About the Library

Community Conversations : cc recap CEN

Header Image
Support your Library

Library Locator

Map of Library Locations

Community Conversations Recap: Central Library - Sept. 10

City Librarian Marcellus Turner at the Central Library Community Conversation

What are we hearing at the City Librarian's Community Conversations?


Background: City Librarian Marcellus Turner has invited Library patrons to join him at informal meetings in libraries across the city to talk about service improvements. The first of 12 Community Conversations kicked off at the Central Library from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10 with about 35 people in attendance.


Recap: Turner first shared information about increased Library hours, collections, technology and building maintenance made possible from the 2012 voter-approved Library levy. He also discussed the Library's five current service priorities: youth and learning, technology and access, community engagement, Seattle culture and history and "re-imagined spaces," which he described as redesigning service areas to accommodate changing patron needs. Turner spent the majority of time listening to suggestions and answering questions from the public. He reserved the last 15 minutes for getting input on the five service priorities. Outlined below is the Q&A in brief, followed by highlights of the service priority discussion.

Questions and Answers:


Can The Seattle Public Library's Reciprocal Use Agreement with the King County Library System be changed to allow Seattle patrons to place holds on KCLS materials - both in print and online?


The current agreement is based on balanced reciprocal use between the two library systems. The last study revealed an inequity in use at an added cost to the King County Library System. Seattle residents do not pay for KCLS services and resources. The reciprocal use agreement will be reviewed again in 2014. It will not include reciprocal borrowing of e-books due to contract and licensing restrictions with vendors.


Will the Library continue to circulate cassettes and albums for those who are using older technologies?


The Library works to remain current in the wide range of evolving media formats. Unfortunately, it cannot maintain all media formats, particularly those that have been replaced by new technologies.

The Library, for example, stopped purchasing VHS and audio books on cassette in 2006 and redirected its resources to purchase CDs, DVDs and downloadable electronic formats.


Can the Library's Rules of Conduct be reviewed to ensure they do not target or discriminate against the poor or the homeless?


Library strives to provide safe, welcoming and inviting facilities for all its users, including the homeless. It remains committed to implementing policies and practices that reflect this value of ensuring fair treatment of all patrons.  


What further efforts can be done to address people sleeping overnight on the 5th Avenue side of the Central Library?


There are a significant number of homeless who seek shelter near public and private businesses in neighborhoods throughout Seattle. The Library's safety and security manager has periodically made night patrols to contact people sleeping on our properties after hours to direct them to more appropriate locations and services. We are looking into the feasibility of adding periodic night patrols by a private security firm as the number of encampments downtown and in other areas of the city appear to be increasing. This will not provide constant coverage, but will enhance the Library's current effort. We will also remind our early morning janitorial crew at the Central Library to contact the Seattle Police Department if they should see individuals sleeping on the plaza.


 Sherman Clay pianos located in downtown Seattle is going out of business. Could the Library purchase another piano? (The patron making the request presented a $20 donation to create a fund to purchase a grand piano, which was matched by another patron.)


A new grand piano was purchased for the current Central Library when it opened in 2004. The previous one is being used in the West Seattle Branch meeting room. The Library is appreciative of the donations and will evaluate space and program needs, as well as budget requirements, to determine whether the library could accommodate another piano.


Has the Library thought about purchasing a 3D printer?


While there are no current plans to purchase a 3D printer, which would require space and dedicated staff for programming, the Library may consider partnering with local "maker spaces" so 3D printing and other similar activities could be available for patrons.


The Library is currently upgrading computers, monitors, and printers. Later this year, the Central Library will offer multimedia work stations, which will also help support patron creativity.


Can the Library provide access to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's "hard catalog" (an index card catalog to P-I print editions) currently located in an off-site building and digitize that collection?


The index was created by former P-I staff and given to The Seattle Public Library after the P-I's print edition ceased publication. The index now resides in a Queen Anne storage facility and is not yet suitable for public use. Currently, we use our Northwest Index (which indexes mainly the Seattle Times) to make educated guesses about when an article might have appeared in the P-I.


It has always been the plan to make the P-I index available to the public in the Seattle Room, which located on Level 10 in the Central Library. However, the index fills 21 filing cabinets and there are space limitations to accommodate this collection, as well as some preservation concerns. Staff members hope to provide a microfiche index in the Seattle Room for patrons in the near future.


Story times are often very crowded. Can the Library offer separate story times for large groups, such as preschools? In addition, can movement classes be offered for preschoolers?


There is a great demand for the story times we offer, which we try to meet with our current resources. There are wonderful opportunities around children's programming that our youth services manager will explore once on board.


In addition to noting the problem of missing books in a series, can the Library provide more follow-up information to patrons who have submitted purchase requests for books and materials?


Missing books in a series are researched and replenished on a semi-regular basis. These books sometimes present challenges due to the nature of series publications, which can be shorter print runs and be more difficult to find and replace. The Library is discussing a possible 2014 project to evaluate and fill incomplete series.


The Library receives nearly 1,800 purchase requests per month, on average. Unfortunately, because of the volume of requests, staff members are unable to respond to each one with more detailed information.  All patrons do receive a response that states the reason why an individual response is not provided and that that items the Library does purchase will automatically be placed on hold for them in a few weeks.  We are evaluating how we can improve on this communication process with patrons.


Will the Library consider allowing older periodicals at the Central Library to be checked out? (Currently, older periodicals circulate at the branches, but not at the Central Library).


The Central Library maintains the Library system's historical collection of periodicals, and older copies are part of that historical series. Staff members will look into this request and consider what might be possible.


Can the Library consider more partnerships at a wider variety of events that go beyond reading and books?


The Library currently has a director of community partnerships who helps develop some of these opportunities and will look into this further. In addition, the Library will be adding a programming manager to develop a broader range of programming and community engagement activities.


The Library offers so many wonderful services, yet it seems not everyone knows about them and is using them.


Our new marketing director, Stephen Halsey, is focused on new efforts to promote our resources and services.


Can the Library do a better job anticipating attendance so everyone is able to get in for popular events? It's also a problem when many seats are taken by people associated with a popular program.


The Library uses Brown Paper Tickets and schedules events at larger venues when overflow crowds are expected, but audience size can still be hard to predict and we don't always have funding to move an event to a different location. It makes it even more challenging because our programs are free and open to the public. We will continue to explore different ways to manage crowds better.


Why not allow a patron to pay $20 and receive unlimited interlibrary loan privileges? (The fee is currently $5 per item for books and materials The Seattle Public Library does not have and must request it from another library system.)


The Library recently evaluated the fee structure for interlibrary loans. A $20 per year fee for unlimited interlibrary loan requests would not cover the costs for sustaining the interlibrary loan program. The average cost for one interlibrary loan transaction is in the $20-$30 range.


Five service priorities:

Community Engagement and Re-Imagined Spaces were voted the two most important priorities to participants (although Technology and Access was a close third).


Suggestions around Community Engagement:

Partner with the Seattle Chamber Music Society, fairs, festivals, and be involved in a wider range of educational events.


Suggestions around Re-Imagined Spaces:

  • A down escalator at the Central Library
  • Stage space in meeting rooms at the branches for concerts or performances
  • Rooms for people using cell phones
  • Dedicated tutoring spaces for teens, particularly at the Douglass-Truth Branch
  • Dedicated quiet reading spaces
  • Longer hours for the coffee cart at the Central Library.