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Community Engagement Happy Hour recap – Nov. 3, 2016

5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3 at KEXP Studio Gathering Space, 472 1st Ave. N.



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 Community Conversation was focused on Community Engagement and was held at KEXP's community gathering space from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. The meeting was co-sponsored with KEXP, The Seattle Public Library Foundation, the city of Seattle's Office of Arts & Culture, the Office of Film + Music, Seattle Center and media sponsor CityArts. About 100 people attended. Along with Turner, panelist speakers included:

  • Darren Lay, artistic director for the Young Shakespeare Workshop
  • Gabriel Teodros, hip-hop artist and writer
  • Eli Sanders, associate editor for The Stranger and Pulitzer Prize winner
  • Davida Ingram, public engagement program manager for the Library's Community Engagement Services team


The night opened with a musical performance by Gabriel Teodros and three teens from the Young Shakespeare Workshop performing scenes from "King Lear."

Tom Mara, executive director at KEXP, talked about the radio station's role as an arts organization with a music discovery mission in Seattle. He described KEXP's community gathering space as a "third platform" of music discovery, following its broadcast and online platforms. He welcomed the Library as a partner with common stated goals of enriching lives and building community.

Turner welcomed attendees and thanked sponsors for their partnership. He described how the Library supports artistic creativity in Seattle, including author readings, concert and theater previews, workshops on digital photography and 3-D printing, the Museum Pass program and more.

Valerie Wonder, community engagement manager at the Library, introduced several of her colleagues:

  • Stesha Brandon, the Library's new literature and humanities program manager, who will oversee Seattle Reads, which deepens engagement in literature through reading and discussion
  • Linda Johns and Andrea Gough, adult librarians who coordinate Seattle Writes, which provides programs and resources for local writers
  • Andrew Harbison, assistant director of collection and access services and in charge of the PlayBack local online music curation project
  • Davida Ingram, the Library's public engagement program manager who is involved with arts and civic engagement

Turner then introduced the event panelists who have all worked for or partnered with the Library on arts events.

Shakespeare's First Folio

Turner asked the audience how many had seen the Library's exhibit, "First Folio: The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare." About 50 percent of the audience reported seeing it. Brief public comments about the exhibit were that it was "wonderful," "special" and "once in a lifetime."

Turner asked Ingram how she brought in new audiences for programming related to the exhibit. Ingram mentioned that she was mentored by Seattle artist Barbara Earl Thomas as she developed programming. She noted how Shakespeare has the ability to move through time and space, relating this story: "A teen Shakespeare performer came up to me and said 'I hope you didn't invite us here just to perform for you. Because I like learning. I like what I discovered here.' All the teen participants got to connect with the world through this event, making them feel important and brilliant."

Turner asked what the Library could have done better with the Folio exhibit. Darren Lay answered nothing — there was early planning, lots of meetings and everyone was open and flexible. Ingram noted the exhibit didn't attract a lot of people of color. Future gallery shows might focus on African-American author Toni Morrison or Southeast Asian culture, to demonstrate that the Library represents everyone.

Tiny: Streetwise Revisited

Turner asked how many people had seen the Library's exhibit about youth and family homelessness, "Tiny: Streetwise Revisited." About 30 percent of the audience had seen it or had participated in a related program.

Ingram said the Library used a focus on youth and family to break open the conversation on homelessness. She said that using art to talk about social justice is challenging since most people who experience homelessness don't want others to primarily identify them as "homeless." Instead, she said, they want people to understand the problem and complexities of homelessness while keeping their whole identities intact.


About 40 to 50 percent of the audience raised their hands to indicate they knew about PlayBack, the Library's new online local music curation service.

Gabriel Teodros, an artist featured on Playback, noticed that KEXP started playing more of his music on the radio after PlayBack picked him for the first round of selected artists. He suggested the Library could support musicians by providing space and time to perform. After discovering that the Central Library had rehearsal space, he also said that better outreach to musicians is needed so people know that these kind of creative arts resources are available.

Ingram mentioned the Library's past music programs, including Pop-up on the Plaza and Love City Love. She noted that artists who want to organize events at the Library can email programmingquery@spl.org with event proposals. Ingram said the Library can't always host an event, but it can always connect artists to resources.

Writing at the Library

Eli Sanders worked on his book, "While the City Slept," in the Library's Eulalie and Carlo Scandiuzzi Writers' Room. He found out about the room by word-of-mouth through other journalists and he echoed Teodros' sentiment that outreach to artists could be improved. Sanders also shared how useful the Hugh and Jane Ferguson Seattle Room was when staff helped him find obscure facts about the South Park neighborhood for his book.

Turner asked how the Library can engage more with writers, and Sanders said the Seattle Reads program is a great way for the Library to highlight a book and get the community engaged in literature. He noted that there are some barriers to entry for the Writers' Room and that, to provide more equitable access, the Library should broaden its requirements for who can use the space.

Questions and Answers


Turner: How did attendees hear about this event?



  • Word of mouth
  • Seattle Times
  • Facebook
  • City Arts
  • spl.org
  • Library email newsletter


Turner: How else can the Library help the community learn about Library resources and events?


Move beyond a "people in the know" approach to outreach and messaging. Consider the language of a promotion or invitation to make sure everyone feels included.


Audience: Does the PlayBack music service contribute to devaluation of music? Is the platform flexible or sophisticated enough to not only distribute music but also educate patrons on the economic value of music?


PlayBack artist Gabriel Teodros mentioned that the Library's service is unique in that the participating artists receive a stipend and opportunities to expand their audience, so the relationship is reciprocal for the artist in a way that most music services are not.



Suggestions from patrons


  • Develop food-based programs that feature local chefs and meals
  • Build digital media labs
  • Educate about banned books
  • Create opportunities for dialogue around key community issues and for community members to hear more often from each other
  • Bring back the "bully pulpit"
  • Provide resources to create art
  • Connect related items in the catalog
  • Refer to external community resources via the web
  • Provide self-service options to connect patron to tools, spaces, etc.
  • Make resource lists of hidden gems for theater artists
  • Provide theater rehearsal and performance spaces
  • Provide more study hall space
  • Build larger Library spaces to accommodate a variety of uses
  • Provide space for citizen activists to have difficult conversations in a safe space
  • Offer more resources south of the Ship Canal
  • Consider Library employment requirements, processes and degrees required as those requirements relate to equity
  • Balance loud and dynamic events with quiet events -- reflect needs of patrons
  • Provide longer meeting times for Library meeting spaces