King County Library System fosters connections with local governments and library advocates to strengthen collaboration, encourage citizen engagement and maximize public funding to help KCLS deliver programs and services that best address community and patron needs.
With 50 libraries located in 34 distinct communities, maintaining these relationships is key. Last month KCLS hosted its annual Library Advisory Board Forum for members of 11 city-appointed boards, which voluntarily serve as liaisons between the library system and their respective city councils. Forum participants shared information about their community’s needs and interests, and in turn learned about how KCLS is funded as an independent taxing district, challenges the library system faces amid rising costs and limited revenue, and the ways that KCLS can help advisory board members be most effective in their role.
Teen Advisory Boards also have a role in shaping relevant library programs for their peers. These enthusiastic youth advisors, who are now active in many of our libraries, have been instrumental in helping KCLS develop popular programs such as Chess Clubs, Comic Book Day and college-prep workshops.
Friends of the Library are committed library advocates who support KCLS and the nonprofit KCLS Foundation through volunteerism and fundraising. Our tireless partners are indispensable to libraries and in 2018, raised a total $311,842 for special programs and activities beyond what is funded by taxpayers.
KCLS engages with local government to keep our elected officials informed about programs and services that benefit our shared constituents. KCLS staff attend local city council meetings, and as a member of the Sound Cities Association, I meet regularly with 34 city managers and administrators. Each year, I also present KCLS’ annual report to the Metropolitan King County Council to inform council members about the vital programs and services the Library System offers in the districts they represent.
KCLS’ strong partnership with King County Elections (KCE) has helped to make voting more accessible through the placement of ballot boxes at 18 community libraries. KCE has expanded its partnership with KCLS by offering workshops at several of our libraries called “Running for Office in King County” to promote greater citizen engagement. Workshops teach participants how to file for elected office, write candidate statements for the voter’s pamphlet, and understand everything from campaign finance to signage information.
KCLS also keeps our elected officials in Washington, D.C., abreast of issues that may impact libraries and library patrons, such as net neutrality, and we invite them to attend local programs and events as their schedules permit. Last year, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell visited the Tukwila Library during the Tukwila Village dedication ceremony, while Congresswoman Suzan DelBene toured Bellevue Library’s ideaX Makerspace, and Community Court at Redmond Library.
Connecting with our elected officials and library advocates keeps essential lines of communication open and ensures that KCLS is providing library services that create the most benefit for our shared communities.
Lisa Rosenblum is director of the King County Library System.