About the Levy

In August 2019, Seattle voters overwhelmingly approved a seven-year, $219.1 million property tax levy to maintain and enhance Library services from 2020 through 2026, renewing the seven-year levy approved in 2012. Beyond renewing 2012 Levy commitments, the 2019 Levy provides support for additional Library hours; elimination of overdue fines; improved collections and technology; safer, cleaner buildings; specialized programming and services for children; and development of a plan for the future of library service.

Since we began implementing the levy in January 2020, we have made progress on some key levy priorities but have had to defer others, such as expanding open hours, because of pandemic-related challenges. During the global pandemic and its aftermath, we have directed levy resources to where they were most needed to provide Seattle residents access to Library resources and services. In 2022, the Library spent $23.8 million of 2019 Levy funds and $2 million of 2012 Levy funds in key levy investment areas and launched a foresight/strategic planning process to help guide the Library into the future.

2022 Levy Accomplishments

2022 Levy Accomplishments

Hours and Access

We promised to make Library resources and services accessible to patrons when they need them.

2022 Levy Spending: $11.2 million
2022 Accomplishments
  • After the winter omicron wave, maintained open hours at 27 Library locations at 90%+ of pre-pandemic service levels. Planned for expanded hours in 2023, informed by the Levy Priority Survey that asked Seattle residents about their current preferences for Library open hours.
  • Analysis of impact of eliminating overdue fines showed positive trends, including that return rates have not been impacted and 18,000 patron accounts were restored when fines were eliminated.
  • Created an in-house social services team and re-launched in-person consults. Levy-funded youth focused Community Resource Specialist will be hired in 2023.
  • Operated pick-up lockers at High Point and Rainier Beach branches. New lockers are coming to Northeast, Beacon Hill and Broadview branches in 2023. Lockers are being purchased with funds from Seattle Public Library Foundation funds and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds through the Washington State Library.
  • Installed language access kiosks at International District/Chinatown, Beacon Hill, South Park, Columbia and Lake City branches.
  • Over 290 students attended Homework Help sessions in the fall of 2022 after the free after-school tutoring program restarted at six branches.
More Open Hours: 27 locations are now open an additional 93 hours weekly

Provide More Books and Materials

We promised to provide a robust collection of books and materials.

2022 Levy Spending: $5.6 million
2022 Accomplishments
  • Added 110,000+ copies to the digital collection in 2022, 12.5% more than we added in 2021. Over 151,000 patrons downloaded more than 4.7 million digital books (e-books and e-audiobooks), an 8% increase compared to 2021.
    Added 203,000+ physical items using funds from all sources, including 13,000+ copies of Peak Picks titles.
  • Over 113,000 people checked out at least one physical item in 2022, a 34% increase compared to 2021. As patrons returned to our libraries, our physical circulation continues to rebound.
  • Peak Picks celebrated its fifth Anniversary. Since the collection launched in May 2017, over 86,000 Library patrons have checked out more than 800,000 Peak Picks titles.
  • Completed diversity audits of our collection and added 867 titles that increase representation by BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ and other authors, along with titles promoting greater understanding of other issues.
  • In 2022, we added 1,100+ items to our digital local history and culture collections with additions to our Black Culture and History Collection, Seattle Historical Photograph Collection, Northwest Photograph Collection and COVID-19 Community Collection.
More physical & digital copies purchased: Added 203,000 + physical items, including 13,00 + copies of Peak Picks titles.

Technology and Online Services

We promised to promote digital equity and improve our computer and online services.

2022 Levy Spending: $2.3 million (2019 Levy), $146,000 (2012 Levy)
2022 Accomplishments
  • Upgraded 219 public computers. Over 35,000 people used Library computers nearly 300,000 times.
  • Installed 22 ScanEZ stations that can be used to make free scans and copies, send faxes and translate scanned text to 100 different languages. In 2023, we will install ScanEZ stations in the five branches that do not currently have them.
  • Loaned 1,270 hot spots in the community, including 465 outreach hot spots that are loaned long-term to communities disproportionately impacted by the digital divide.
  • Developed a road map to upgrade or replace the existing Integrated Library System, a software system that manages and centralizes core library functions.
Helping Patrons Get What They Need: 1,270 hot spots for loan to the community.

Programming for Children

We promised to provide additional early learning program for children ages 0-5.

2022 Levy Spending: $146,000
2022 Accomplishments
  • Offered over 200 videos on the SPL Kids YouTube Channel in 2022, including 92 virtual story times in English, Spanish and Mandarin. Overall our children’s programming videos were viewed 25,000+ times.
  • Restarted weekly in-person Kaleidoscope Play and Learn programs at Beacon Hill, Columbia, Lake City, Rainier Beach and South Park branches in collaboration with partners.
Virtual Storytimes Available: Offered 92 virtual story times in English, Spanish and Mandarin. Viewed 25,000+ times.

Maintain Buildings

We promised to maintain buildings for the next generation.

2022 Levy Spending: $2.6 million (2019 Levy), $1.9 million (2012 Levy)
2022 Accomplishments
  • Readied Green Lake Branch for construction of earthquake retrofit in 2023.
  • Replaced HVAC equipment at Broadview Branch.
  • Substantially completed exterior improvements at the Douglass-Truth Branch, including reinstallation of the historic Soul Pole sculpture and ADA access improvements.
  • Continued to provide enhanced cleanings related to COVID-19 and increased incidence of vandalism at Library locations.
Ready for a Retrofit: Readied Green Lake Branch for construction of earthquake retrofit in 2023.

Library Levy Priority Survey

In the fall of 2021, we conducted a public survey that asked Seattle residents about their perceptions of the Library, how Library use had shifted during COVID-19 and preferred Library hours. The survey, which was available online and in print at all Library locations, was offered in English, Amharic, Chinese, Oromo, Somali, Spanish, Tigrinya and Vietnamese.
The Library received more than 4,600 responses from Library users, which comprised a sample largely representative in race, age, and gender of demographics within the city of Seattle. Survey responses have helped the Library plan for expanding levy-supported hours, which we will introduce in 2022. Key findings from the survey are included in a two-page summary. Thanks to all of our patrons who took the time to fill out the survey and provide us valuable feedback!

Read the Library Levy Survey Summary

Lea el resumen de la encuesta sobre impuestos de la biblioteca en español

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