A year in review and a look ahead for KCLS | Guest op

Every spring, King County Library System presents its annual report to the board of trustees.

Our year in review is a compilation of stories, statistics, and patron feedback that provides a glimpse of the wide array of programs, services, and resources KCLS offers, and demonstrates the impact to our communities to ensure transparency and accountability to the taxpaying public.

Thanks to our strong community of readers, KCLS consistently ranks among the highest circulating library systems in the country. Close to 21 million items were checked out by our patrons in 2017, including an astounding 4.7 million downloads of digital content, making KCLS the top digital-circulating library in America.

Our librarians are always ready to help you find your next great read. KCLS’ annual reading challenge, 10 to Try, encourages patrons to explore different genres, while BookMatch is a service that creates lists of librarian-recommended titles customized to individual tastes. Our Readers Services staff even put together a book list for me, as someone new to the area, to familiarize myself with King County. They recommended “The Good Rain”(Timothy Egan); “The Boys in the Boat” (Daniel James Brown); “Eruption” (Steve Olson); “Truth Like the Sun” (Jim Lynch); “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” (Maria Semple); “The Other” (David Guterson); “The Master Algorithm” (Pedro Domingos); “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian” (Sherman Alexie); “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” (Jamie Ford); and “Native Seattle” (Coll-Peter Thrush). I have already started reading my first book from the list.

With the opening of the new Tukwila Library in 2017, KCLS entered the homestretch of the $172 million Capital Bond program approved by voters in 2004. In late 2018, KCLS will unveil a renovated Boulevard Park Library and open a new 6,000-square-foot branch in the Panther Lake area of Kent – our 50th library and final project. The capital bond program also provided funding to expand and enhance an impressive collection of public art by predominately Northwest artists that is installed in our libraries.

Our library meeting rooms continue to be popular gathering places for programming that appeals to a range of interests and age groups: hiking, photography, writing, sports, environmental issues, politics, history, dance, art, and more. On any given day, you might hear violin music emanating from a meeting room, or immigrants reciting the Oath of Allegiance as newly sworn-in citizens. In April, a new ideaX Makerspace will open at the Bellevue Library, offering hands-on activities that emphasize STEAM skills (science, technology, engineering, art and math). Children and adults alike can explore things like 3-D printing, robotics, or artificial intelligence, their ideas limited only by their imagination.

For patrons who are unable to get to a library, Mobile Services staff deliver books, music, DVDs, and technology classes to daycares, assisted living residences, tent cities, summer meal sites and community festivals throughout the county. Staff is constantly developing creative ways to bring library programs into the community. The concept for ideaX, for example, started as a Mobile Services initiative.

After KCLS completed a comprehensive strategic planning process in 2017, the board of trustees adopted a new strategic focus that reaffirmed the library system’s commitment to connecting patrons with the information they need to navigate a complex world; build skills for success and bridge differences to foster inclusiveness. KCLS will continue to work hard to fulfill that mission.

The 2017 Year in Review will be published on March 28 at kcls.org/annual. When you read and reflect on all that was accomplished, I think you will agree that there was much to be proud of in 2017, and more to look forward to in the year ahead.

Lisa Rosenblum is director of the King County Library System.

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