What are we hearing at the Chief Librarian's Community Conversations?
Background: Chief Librarian Marcellus Turner has invited Library patrons to join him at informal meetings at locations across the city to talk about the Library's five service priorities. This second Community Conversation was focused on the Seattle Culture and History Service Priority and was held at the Central Library from 11 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. The meeting was co-sponsored by the Association of King County Historical Organizations (AKCHO). About 52 people attended and were offered a tour of the Hugh and Jane Ferguson Seattle Room and its historical archives, which are open to the public and include books, newspapers, yearbooks, maps and atlases, Seattle city documents, oral histories and thousands of photographs.
Recap: Alice Winship, president of AKCHO, welcomed attendees, briefly commented on the historical group's monthly news and business and talked about the role and value of libraries in historical research.
Turner shared information about increased Library hours, staff, collections, technology and building maintenance made possible by the 2012 voter-approved Library levy. He listed the Library's service priorities: youth and early learning, technology and access, community engagement, and "re-imagined spaces,” before more fully explaining the fifth priority, the Library’s commitment to curating Seattle culture and history.
He said the levy enabled the Library to hire Seattle Room staff and add new digital collections, which include the Pike Place Market, Seattle Municipal News and Seattle Historical Photo Collection. Turner briefly explained that 11 community members who were appointed to the Seattle Culture and History advisory committee conducted extensive community research, talked to local organizations and determined this purpose statement for the service priority: “To connect our community with its diverse local culture and history in exciting, relevant, personal ways.”
Next, Jodee Fenton, managing librarian for the Library's Special Collections, noted the Library is widely considered to be "neutral ground," where the community can come together for research and discussion. She mentioned the Library is planning for a large 2017 regional celebration of the birth of photographer Edward S. Curtis with the hope the Library will be a neutral ground for representatives of Native American tribal sovereignty. The Library also hopes to hold an international symposium that would interest both Native American and European scholars.
Fenton explained the Library is interested in creating collections that will be of interest to historians (and people in general) in the future. She noted the Library proactively collects Seattle history and culture, citing the Seattle Waterfront and Seattle Jazz Archives collections as examples. Both involve oral history recordings, photography and other current-day creations. Fenton also talked about a recent exhibit of Frank Kunishige’s photography, the first in an exhibit series called Discover Special Collections that will highlight important Library resources, and the upcoming First Folio – The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare exhibit on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library.
Fenton spoke about the Library's digital collection and how it is being used to bolster the Seattle Neighborhood History project, where historical items and information are arranged by neighborhood. She mentioned that 100 years of the Seattle Municipal League's news is now scanned, and that over 5,000 new digital materials were added in 2015.
In closing, Fenton mentioned usage of the digital collection increased 24% in 2015, with a 73% increase in access by mobile phones.
Turner and Fenton spent the rest of the meeting asking the audience questions, listening to suggestions, and answering inquiries. Outlined below is the Q&A in brief, followed by patron suggestions.