Message from the Board

It has been a busy spring for the Friends.

Our Book Sale Operations Team, Alice Springer and her Assistant Katy Bourne, have had many successes:

  • We have recruited many new and some former volunteers sorting books at our new location.
  • We welcomed work teams from Whole Foods, Starbucks, the Seattle Women’s Foundation and the UW Graduate School of Engineering to assist with sorting, boxing and sale activities.
  • We received six palettes of new books from publishers attending the ALA winter conference.
  • We have implemented new scanning and book-listing software that is proving to be financially successful.
  • We look forward to our Summer Book Sale on June 22nd and 23rd at North Seattle Community College.
  • We also look forward to a “big” Fall Sale at Magnuson Park September 20-22, with a member only preview in the evening of the 20th.

The Friends has distributed roughly half of our Title I school vouchers. The program is made possible by an ongoing grant from the Renee B. Fischer Foundation. Teachers use their $100 vouchers to obtain books for their classroom libraries.

Through our partnership with Discover Books, the Friends has provided nearly 5000 in books to elementary school children at two Title I schools, bringing the total number of books we’ve distributed to well over 10,000 since staring the program last fall.  A third “give-away” is scheduled for June.

The FriendShop has completed its second successful “Pop-Up” sale, most recently at the Northeast Branch. At the request of The Library, Board and Shop volunteers have participated in each of the Sunday branch opening celebrations.

The Friends is hosting a Candidates Read event on June 17th at the Central Library. Each of Seattle’s mayoral candidates will be reading a selection from his or her favorite book or author. Library Board President, Dan Dixon, will be moderating the event. Event details will be posted on the Friends’ website, as well as our Facebook and Twitter pages. We look forward to seeing many of you that evening!

We continue to be grateful to our many members and volunteers. Through your efforts and support, we are able to fulfill our mission of supporting The Library and its strategic goals and service priorities.

Respectfully submitted,

Maggie Taylor


Reimagining our Libraries for the Next Generation

Eighteen months ago, I assumed one of the most revered positions in the library world – serving as your city librarian.  The responsibility of managing one of the city’s most treasured community resources has truly been an honor and a privilege.  Seattle is a city of readers and it’s wonderful to live and work in a city where people care deeply about their libraries.

In 1998, we embarked on the “Libraries for All” program to give Seattle a system of libraries to revolutionize what we do. And we did, renovating or building new libraries including the world-renowned Central Library.

Unfortunately, several years of budgets cuts followed.  But we managed, streamlined and survived.  And we developed a plan to stabilize the Library budget.  A seven-year, $122 million Library levy received overwhelming public support, thanks to each and every one of you.  As a result, we are delivering on our promises for increased operating hours, more print and electronic books, movies and music, upgraded technology and an improved budget for building maintenance and repair.

Now, however, we face the challenge of redefining how our Library does business. The technology and publishing industries are physically and literally changing the landscape of libraries. They are causing us to rethink what we do, how we do it, and more importantly, who can have access to it. Technology and publishing combined are the two biggest game changers in the Library world today. They are impacting what we do with our collections and that in turn changes the work of our reference and shelving staff.  In effect, our current way of doing business is losing its relevance and is slowly becoming a dated business practice.

As more books are available online and more people buy devices to access them, the circulation of physical books will decline.  At our libraries, circulation of downloadable media is up 67 percent over last year and virtual visits have surpassed our in-person visits by nearly 1 million. Likewise, our Wi-Fi access has increased and onsite computer usage has lessened.  While some of that was the result of significant budget cuts and policy changes around the lending of materials we can see shifts in how patrons are using us.

Even so, we hope that the restoration of critical resources and services via the Levy will reverse these trends.

Over the next decade, as more children grow up in an increasingly digital world, our lives and libraries will continue to change.  We must serve our community in new, innovative and compelling ways to meet our mission and survive in an increasingly competitive and difficult public funding environment.

And lest you think our core service deliverables are changing, they aren’t. Patrons still want to check out materials, ask librarians for help, and seek educational classes and lectures to further their intellectual and recreational interests. It’s just that the ways people now access information are transforming the way people use libraries and we must adapt.

Our solution, the vision I am sharing, has been shaped by public and staff comments, philosophical and directional discussions with other Library systems, personal introspection, and what is happening in the world, including advances in technology.

Our efforts are grounded in the Strategic Plan and emphasize five key areas that will assure our long-term success as we adapt to a changing world, blending our work with the values of Seattle residents.

These five areas are:

  • supporting youth and early learning
  • using technology for access and experience
  • enhancing our program of civic and public engagement
  • curating and preserving Seattle culture and history and
  • reimagining our Library spaces to create new patron experiences.

Our business, role and value still matter. Our business remains access to information.  And our role and value – providing a means for continuous personal growth and self-fulfillment, and serving as a vehicle for community connection and betterment stays true.

We have the opportunity to focus on what we want our future to look like and how we can get there. As we move forward on the five priorities, we will explore new and innovative ways to serve our community. We need to put aside our traditional thinking about libraries. We want to reimagine The Seattle Public Library in creative new ways that ensure the educational, cultural and economic health of our vibrant city. I’m excited about the Library’s future and want to hear your thoughts or ideas.



Where Does the Money Go?

In 2012, the Friends gave $92,945 in Direct Support of the Library.


  • $60,000 in Grants to the Library, including $25,000 for the 2012 Summer Reading Program, $30,000 for Youth Programming, and $5,000 for Staff Training
  • $5,000 to the Library through Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG event
  • $24,000 to the Libraries Yes! campaign in support of the library levy
  • $4,098 in Library Staff Appreciation

Interview with Eileen Gunn

We sat down with Eileen Gunn, the Nebula-award-winning author, on a Tuesday afternoon at her home in Seattle. We talked about publishers, the future of paper books and the Seattle Library system. We started off by asking her about the changes that are taking place in publishing now, as digital books compete in the marketplace with traditionally published books.  As always, talking with Eileen was like a giant, fabulous, information download.

EILEEN: The situation with paper versus digital books is larger than just the one issue, of paper or pixels. Right now, the entire industry is changing rapidly, and everybody – authors, agents, book designers, publishers, distributors, librarians, booksellers, and readers – is trying to keep their footing as the ground shifts beneath them. Librarians may be the people who have the best perspective on what’s happening and where it’s all going, as they have an immediate and intimate relationship with the reading public – or with library users, anyway, which is a very special subset of that demographic.

FRIENDS: What’s the writer’s perspective? Why would the writer care about whether the book is on paper or not?

EILEEN: Well, most writers, if they’re looking to be published, want their books read, and they want their books to be found by the people who will enjoy them. The question is how to make that happen. Will you, the writer, work with an agent, who will help you sell your book to a conventional publisher, large or small? Will you skip the agent and the publisher, and self-publish the book, or deal directly with a distributor-turned-publisher, such as Amazon? If so, how? Will you hire people to edit, proofread, design, print and/or code, and market the book, or will you do it all yourself? Will you ignore the traditional-book reader and publish only  e-books? Will you hook up with an  e-book marketer, or an outfit that will help you publish and will take a share of the profits? And what about audio books? The decisions just go on and on, and any choice may be the wrong one for you, or for your book. Any of them could lead to disaster or to best-sellerdom. And notice that all this takes place after the book is written,after the writer has finished her traditional task. As a writer, do you want to take that on?

FRIENDS: From what you say, it sounds as though it’s possible for anyone with a certain amount of money to get published.

EILEEN: Well, that’s always been true. What is it that A.J. Liebling said? “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” Now everybody can own one, and electronic publishing makes it possible to publish books without concern about the costs of paper, printing, and shipping.

FRIENDS: So, technically then, everyone will be able to call themselves a writer. Does that bother you?

EILEEN: Nope. As far as I’m concerned, people can call themselves anything they want. I don’t actually consider other writers competition. Rather, they’re proof of the concept that, yes, books can be written and people will buy them. Plus, I believe that no one else can do what I do as a writer. No one can write my books but me. Therefore I better get out there and do it.

FRIENDS: Do you think paper books will really go away?

EILEEN: Perhaps not in the next 10 to 15 years, but at some point we’ll only have digital books, or some other implementation than ink on paper. But most publishers, even Amazon, still print paper books as well as e-books. There are a lot of paper books already in existence, and more are coming out every month. It will take a very long time for all of those to go away, though most will rot eventually. She said cheerily.

FRIENDS: Well, just looking around your house, which is filled with books, that’s hard to imagine. With all these books of your own, are you a library user?

EILEEN:  Oh, sure. I love libraries and I love the Rem Koolhaas Central SPL. Over the years, I’ve shifted to doing most of my research at home, but I’ve been using the inter-library loan system to do research for my next book. It’s wonderful to be able to obtain through the library a specific book that I need, such as a small-press or privately printed memoir that may have been issued in a print run of only a few hundred copies and would cost me a hundred dollars or more if I had to buy it. I use to find what libraries have the book I’m looking for, and then go to the SPL website and the library facilitates the loan and sends the book to my local branch. I really appreciate that. I also use it to borrow e-books in areas that I’m researching. I can quickly search them in my e-reader, find the relevant information I need, and return them to the library, all without leaving the house. I wish there were a lot more digital books available from the library.

FRIENDS: What is the book you’re researching? And have you got anything else in the publishing pipeline?

EILEEN:  The book I’m researching is a novel set in the 19th century, a sort of metafictional inquiry into issues of race and gender and creativity. My second book of short stories,Questionable Practices, is due out in March of 2014 from Small Beer Press.

FRIENDS: Well, we can’t wait. Thanks so much for taking the time, Eileen!

You can find out more about Eileen at

Homework Help

The Seattle Public Library is seeking Homework Help volunteers to assist students in kindergarten through 12th grade with homework assignments and developing literacy and mathematics skills. Volunteers provide help with all subjects up to the 7th grade level and also may specialize in one or two subjects up to the college-prep level.

Volunteers must be comfortable interacting with K-12 students of all ages in small groups and individually on a drop-in basis. The majority of the students who request assistance speak a language other than English at home.

Homework Help will be offered at the Library locations listed below from Sept. 9, 2013 through June 17, 2014. Volunteers will be scheduled for weekly two-hour shifts when the Seattle Public Schools are in session. Those who cannot make weekly commitments can be scheduled as substitutes at least twice a month for a minimum of four months.

  • Beacon Hill Branch, 2821 Beacon Ave. S.
  • Broadview Branch, 12755 Greenwood Ave. N.
  • Columbia Branch, 4721 Rainier Ave. S.
  • Delridge Branch, 5423 Delridge Way S.W.
  • Douglass-Truth Branch, 2300 E. Yesler Way
  • High Point Branch, 3411 S.W. Raymond St.
  • Lake City Branch, 12501 28th Ave. N.E.
  • NewHolly Branch, 7058 32nd Ave. S.
  • Northgate Branch, 10548 5th Ave. N.E.
  • Rainier Beach Branch, 9125 Rainier Ave. S.
  • South Park Branch, 8604 8th Ave. S.

Homework Helpers have opportunities to make a difference in the lives of students and derive satisfaction from supporting a culture of higher learning. They help to encourage and inspire students to become lifelong learners.

A volunteer application can be downloaded from by clicking on “Support Your Library” and then selecting “Volunteer Opportunities.” Applicants must have completed at least one year of college or vocational school and have strong English literacy and/or mathematics skills.

Individuals who submit their application by July 15 will receive priority consideration for volunteer openings. For more information, contact Anne Vedella, volunteer services coordinator, at or 206-386-4664.

(For more information, call Andra Addison, communications director, 206-386-4103.)

Sunday Openings

All Seattle Public libraries are now open on Sundays, the first time in a century.

The Sunday hours were made possible by voters who approved a $122 million levy last August to enhance the 1998 Libraries for All bond measure and open all branches on Sundays.  Because of recent budget cuts by the City Council, 15 of 26 branches were closed two days a week, the entire system shut down for a week each fall, and the book budget was reduced by more than 13 percent.

Two branches, Northgate and Columbia, are now seven days a week.  Both were closed on Fridays and Sundays.

The branches held special Sunday celebrations and patrons were issued a free Check-Out Challenge card where they could visit any Sunday Opening event and get their card stamped.  Special limited edition tote bags for each of the branches are available from the FriendShop.

Lazerwood: Technology and Craftsmanship in the Heart of Seattle

The Friends of the Seattle Public Library had the pleasure of chatting with Sarah from Lazerwood Industries about the Northwest’s knack for Imagetechnology and the spirit of craftsmanship and innovation that comes with the sector. Lazerwood emphasizes the natural treatment of wood with electronic forms and celebrates in the creative cross-sections.

The FriendShop at The Seattle Public Library – Central Branch is featuring Lazerwood as a local company throughout the month of June! We’ve got an array of wood iPhone cases just in time for graduation and Father’s Day gifts!


What makes wood aImages an artistic material so special? How do you see this natural resource working in conjunction with technology?

We chose to work with wood because we wanted to add natural warmth to our digital life. Wood is amazingly durable, ages well and is sustainable; all factors that contributed to our choice.

Could you describe the process of lazer and hand treatment in creating your phone case designs?

We source all our wood from a mill in North Carolina and hand treat each sheet of veneer with stain. The veneer is then cut down to a size that will fit in our laser cutter, which looks like a large sawdust spewing printer. The laser cutter is networked to a computer which allows us to cut as much or as little as we want. All packaging and fulfillment is also done on site so our quality and attention to detail is something we keep very hands on.
What qualities makes Lazerwood a “Seattle” born-and-bred company? Does Northwest culture inform your creative design at all?

We love being apart of the PacNW culture that encourages small and local businesses. Our entire region benefits from the supportive climate for creatives and in turn,  Seattle is a city which drives culture for the entire coast and beyond. We wouldn’t want to run our business anywhere else.

What are some of Lazerwood’s dream collaborations or artist partnerships?

We are just coming back from our first convention in New York and are humbled by the number of people who wanted to work with us. We are planning on a collaboration with Rex Ray as well as some artist in New York who we are still negotiating with. Very exciting stuff! Stay tuned. We also have plans to expand our product line to include lamps and clocks, which we are super excited about.


The Central Library – The Seattle Public Library Main Branch (Level 3/5th Ave. Entrance)

Seattle, WA 98104

We are also happy to assist sales by phone: 206-733-9015

Contact: Jessica Frederick, Social Media Manager,