his tab

Activist using own money in signature-gathering drive to place a $30 car tab measure in front of voters

Cooperation spawns hope

Call to reach common ground and a shared pain

Candidates gear up to run in a crowded House

Dynamic in four contests reflects what is occurring in many House contests across the nation in 2018