Amy’s Story: “I Just Really Love Reading”

We know children love libraries.  This year we’re asking kids to tell us why. Here, Amy says that when she goes to the library she gets SO many books she can hardly carry them!  I asked Children’s Librarian Amy LaVare, at the High Point branch library, what a pile of books that high might look like. For that, see the accompanying photo to Amy’s essay.
Why I like the Seattle Public Library
By Amy Pottharst, age 7
I think reading is important because if you are bored it gives you something to do. I just really love reading. My favorite kinds of books are mysteries. Books are sometimes so suspenseful and I really love that.  I was 4 ½ when I started reading and my mom says she could barely keep up with me!  Sometimes in the summer we walk or ride bikes to the library to get some books and then we go to a nearby park or to the wading pool. When we go to the library I get SO many books I can barely carry them all!  
My younger brother Danny (4 years old) loves getting books too. He goes every week for story-time and was disappointed when there was no more story-time in February.  We usually sit side-by-side and read quietly together. He copies everything I do!
The library is great because we can check out books for my book group. We raised money for a group called Pennies for Peace.  We learned about this group from the book “Listen to the Wind” by Greg Mortenson.
Would you like to become a friend of the Seattle Public Library?  Will you share your story about what the Library means to you?  Email us at

The Newest Superheroes: Your Neighborhood Librarians

 If there was any doubt that your neighborhood librarians should be given superhero status, take a look at this New York Times article about how the economic downturn is putting new stresses on libraries and librarians. Librarians are facing increased demands as “first responders” to patrons who are seeking help in filling out job applications and unemployment forms, using the library’s computers and free wi-fi access, looking for language and citizenship training, borrowing books and DVDs for free entertainment, and dealing with the emotional strains of making do with much less. Even Nancy Pearl’s beloved Librarian Action Figure might find it difficult to deal with all of these demands.

So how can you help? First of all, take the time to thank your neighborhood librarians – a kind word goes a long way. Second, consider volunteering at the Library – there are many different ways you can get involved. Third, email City Councilmembers and ask them to preserve funding for the Library:,,,,,,,,

If you’re looking for books that feature fictional librarians, here’s a list from the Library’s Shelf Talk blog. And although the following books don’t feature librarians, consider the book recommendations below from the Friends’ Board meeting in April. You can just click on the links below to get to the SPL site to reserve a copy of these books. Quoted book review excerpts are reprinted with permission from Booklist.

Bone [Vol. I], Out from Boneville, by Jeff Smith. “One of the most acclaimed new comics of recent years, Bone is a Tolkien-meets-Pogo fantasy about the Bone cousins, who leave their home, Boneville, for adventures in the outside world. . . . Smith, with his clean draftsmanship and flawless comic timing, has been compared to comics masters Walt Kelly (Pogo and Carl Barks (creator of Uncle Scrooge McDuck). Like Pogo Bone has a whimsy best appreciated by adults, yet kids can enjoy it, too . . .” — Gordon Flagg   This review was written in 1995, and there are many other volumes available.

Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism, by Muhammad Yunus with Karl Weber. Nobel Peace Prize winner Yunus is the founder of Grameen Bank, which lends small amounts of money to poorer individuals to help them start small businesses. This is an inspiring tale about the possibilities of “micro-lending”, and businesses that are helping people while still being profitable.

Why I Wake Early : New Poems, by Mary Oliver. This is a lovely collection of poems about nature and contemplative ideas, and encourages us to slow down and appreciate nature.

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. This is Verghese’s first book of fiction, and starts in a charity hospital in Ethiopia while spanning three continents and several generations. This garnered a starred review in Publishers Weekly.

A Hand to Guide Me, Denzel Washington with Daniel Paisner. Actor Denzel Washington, a national spokesman for the Boys and Girls Club of America, has collected stories from over 70 celebrities (including himself) of how mentors made a difference in their lives. Contributors include Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Gloria Steinhem, Whoopie Goldberg, Bonnie Raitt, Cal Ripken, and more.

Readers, who are your favorite neighborhood superhero librarians?

Kate Pappas…Adding value in Rainier Beach

What a terrific testimony to being involved and appreciated by one’s community….


Kate Pappas


Rainier Beach    

What is your favorite word? 

I think “thanks” is about the best word around!       

What word do you wish you had made up? 

After cleaning my windshield, I’d have to say I wish I’d made up the word “squeegee” because it sounds so funny, exactly like what it does after you Windex the window.

How did you become librarian of your branch?

I worked at the old Holly Park branch, and had some hours at Rainier Beach. During a musical chairs redistribution of CSL staff,  the rest of my hours got shifted to The Beach. I discovered  then that I liked being there full-time, and I still do.

What is on your desk right now?

Right now, there is a puppet cat named “Midnight,” five little toy mice that came as prizes in bags of “Good Mews” kitty litter, some children’s paperbacks, a flannel board set that I need to put away, a little Polish doll and a pair of Mickey and Minnie salt and pepper shakers.



(We won’t mention the calendar, photos and comic strips on the bulletin board)       

Tell us about your library. 

Our library is one of the best in the world. We are the most-southeasterly of the city libraries, in a diverse neighborhood not too far from Lake Washington. Our building theme (after Libraries For All) suggests a beach. We have wavy bulletin boards, ripple designs in our pavement, and restful beach colors of sand and soft blue. The children’s area (my personal favorite –can you tell that I’m a children’s librarian?) even has bookcases with frogs, cat-tails and a sea-gull.       

How long have you been at the branch?

Part-time since 1989 and full-time since 1995 (except, of course, when I was redeployed during the remodeling)       

What other posts do you hold in your community?

none–“children’s librarian” is fine with me   

What is the biggest impact the capitol campaign has had on your branch?    

We have changed from a dingy, industrial, gloomy facility, to a bright and inviting building with increased space, study rooms, and inviting lighting. I love to see the faces of people who haven’t been here for a while, who remember the old branch. They always have compliments and they always comment about how they liked how it has changed. Of course, we always respond with “Thank you–it’s nice to hear that; we like it too!”    

How does your relationship with the community affect your programming?    

My long-term relationship with the Rainier Beach community affects my programming in two ways.
First, of course, people seem to think of me as a ‘community helper and friend.”  Many of them know me and recognize me, as they did at a recent community event held in a local park (we had a table next to other community organizations at a “Back 2 School Bash” picnic where children were given backpacks filled with school supplies) 


School children are delighted to walk in and see me because, they tell me, “You came to my school!” Parents and teachers have also gotten to know me, and it has been my joy to watch so many young people grow up and mature. Some area child care centers have asked me to visit them and do presentations on Early Literacy. I feel that the community considers me, overall, to be a useful member and welcomed all over.


Second, when planning library programs for our community, I try to think of programs which will appeal to our diverse and multicultural clientele. Amy Twito always has an excellent selection of summer programs from which we can choose. Valerie Wonder has helped us begin and continue story times held in Mandarin Chinese which have a small but loyally devoted audience.



Local Talent from West Seattle – Meet Wally!

So I had the pleasure of chatting with Wally in West Seattle a while back and here is a little bit about him.







Wally Bubelis 

West Seattle Library

What is your favorite word? 


What word do you wish you had made up? 

Google – it was coined by the child of a mathematician to describe a one followed by one hundred zeros.  I liked it long before the search engine came along.

How did you become librarian of your branch? 

 I started out long ago as a page and clerk at the old Central library, then got my MLS at the UW.  My first job was as a substitute for branch librarians in an 8-month appointment.  Each day I would show up to work at West Seattle and then take the phone calls sending me out and about.  After that I was hired as a Young Adult Librarian, and I was one of the first wave of that group (and I’m the only one from that first wave who is still here working as a Teen Services Librarian).  I worked out of Northeast, Green Lake, University and Wallingford for a couple years, and then an opening came up at West Seattle.  I jumped at it, since it would take my commute time from two hours daily in the car to a half-hour walk from home.

What is on your desk right now? (photo is ok too) 

Mostly teen novels and prize items for Summer Reading.  I have some copies of VOYA, the trade journal for teen librarians, plus a lot of booklists (I’m the teen booklist editor).

Tell us about your library. 

 West Seattle Library has always been one of my favorites (and I’ve worked at nearly all of them) – it’s a beautiful old Carnegie with lots of light, a great new meeting room (good for our children’s and teen programs), and a classic look.  One story I like to tell patrons who ask about our renovation is how the main floor was sagging – 80-year-old concrete will do that – and how the contractors came in, jacked up the entire floor about 6 inches, inserted two massive I-beam girders underneath the floor, and then lowered the floor to rest on the girders.  The architect was so nervous about the procedure he didn’t want to be here on that day.

How long have you been at the branch? 

 I started here in 2000 – as far as the other librarians are concerned, I’m still the new kid!

What other posts do you hold in your community? 

 I don’t hold any posts, but I sure seem to see a lot of my patrons in my neighborhood.

What is the biggest impact the capitol campaign has had on your branch? 

 We have that great meeting room, which fits the look of the library so well many people think it was part of the original construction.  Our old meeting room held maybe 20 people and was small and stuffy, but now we have story times almost every week of the year, gaming programs, and a lot of community meetings.  It’s really popular with our patrons.

How does your relationship with the community affect your programming? 

 Sometimes I see some familiar teen faces at the grocery store or out on my walks.  It’s always nice to make that connection outside of the library.  My teen programming doesn’t really see much affect from this.


Catching up with Theresa Mayer

Finally! Someone with interesting desk contents! I wonder what it means…thumb puppets from Peru…she must be creative, interested in far away places and much more – read on!


Theresa Mayer


Southwest/South Park

What word do you wish you had made up?   

“doppelganger” Who doesn’t enjoy saying this word?   

How did you become librarian of your branch? 

I transferred from the position of Spanish-language Librarian in our Literacy, ESL, and World Languages Department in the Central Library to try out branch life.  It’s been a fantastic learning experience.

What is on your desk right now?

Thumb puppets that my mother brought me from Peru, a 2008 Seattle Storm schedule, a set of magnets that was a present from my first Branch Manager Trainer/Mentor, Christy Tyson (previously Branch Manager of Southwest and High Point Branches), a mug of coffee, my favorite photograph of Frida Kahlo (dare I go on?) 

Tell us about your library: 

South Park is a new addition to a complex and changing neighborhood.  It honors the vibrant cultural diversity of the neighborhood and its history through several lovely architectural  and design elements, as does the collection. 


Southwest is a place that feels like home– it’s welcoming, relaxed, and warm.  I’ve had a great time meeting all of the patrons, and getting to know the neighborhood.  It’s wonderful to work with so many children in both locations.   

How long have you been at the branch? 

South Park: two years; Southwest:  about three months!

What is the biggest impact the capitol campaign has had on your branch? 

Putting technology in the hands of people who may not have been able to afford access; delighting and enriching people’s lives with rich collections and beautiful spaces that represent community centers. 

How does your relationship with the community affect your programming? 

Programming should be driven by the needs and interests of the community.  Therefore, you must engage in an ongoing conversation with various constituencies in the neighborhood to know what people are interested in, and what is relevant to their lives.  Sometimes we need to identify creative ways to pursue such a dialog!     



Seattle Residents are Literate, Well-Educated and Love Books

Taken from Seattle Central Library Economics Benefit paper:

Seattle is the second most literate city in America, according to a 2004 University of Wisconsin study of cities with populations over 200,000. “Seattle would have been number one,” said researcher Jack Miller, “except for its aging and relatively under used libraries.” This deficiency is rapidly changing, with the Libraries for All program revitalizing libraries across the City. Miller also confirmed what Seattleites have been saying for years: the City supports more bookstores per capita than any other city in the country.

Seattle has been a launching pad for numerous literacy and reading encouragement programs. In 1996, “America’s Favorite Librarian,” Nancy Pearl, launched What If All of Seattle Read the Same Book, a community-wide book club that has been duplicated in more than 50 cities across the country and internationally . Nancy Pearl has since become a cult hero, with two books – Book Lust and More Book Lust – and her own action figure.

According to the Census Bureau, Seattle has one of the highest rates of college education among large U.S. cities, with 49% of the population holding at least a bachelors degree.

This passion for education and reading contributes to the community’s overall quality of life and translates into support for the arts. This support benefits the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Symphony, and the Seattle Opera, which has the highest per capita attendance of any opera company in the country (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 1, 2004).

So what are you waiting for! Get to your local branch today and hug your librarian! 🙂


Mistress of the Libraries Moves On…

When she came to The Seattle Public Library almost eleven years ago, one of her key commitments was to help improve the library materials budget and the ability of Technical Services to streamline its work and get materials ordered and ready for the public more quickly. They even had an internal campaign they called: “The Year of the Book.”

Through years of budget increases, reductions, and increases, as well as the generosity of private donors to The Seattle Public Library Foundation, they managed to bring the materials budget closer to what has been identified as “the ideal materials budget.” Through the excellent work of staff materials got into readers’ hands more quickly. Due to sharp negotiations the SPL staff got larger discounts from vendors.

Recently a staff committee studied the holds and delivery processes and through careful implementation of its recommendations have been able to move materials through the system quicker and more efficiently. As staff continue to work on this the public will notice even more improvements.

The SPL has created an amazing virtual library. In fact, this blog is just one of the many new ways the SPL is communicating with patrons and providing readers’ advisory services. But – it’s important that the community not stop here – but check out the on-line databases, downloadable materials, and all the other resources to be found on the SPL Web site.

Deborah Jacobs’ parting thoughts:

I have been asked to comment on books that influenced me or alternately books I might be reading during my transition between my position here as City Librarian and my new position leading the Global Libraries Initiative for The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The first question is too hard; like many readers I find something important in every book I read. Something that touches my heart, teaches me, makes me laugh, and on and on. Even my favorite book would be hard to name but when forced to do so I often say – OUR MUTUAL FRIEND, ANGLE OF REPOSE, A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY, HUNTING MR. HEARTBREAK – but yikes… this is just too hard!~

I do know the books I’m planning to read during my month of no job. I’ve been physically gathering, putting on reserve at the library, listing on my iPhone “notes” section the books I intend to read. They reflect the yin-yang of my reading tastes.

Iliad: Robert Fagles

When Fagles died recently I knew it was important to take time to re-read this.

Means of Ascent (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, volume 2): Robert Caro

I am a political animal and Caro gets to the essence of Johnson and political savvy.

Girls Like Us: Sheila Weller

I know it isn’t supposed to be very good, but I am 56 years old and am of the exact era she is writing on.

Old Glory: Jonathan Raban

I started re-reading this before the recent Mississippi flooding because my book group had just read (or re-read in most of our cases) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. How very relevant and remarkable it is to be reading this right now.

Netherland: Joseph O’Neill

It seems to be the hot book of the season; I’m #55 on the library’s reserve list so might not get it until after I start my new job.

Lush Life: Richard Price

I actually – gulp – bought this! I am such a library user that I own almost NO books!

If YOU are ever at a loss for what to read, talk to our wonderful librarians. They are chock full of great ideas and have sure helped me when I’ve been in a reading slump.

And, because the world is changing and so is our remarkable library, I plan to stay modern by buying myself a going away present of a Kindle!

I will miss you all but will continue to be an avid library user, supporter, and reader!

Deborah Jacobs

Oh, and:

….favorite word/s: Jacob, passion, libraries
….on her desk right now: Eleven years worth of file folders, sorting and organizing for the new city librarian. Also – magic rocks, cards, chocolate, pictures and gifts.