New year will bring new libraries, opportunities

On Jan. 16, I will celebrate my one-year anniversary as the King County Library System’s executive director, a wide-ranging job in more ways than one.

Coming from New York City, where I rarely needed a car, I’ve been struck by the sheer size of King County during visits to our community libraries. From Skykomish and Richmond Beach in the northeast and northwest corners of the county, to Federal Way, Enumclaw and Muckleshoot bordering Pierce County to the south, KCLS covers a lot of territory in providing library services to our residents.

As I look back on 2018, here are just a few of the many highlights from my first year:

• KCLS received a 5-Star rating from Library Journal. In the category “Libraries with Annual Expenditures Exceeding $30M,” KCLS was one of only five libraries nationwide to receive five stars – the highest rating – and received one Star higher than the previous year.

• Supported by a $100,000 grant from Google, IdeaX Makerspace at the Bellevue Library opened in April to provide opportunities for hands-on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) learning for youth and adults. Further reinforcing the importance of programs that teach these skills, The Boeing Co. awarded KCLS an $80,000 grant that will support the ideaX Makerspace at the Federal Way Library, which is scheduled to open in 2019.

• In 2017, the state Legislature approved a bill to increase the size of the KCLS Board from five to seven members. Two new members were appointed in 2018, fulfilling a commitment to provide greater representation from more areas of the County.

Looking ahead at what promises to be another busy year for the King County Library System, there are many reasons for excitement. In the spring, KCLS will reopen the renovated Boulevard Park Library and a new Kent Panther Lake Library — KCLS’ 50th. Staff and patrons look forward to celebrating the opening of this highly-anticipated library for the Panther Lake community, as well as the culmination of a successful capital bond program that was approved by voters in 2004.

The American Library Association has its midwinter meeting in Seattle on Jan. 25­-29. I have been invited to be a panel speaker at the conference, which focuses on “The Future of Libraries.” I truly believe public libraries are more relevant than ever in this digital age, where inequities still exist and the need for assistance in finding a job, learning to speak English, filing taxes, accessing social services, studying for exams, or exploring new careers is greater than ever. New and continued partnerships with community leaders and organizations will help us provide cost-effective programs and services that best address our local communities’ needs and interests.

We look forward to seeing you in 2019.

Lisa Rosenblum is the executive director of the King County Library System.

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