Special message from the Chief Librarian
Keep updated on the Library’s response to Washington’s COVID-19 outbreak.
From Chief Librarian Marcellus Turner
Updated May 12, 2020
As you know, The Seattle Public Library was called upon to support the City, County, and State’s efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our communities by closing our buildings until at least April 13. With Mayor Jenny A. Durkan’s continued extension of public facility closures announced today, all Library buildings will remain closed until at least May 31.
Your health and safety continue to be our top priorities at this time. Mayor Durkan, the Library Board of Trustees and I agree that continuation of current measures are critical to protecting our patrons, staff and volunteers from unnecessary COVID-19 exposure.
Please know that, while our buildings may be closed, we have many wonderful resources and services you can access online 24 hours a day, including a vast digital collection of books, movies and music – as well as personal online assistance. In addition, Library staff members across our city are working to deliver and develop online services and programs to help our community make it through this very challenging time.
Whether you are a student, small business owner, newly unemployed professional or are insecurely housed, the Library is working hard to be here for you in new and creative ways. We are reaching out to our community partners in education and those who serve our most vulnerable populations to ensure we are meeting their needs in this unprecedented time.
We remain committed to our mission and our values of promoting access for all, equitable service delivery and educational resources for every member of our community.
You can stay current on these efforts at spl.org/StayingHome and our social media channels on Facebook and Twitter for updates. Highlighted below are some of the services we’ve launched since our building closures, but know that our talented staff are working on more ideas we are excited to explore:
- Instant Access Digital Library Card: If you do not currently have a Library Card, this instant digital Library card will give you immediate access to our collection of e-books and e-audiobooks through our vendor OverDrive. To sign up for this service, you have to be 13 years of age or older, live in Seattle and have a mobile phone to verify your account.
- LibraryLink Student and Teacher Access: If you are a Seattle Public School student in grades 6-12, or you are a Seattle Public School teacher in grades 6-12, or at a K-8 school, you can access the Library’s digital books and online resources through a LibraryLink digital card. Since our closure, we have been working on providing the same access to elementary students.
- Supporting Our Most Vulnerable Patrons: Since the Library's COVID-19 closure, we have been working with the city and community partners to provide support to patrons experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity during this time. Our work includes lending long-term Wi-Fi HotSpots for stable internet access to tiny home villages, as well as opening up five Library facilities to provide reliable restroom access seven days a week.
- Virtual Story times: Our Children Services Librarians are bringing our popular children’s story times to our Facebook channel. Join live, or watch later, as librarians sing songs and read engaging stories to children. However, it is worth noting these story times are equally as soothing and engaging to stressed-out parents.
- Small Business and Nonprofit Support: Our Library to Business team is offering one-on-one appointments for small businesses and nonprofits via online conference software, email or phone. This program helps nonprofits and small businesses identify and navigate resources available to them. Make a one-on-one appointment with us or browse through our COVID-19-related resource lists for nonprofits and small businesses.
- More E-books and E-audiobooks: In response to a large increase in e-collection usage, the Library is working hard to bring more copies and titles to this collection to meet demand. The Seattle Public Library Foundation is planning to help us with the efforts to provide additional digital resources and access during this period.
- Community Wi-Fi HotSpots: Prior to our closure, the Library had worked with housing and social services partners to lend Wi-Fi HotSpots to communities living with no or limited internet access, such as low-income housing developments and tiny home villages. The Library has extended loan periods for these devices during our closure so communities can stay connected.
- Your Next Five Books and Your Next Skill: These two services provide personalized Librarian-curated content and resources to help readers and learners of all ages choose their next book or master their next skill. This customized service can keep home-bound Seattleites learning and growing.
- Ask Us: Library staff continue to be available to you each day to help answer your questions. Contact us if you’re a parent or teacher looking for ways to engage your students in this new remote learning environment. Contact us if you are one of the many people experiencing loss of employment and you need help finding available resources. Contact us if you are simply bored and need help finding something to entertain you. We are ready to assist.
Lastly, I want to share how very proud I am of the work our staff has accomplished in this time – we have adapted quickly and creatively in very difficult times. Staff members are able to conduct these services while working from home – a tremendous short-term achievement in its own right.
However, while we are very grateful to be able to serve the public in these ways and at this time, our hearts are heavy that we cannot open our doors each day and interact with you in person as you navigate this difficult time. There is no substitute for the relationships we have developed with our neighborhood communities and we can’t wait to be back in full service to you as soon as we can.
Thank you and stay safe,
Marcellus Turner, Executive Director and Chief Librarian
FAQs about what the closure means for you
What, if any, Library services will be available during this closure?
We will continue to provide the many digital services you have come to love, such as our Ask Us reference service (available by phone, chat and email); e-books and e-audiobooks; streaming TV, movie and music services; digital subscriptions to newspapers and magazines; and more. We are also hosting a number of virtual programs, such as story times on Facebook Live, virtual Play and Learn groups, programs for people ages 50 and older, business trainings and more. See spl.org/calendar for a full list.
You can also see a list of our digital services at spl.org/StayingHome.
I don’t have a Library card. Can I apply for one online?
Yes! If you don’t have an active account with The Seattle Public Library, go to spl.org/card to sign up for a digital Library card. To be eligible, you must be 13 years or older, live in Seattle and have a mobile phone to verify your account. People who successfully sign up will get immediate access to the OverDrive collection of 200,000 e-books and e-audiobooks, and to the rest of the Library’s resources within two or three days.
Also, through our Library Link program, if you are a Seattle Public School student in grades K-12, or a Seattle Public School teacher in grades K-12, you can access the Library’s digital books and online resources. Find out more at spl.org/LibraryLink.
I have a Library card, but can’t figure out how to sign onto my account online.
Have due dates been extended?
Due dates for all materials have been extended to until we reopen, when the Library is expected to reopen (though that date may change). We may consider adjusting due dates to be staggered after the Library’s reopening date to manage how many materials are returning to the system. We will post an update once we have that information.
Can I check out digital materials if my account was suspended at the time of the Library closure?
If an item you’ve checked out was already overdue before the Library closed, it is still overdue; those due dates were not extended. But overdue items will not age to “lost-item status,” meaning patrons will not be billed and will still be able to check out digital items. The policy of suspending accounts when an item is 14 days overdue has also been eliminated during the closure, so patrons with overdue items will still be able to access electronic resources during the closure.
Patrons with items in “lost” status at the time of the closure (one month or more overdue) will be blocked from accessing digital materials, but we are exploring options for restoring digital access for those patrons.
Can you extend check-out periods for e-books and e-audiobooks?
Unfortunately, we are not able to increase the number of available copies of digital materials at this time. Because digital materials are licensed on a cost-per-use basis and/or are more expensive than print materials, additional copies of e-books and e-audiobooks or increased limits on streaming services is not in the current budget. Our staff are watching trends closely, and we will continue to review our internal systems to determine if there is a way to make adjustments to digital lending parameters.
How can I stay up to date on Library operations during the closure and what’s available?
We will post updates on spl.org, as well as our social media channels on Facebook and Twitter. When there are major updates, such as anticipated re-openings or extended closures, we will reach out to patrons via email as well.
Can I contact the Library through chat, email or phone during the closure?
Will patrons be able to pick up book holds during this closure?
At this time, we do not anticipate making material holds available during the closure. Patrons can keep materials that are currently checked out until we re-open. We will be sure to give you plenty of notice when we are ready to re-implement due dates.
What will happen to the holds I’ve already placed?
Holds you have placed in your account on physical materials will still be listed in your account, but will be suspended until we re-open. These holds will begin filling when we reopen, with a minimum of seven days to be picked up. You can still place (and retrieve) holds of digital materials. You can pick up holds that were on the shelves at the time of the closure when the Library re-opens.
Will patrons be able to return items to the Library during this closure?
No, all book drops will be inoperable during this closure, so please hold onto your materials for the time being. As noted, we have extended due dates until after the closure.
What will happen in Library buildings while they are closed?
We will be conducting deep cleanings of Library locations, keeping our buildings secure, and keeping our digital resources available to you. Some administrative work will also occur. As part of the citywide response to COVID-19, we have also opened up five Library facilities to provide reliable restroom access seven days a week.
Will library parking garages remain open during this closure?
Most library parking garages will close for the duration of the Library’s closure. The Central Library parking garage, however, is open for a discounted rate of $7 a day, during its regular hours: Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 8:45 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Will the Bookmobile or Books by Mail be available during the closure?
All mobile services, including Bookmobile activities, will be suspended during the closure. It is possible we may reactivate some of these services during the closure depending on staffing levels.