Friends of Seattle Public Library Blog

The goings on of the Seattle Public Library.

Co-working and Libraries: a perfect fit? December 1, 2009

We met with Susan Evans and Jacob Sayles, owners of Office Nomads, at their 5,000 sq. foot office space on Capitol Hill. We talked about co-working and libraries in the digital age.

Jacob Sayles and Susan Evans

Jacob Sayles and Susan Evans

What’s co-working and what does it have to do with libraries?

Susan and Jacob explained:  Co-working is a response to increased demand for telecommuting and people who want less isolation while working from home. In the beginning people started going to libraries and coffee shops to work but those places weren’t originally intended for business use so co-working spaces developed. Co-working is all over the world. In the U.S. there are 60-80 spaces.

And what does it have to do with libraries?

Susan: I get excited thinking about the fit between libraries and co-working. People need to get out of the house when they’re working. We’re a good fit for people who can afford a little bit for a small office space but if we’re talking about making co-working for more people then a public option is an exciting idea. There are people in business who can’t afford 25$ a day.  The libraries aren’t like coffee shops where there are distractions but you can’t use your cell phone  or collaborate there and that’s limiting.  Wouldn’t it be cool though if there was a publically sponsored workspace?  There’s a lot of value in libraries. I think that everyone can also see there could be a lot more.

Jacob: There are some parallels. Libraries have a huge role in education and they have some of the structure for renting out space.  Maybe there could be an assessment of how libraries could be a casual co-working space. Maybe between the hours of x and y there could be places where, for instance, you could use your cell phone.

Susan: From a professional point of view, I think that public libraries could be a really great place to embrace the need for public business spaces (and/or job search spaces) and they’d serve a great community need by doing so.   I love our libraries but if we’re going to stay home more for our work then we need libraries to be more welcoming of co-working needs. Maybe rather than libraries letting business and work happen there they could support and embrace that.

Jacob: Ballard Library has done a great job of becoming a community hub with the municipal services next door. I love the Ballard library. But people are more and more shifting to building their own content. You can get so many things delivered to your house now that, generally,  libraries aren’t really the hub they once were.

Susan: Libraries are wonderful spaces. Clean, beautiful. Capitol Hill has meeting space. Sustainable Capitol Hill used to meet there. It’s one of the first spaces we think of when we need to meet. I think if we’re talking about libraries being an important place to access information or to even out the playing field then they have a huge value and they’re not a place that will diminish until we hit a day and age with free wireless all over or PDA’s in everyone’s life.

Jason: Even if we had free wireless all over and PDA’s there’s still a role for libraries. Once you have infinite knowledge you need the guidance of librarians. We see that here. It’s easy to Google everything but people often turn to us and ask questions. People go to other people for answers.

Susan: It’s a human reaction. ‘I want to talk about it.’ People like to share information. Maybe librarians are no longer keepers of information but they’re…

Jacob: aggregators.

Susan: tour guides. Public libraries are incredibly important community assets. Sharing resources is a key way to make cities more livable and save us all money in the long run!


This is Thalia’s story. What’s yours? November 23, 2009

Filed under: In The Community,Stories,Uncategorized — friendsofspl @ 5:04 am
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In preliminary early results from our survey about library value, 28% of respondents say children or kids are the reason libraries are important or remain relevant to our communities.  That’s in the opinion of adults who filled out the survey. In this story we hear from the source. Libraries are a favorite destination for  children, as Thalia tells us in this story.
The Lake City Library
by Thalia Neufeld ( age 8 )
My favorite place in my community is the Lake City Library. I like to go there with Saige. I like it because my mom can read books that I don’t usually get to read. Like The Princesses and the Pizza and Queen of Style. It is fun to look for movies because I like some of the movies that are there. I also like it because there is a play structure behind it. I like to sit on the hmmmmm, maybe I should explain it first. So I guess it is like a bed that you can sit on and it is all cushiony with a lot of cushions on it. So I like to sit on it and look at books. I hope to take you there some day to play in the park and read a book and sit on the cushiony couch. So let’s get outside and we will go to the Lake City Library!
Do you have a favorite story about your library? Is there an especially comfy chair there? Do you play at a nearby park? Do you stop for ice cream or hot chocolate on the way? Why is the library such a great place for kids?  Send your story to and we’ll talk about posting it.

“Naturally, I came here to learn to play” November 17, 2009

library 015

Friends of The Seattle Public Library recently joined clarinetist Ashley Komoda for a lunchtime rehearsal to discuss the importance of the Library’s music practice rooms to the local musicians who use them.

“These practice rooms are one of the few downtown spots that allow fellow musicians to get together and make as much noise as they want. It is also simple. At any given time, I can call and say, ‘hey, I need a room,’ and reserve one of the two rooms with a piano. The piano is especially useful because of its built-in metronome”, she explained as she set the tempo for an adagio piece she plays with the Cadence Chamber Orchestra.

Ashley first discovered the music rooms this summer while seeking rehearsal space with a fellow clarinetist. They were looking to schedule weekly practice sessions for a company downtown that was sponsoring a summer arts internship program. After being turned down (or chased away) by building managers in downtown offices, they resorted to schools, only to find that such practice rooms were restricted by to current students or by very limited operating hours.  They needed somewhere close and cheap. An online search led them to the library practice rooms, where they could toot their horns to their hearts’ content during regular library hours.

During these weekly sessions, it was not uncommon to have by-standers from the elevator peering through the window or visitors that sat in on the Mozart duet they were working on.  A symphony clarinetist from Vancouver, B.C. once joined in and provided some tips on technique and instrument gear. Five months later Ashley— along with a number of Seattle residents of all ages— still schedule routine practice sessions at the Library.

“A lot of people come here. I enjoy practicing here because there’s really nothing around to distract me.” Ashley first picked up the clarinet in middle school and recently started lessons on the alto saxophone. “Naturally, I came here to learn to play,” she said with a smile. “You have to have someplace to practice, to get experience, learn the basics. You can’t just jump into it!”

The Cadence Chamber Orchestra (CCO) is an all-ages group of volunteer musicians committed to putting on free performances of new and traditional chamber music repertoires in the Seattle area.  Don’t miss your chance to see them perform Beethoven – Symphony No. 1 and Stravinsky – Pulcinella Suite at Cafe Metropolitain [1701 E Olive Way] on Thursday, December 17th at 8pm or at the PONCHO Concert Hall at Cornish College of the Arts [710 E Roy St] on Friday, December 18th at 8:00pm.


Art, Family, Playgrounds and Greenlake Library November 8, 2009

“On a typical Sunday outing we’ll take our bikes and scooters down to the lake, have breakfast, play at the playground, go to the library and go home,” Greenlake patron Rebecca Albiani told us over morning coffee.  The library serves an important role in both her family and professional life. Her eldest son, 8, “is an avid reader; it would bankrupt us to keep him in books by purchasing them,” she said. His current reading list: Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians, Septimus Heap books,  and 39 Clues. The youngest son, 6, “memorizes books so he needs a constant flow of simple stories as he learns to read.”

Titian exhibit[1]In professional life, Rebecca “gives talks for general audiences at the Frye Art Museum.” For the past ten years she’s lectured on everything from ancient Egypt to Pop Art. “I couldn’t do that without the library. Every month I have a new topic. 95 percent of my research materials come from the public library,” she said. Wouldn’t the UW Art Library be a stronger resource, we wondered, but Rebecca said the public library’s catalogue is usually ample. “The public library has THE book on the Index of American Design, for instance, which is the New Deal program I’ll be lecturing on in December. I could get a UW library card but it’s so much more convenient to walk to my public library [Greenlake Walkscore: 89] where I know people who work there and I don’t have to worry about parking.”

“The library is a crucial leveling factor. Plus it is simply a wonderful community gathering place” she told us. “When I think about the proposed library budget I worry about Saturday hours and Sunday closures in particular. On Sunday I see people on computers or sitting in the magazine section—that’s where my husband goes. There are always a lot of families reading to kids or kids coloring. At the playground I often hear moms saying, “Shall we go to the library now?”


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A conversation with Secret Garden Bookshop owner, Christy McDanold October 20, 2009

secret garden 001“Welcome,” Christy McDanold said when we met at her business, Secret Garden Bookshop , this past summer. “This is our front porch. It’s wonderful to have a library on Ballard’s front porch. When you have a gem like the Ballard branch library near the business core it draws people and keeps people in the area of commerce. We’re in a city that survives primarily on sales tax and secondarily on B and O tax. If retailers don’t see customers then the city doesn’t collect sales tax. If you’re going to rely on tax then you need to ensure that the business core is kept in mind and realize that there are public services, like the library, that impact commerce, well being, and health.”

Secret Garden partners with Ballard branch library to host author readings. “We’ve produced about 100 readings,” McDanold told us. “We wouldn’t be able to do our author readings without the Ballard branch because we don’t have that much space available. The rent we’d pay by square foot would be prohibitive. In exchange for using the public space we open our events to the public. Library patrons value that access to author events because we hear about that all the time.”

McDanold first saw the value of library meeting space when she headed a tutoring program for the Central Area Youth Association. “It was a tutoring program for at risk youth. We paired over 2000 volunteers with youth and they met together in branch libraries,” she explained. A teacher before starting her own business, she has great appreciation for libraries. “Libraries are the brain trust. Libraries translate questions into ideas and resources,” she told us.  But her strongest reason for library support  springs from her perspective as a  mother, “The one thing that consistently makes a difference in a child’s life is a caring adult in the community. As a parent I’ve always looked for someone that can connect with my children. The chance of it being a librarian is as good as it being a teacher. A library is a public open space. It’s a place where kids go even if they’re not looking for a book. As a society we should never back off from making places where that can happen. It’s a community responsibility.”


“The library makes it possible that I have a rich life” October 13, 2009

library 041

Libraries are very important in writer Jon McKinley’s everyday life. He uses Highpoint library frequently “to enjoy the great selection of movies, CD’s and books —those things we should all have access to collectively,” he said. But he also talked with us about a time when libraries played a pivotal role in his life.

“I immediately went to the library when I arrived in Seattle because if there’s one thing I need in life it’s reading material. At that time, around 1998, I didn’t know what a PC was. I was intimidated by computers and I thought I might have to take a college course to learn Windows and Word.  I may never have learned if I hadn’t seen the sign for the library’s free classes. I took two hour and a half classes with a group of 35 or 40.

In the first class, we learned how to turn the computer on, start up Word, double-click the mouse and scroll up and down,” he said, laughing at the memory. “When I saw how fun it was I stopped feeling intimidated. That class sure helps me out as a writer because I probably wouldn’t be able to understand my own handwriting today!”

“The library really makes it possible that I have a rich life,” he explained. “I  live humbly and frugally but can feel the excitement of travel and adventure, have the rush of gaining relevant knowledge, and see some wonderful movies because of the library.”

Highpoint branch, which is located in West Seattle next to a large, diverse, mixed income community,  is a convenient neighborhood walking destination [walkscore 66].  “Parks and libraries are some of the last free places we have for community,” McKinley said. “Libraries in our neighborhoods make for happier communities because all people from all walks of life know that its an enrichment that we  have in common and a place that we share between us.”


Meeting our Neighbors at Northgate Branch Library October 6, 2009


Northgate patron Tsukina Blessing pulled out her MP3 player when we met at her branch library and shared her enthusiasm about Overdrive books. “I can’t read on the bus because it makes me ill but on my MP3 player I can listen to audio recordings I get in the library’s Overdrive catalog. I have a concert of Herbert Howells, a workshop, even BBC radio programs sometimes show up there. Recently I read an article in Natural History by Frans de Waal, on human correlates of ape behavior, and I was able to find a book by him on Overdrive. That’s the way I read on the bus. I’ve also brought pieces of these audios to meetings we attend. These days if you send out an artricle or other information before a meeting people may or may not read it but if you ask a small group to listen to a seven minute audio snippet then everyone has the same shared information.”

Her family relies on the library for access to books, DVDs, CDs,  computers, and as a space that’s pleasant to hang out in while other people in the family are looking. They often meet friends there and chat.  Her husband is an artist and uses the library for artistic research. She also turns to the library for work research and described the wonderful support she receives from library staff, “I’ve been able to call up downtown (library)  and say, ‘I see you have this magazine or scholarly book’ (some of the scholarly books are so old they don’t put them out in collections) and they will either scan what I need and email it or photocopy and fax it. In addition, we’re setting language standards for our office.  It’s been quite a while, and language changes so quickly these days, so I use the Old English Dictionary at the library’s database online all the time. I use Safari online books for computer programming and application use reference.”

Tsukina also expressed appreciation for the non commercial aspect of our libraries, “Libraries are a place to meet and hang out that aren’t about the consumer ethic – this is an extremely valuable way of centering community. You don’t have to pay for things here.  In the  outside world I have this sense of needing things like carrots for the rabbit, dinner,  the nuts and bolts of living. All these transactions are commercial. The library is the one place where I don’t have to do this.  For instance, the other day my son saw Indiana Jones. We saw a real live movie and it cost ten dollars…per person. Here I can order the Indiana Jones handbook and Indiana Jones 1,2, and 3 and I don’t have to pay anything. He gets many interests and I love the sense that we can keep coming back here for information. If we had to buy it all we wouldn’t do it.”


The library is like a hidden treasure. The more you dig down into its resources the more you find. October 2, 2009

daisy1“The library is always the first place I look for when I move to a new community,’” Daisy Almonte said when we sat down for lunch to talk about the library. She uses Capitol Hill and Beacon Hill branch libraries. “The first library program I went to was on how to purchase a house,” she recalled. “I drove all the way to Northgate to attend the seminar. I couldn’t believe it was free!  I remember walking in and asking, ‘Are you sure there’s no fee?’  I learned a lot of information from that seminar and felt that I was no longer scared to buy a house when I walked out of the library. I just couldn’t believe this seminar was free! I wish there were more community training programs like that,” she said.

“The library is like a hidden treasure,” she explained. “The more you dig down into its resources the more you find. When I was in graduate school, I was able to download a whole book from the library for one of my classes. I also didn’t realize that the conference rooms weren’t just for business-specific reasons instead, anyone can actually use them.  I didn’t expect them to be very equipped and roomy. My graduate classmates and I met there to work on projects. They made it so convenient and in addition, it’s free. Lots of places require deposits, but all we had to do was show our library card and we felt like we were VIPs.”

It’s not just her own use of the library that makes it so important she told us, “Organizations send people to the library all of the time. I have worked in hospitals to help clients with their financial needs. If they were not able to complete a DSHS application with us and were not able to go to their local DSHS office, we would recommend the individual to complete an application on-line using the library computers. I have observed many organizations having on-line forms and many of these people having to apply for resources are low income families without computer access. This is why the library is such an important resource.”

Daisy also uses the library for research. With library resources she created a film for her graduate practicum, ” I have no filmmaking experience, but I was able to take books out from the library that gave me the information I needed to create a short film. I was told by my practicum supervisor that the movie has been very successful and individuals from other organizations were requesting copies to use for training purposes and to increase awareness in their communities.”

Like many library patrons she enjoys using online holds to explore library collections, “It’s great to be able to drive to the library that is convenient for me and even ask for a CD that is from another library,” she said. “But I wanted to mention that through the library, I got exposed to music from all over the world. My friends always ask what I’m listening to and it surprises them when I mention that it’s from the library.  I love the library and I feel that they love their patrons too.  I always look forward to going there.”

“What would happen if the library were to go away?”, she wondered. “We wouldn’t have that face-to-face interaction with the helpful staff to help us with some community resources questions, we wouldn’t have these beautiful buildings, and library patrons wouldn’t get free Wi-Fi internet connectivity. I mean, the library offers so much to my life, that the only thing that would make it perfect is if it came with a free cup of tea.


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A conversation with Jennifer Power September 16, 2009

Jennifer Power is the president of Capitol Hill Community Council. She sat down with us at a coffee shop on Capitol Hill and talked about how she uses the library, how it contributes to the Capitol Hill neighborhood and what libraries may be like in the future:

jen power“I use the Capitol Hill library a little bit. I live really close to a used bookstore so I need to make an effort to go down to the library. But I’m there once or twice a month for community meetings- it’s the only free meeting space. Oh Lord, do we need that meeting room. We’re short on meeting space up here; we don’t really have a community center. You can go to coffee shops but you have to buy something in order to spend time there. The library is free, which is amazing because Seattle is so expensive, and it’s not like the problem of finding free gathering space is going to get any better. It’s kind of weird (socially unjust) if you have to pay for things all the time just to have a place to meet your neighbors.”

“On Capitol Hill we have lots of anchors, organizations that anchor the neighborhood. But community groups often meet at the library and classes are also occasionally offered there, like through Seattle Free School. So I guess it’s kind of like the anchor of the anchors. It’s also an information space and, more and more, it’s a learning space.”

CAP“I like the renovation at Capitol Hill library – they have window seats and vines growing everywhere!  It’s nice there. It’s a good place for people to spend time. It’s a human place. If you have a city then you have to have density. If you have density then people need a place to hang out together. Parks are good, but libraries are quieter.”

“The library needs to continue to operate as a community center and a learning center to stay relevant. Libraries are still relevant but they need to change.  They need to bring people into gateways for information, particularly academic gateways. It would be amazing if libraries would play the role of bringing together all the arcane information that isn’t digitized yet. They also need to ally with community groups. The more we give libraries a free hand to collaborate with the community the better.”

For more of  Jennifer’s ideas about life see her blog.


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I understand Kindles but I’m sorry, I need a book September 10, 2009

Kirby Lindsay

Kirby Lindsay

Blogger and writer, Kirby Lindsay uses Fremont branch and the virtual library and,  in the days before her blog Fremocentrist launched,  she talked with us about why she values libraries and books.   “The library saves me money. As I see books, magazines, music, and movies that I want, I think, ‘Oh good, I’ll be able to get that at the library’.” Kirby also mines the library’s subscription databases. “I wouldn’t subscribe to a database if I was only going to use it once so the library’s subscriptions allow me research options in my work. There’s an article from 1987 about the Aurora Bridge, for instance, that I have accessed.” She stops  in to check Consumer Reports when she’s researching a purchase, pops in with her nephew, and drops by to look at movies on her way to her weekly movie date with her 95 year old grandfather. Like several people we’ve talked with, Kirby uses online holds to  preview cross platform titles of interest, “Being able to go on-line to the library and say I want this, and this, and this, and having it appear on the shelf saved for me, feels like a magic trick.”

The library brings the Fremont community together. Kirby said, “Fremont gathers at its library, and yet the library serves as a calm, non-political entity in a chaotic neighborhood. The library is a draw point for the community. I go to meetings there and our library now has wheelchair access.  They have fascinating information on display from the Fremont Historical Society. They also have archives of the Outlook newspaper in print — something that modern technology can’t have. “

And about library relevance Kirby says, “I’m someone who understands Kindle but I’m sorry, I need a book. I need something to hold onto. I travel and I like to have a book I can take with me. Libraries won’t even slightly fade in relevance. As the world becomes more technology based we MUST preserve a place for the written word in a portable medium that is accessible without electricity – also a gathering place for people to meet face-to-face rather than through electronics.”

See Kirby’s writing about Fremont branch


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