Libraries are places of connection and community pride

A public library is often considered the heart of the community, providing programs and services that bring people together and create opportunities for meaningful connections.

Visit the library on any given day and you will see young mothers commiserating at story times; adults and teens seeking guidance at career-planning programs; budding inventors comparing ideas at maker workshops; local book clubs discussing a latest bestseller; and more.

The King County Library System (KCLS) has connected communities for more than 75 years, offering a place where everyone has the opportunity to realize their potential through learning, exploration, and engagement.

A great example is an event our Tukwila Library hosted on Feb. 8. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his wife, Grammy award-winning artist Ciara, were on hand to launch Dream Big: Anything is Possible. Aimed at empowering youth to develop leadership skills and prepare for the future, this exciting campaign will provide funds to expand KCLS’ Teen Voices program to five more libraries. It also will offer scholarships for students to attend trade school, community college or university.

Also unveiled at the event were two limited-edition, KCLS library cards designed by artist Keegan Hall and depicting Russell and Ciara, much to the delight of teens in the audience, who were special guests at the event. Dream Big is the result of a partnership between KCLS, KCLS Foundation, JP Morgan Chase, and the Why Not You Foundation, Russell and Ciara’s philanthropic organization. You can learn more at kcls.org/dreambig.

Another program that drew a large crowd featured Ashton Applewhite, author of “This Chair Rocks,” at the Kirkland Library in March. A standing-room-only crowd of 80 enthusiastic patrons came to hear the anti-ageism activist, and many stayed afterward to continue the discussion about creating an age-friendly world.

March also marked an important milestone with the opening of KCLS’ 50th library – Kent Panther Lake. While all libraries are points of pride, Panther Lake residents had a special reason to celebrate; there has never been a library in that area before. A vibrant crowd estimated at nearly 1,000 people turned out on March 23 for a first glimpse of their new community library.

Over the past 15 years, KCLS has built 17 new libraries, renovated 15 libraries and expanded 11 libraries, thanks to a $172 million capital bond measure passed by voters in 2004. Our final project – the renovated Boulevard Park Library – is slated to reopen in May. Coming full circle, Boulevard Park was one of the first communities to join the King County Rural Library District in 1942.

KCLS’ service area now spans 2,300 square miles from Richmond Beach to Enumclaw, Vashon to Skykomish. We invite you to visit one, two or all 50 of our libraries. Complemented by a knowledgeable staff and a wide range of innovative programming, each one offers a welcoming and familiar place for residents to gather and connect.

Lisa Rosenblum is director of the King County Library System.

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