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Community Conversations Recap: Beacon Hill Branch - Jan. 16

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 10th of 12 Community Conversations was held at the Beacon Hill Branch from 5:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014.


Recap: Turner first shared information about increased Library hours, collections, technology and building maintenance made possible  by 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:


When I have 50 items checked out, I get a message from TeleCirc that my account is blocked. When I come in and check with Library staff, I discover that it will only be blocked when I try to check out the 51st item. Is there any way to eliminate this message or provide a more detailed message so I don’t keep going in to check on a non-existent problem?


Yes. We have been able to modify the system so that when you contact TeleCirc to renew books, you will no longer get that message if you have 50 items checked out.


Have you considered having a Community Conversation specifically focused on youth?



Yes. The sixth Community Conversation was held at the Douglass-Truth Branch from 3:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6. This meeting was scheduled earlier in the afternoon to encourage participation by the large number of teens who frequent the branch after school. A large number of youth attended and offered great input on how the Library can serve them more effectively.


In some ways, the Library has a social service function with some of our most vulnerable residents. What kind of resources does the Library get to support staff working with these populations?



Library staff members are very knowledgeable about the community and community resources. They are an important source of information about services for our patrons. In addition, we regularly train and retrain our staff to keep their skills up to date so that they feel comfortable working with all populations.


What are you doing to get the kids’ point of view on youth and early learning?



In addition to the teen-focused Community Conversation at the Douglass-Truth Branch, the Library has a variety of ways in which staff members who work with youth connect with children and teens in the community. This includes teen advisory groups that help librarians plan and implement programs. In the late summer we’ll be initiating a series of focus groups to get feedback from children, teens, and parents on the summer program.


There are lots of barriers to middle school students at my school using the Library: transportation and fines. How can the Library have a closer connection to schools and school libraries?



Each year children and teen services librarians visit Seattle Public Schools to promote the programs and services of the Library. Our Mobile Services division serves eligible child care centers as a way to connect children and families with materials. We also sponsor the Raising a Reader program, which provides those in low-income communities with opportunities to connect with books and reading.


In addition, the Library is currently running two pilot projects at the Sanislo and Roxhill elementary schools in West Seattle. Key elements include:


  • Creating a loaned collection of books and materials from The Seattle Public Library that will support the Common Core State Standards and serve the needs of emergent readers.
  • Establishing Raising a Reader programs in Head Start and kindergarten classrooms in both schools.
  • Adding books and materials to each school’s collection as a reward for students in grades K-4 who sign up for the Library's Summer Reading Program and read at least five books.


The Library also offers the Global Reading Challenge, a battle of the books program for fourth- and fifth- graders enrolled in Seattle Public Schools. (We also have a pilot third-grade program in a few schools.) The program encourages children to have fun and enjoy reading. After reading 10 books, children participate in semi-final and city final rounds of a "Quiz Bowl" game to determine Seattle's champion team. In 2014, the program will be expanding by adding four new schools to the program.


The Friends of The Seattle Public Library also provides annual grants to teachers for classroom books in high need (Title 1) Seattle Public Schools. Teachers receive $100 in vouchers to purchase books for their students at the Friends book sales. So far, over 300 teachers from 31 schools have received more than 20,000 books. These book vouchers are made possible through a grant from the Renee B. Fisher Foundation. If you would like more information about how to receive a voucher for the next book sale, contact friends@spl.org.


We plan to do more, and the new youth and early learning manager, Linda Braun, and the soon-to-be hired community engagement manager will be looking to see how we can expand the Library’s presence in the community to support these efforts.


As part of the Community Engagement Service Priority, can you do more with the Seattle Public Schools, senior centers and expand programs like Writers Read that is offered at the Columbia Branch?



Yes to all three. As mentioned earlier, we are working with the schools now in many ways and we are looking to expand our partnership with the school district. Our staff members do work with many senior organizations – including senior centers – but we believe we can do more and will be looking to the new community engagement manager to provide direction in this area. The same is true for successful programs such as Writers Read. We want to build on successful programming and create new programs that will provide engagement opportunities for every resident of the city.

Five service priorities:


Technology and Access and Community Engagement were identified as the two most important priorities to participants.