From Interim Chief Librarian Tom Fay

Posted December 31, 2021 

Interim Chief Librarian Tom Fay
Interim Chief Librarian Tom Fay

Happy New Year from The Seattle Public Library!

As I reflect on 2021, I’m happy to share that there is a lot of Library news worth celebrating despite the ongoing challenges presented by COVID-19.

Faced with a second year of the pandemic, we were able to reopen all Library branches and our Mobile Services to the public; become a fully vaccinated workforce; restore pre-pandemic open hours at most locations; restore $5.8 million in Library budget reductions; and secure 2022 funding for priorities such as air conditioning installation at the Northeast and Southwest branches, essential building repairs, and additional Wi-Fi hot spots.

In 2021, we were also able to:

  • Reopen the Hugh and Jane Ferguson Seattle Room by appointment only, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays;
  • Reopen the Library Equal Access Program (LEAP) lab at the Central Library from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays;
  • Implement auto-renewal of your items up to three times if there is no hold on it;
  • Re-implement our Reserve A Computer service with an expanded two-hour time limit;
  • Re-implement our Museum Pass program, which provides free access to MoPOP, the Seattle Aquarium, The Museum of Flight and more;
  • Install Lockers at the High Point and Rainier Beach branches;
  • Add Washington State Discover Passes to our collection for free access to state parks;
  • Sign a reciprocal borrowing agreement with Tacoma Public Library; and
  • Acquire the Paul Dorpat local history collection, which includes thousands of photos, prints, film and audio clips, and more.

In 2021, our approach to pandemic-era service delivery was well-received by patrons. In a recent survey of nearly 5,000 Library patrons:

  • 98% of respondents see the Library as essential, like roads, schools and utilities;
  • 98% of respondents believe the Library improves the overall quality of life in the city;
  • 97% believe the Library is worth the money the community invests in it; and
  • 97% believe the Library is a critical community resource.

One patron put it to us this way: “I was unemployed and living alone during much of the last year and being able to check out books on my Kindle via SPL helped my mental health. Libraries are some of the best uses of tax dollars - ever!”

It makes our day to know we are helping our community through this challenging time. And with this good foundation and support in place, we enter 2022 with a healthy balance of optimism and caution. We are committed to delivering our collections, programs and services to you as efficiently and safely as possible.

As a community gathering space operating in a public health crisis, we take our responsibility to public health seriously. With delta and omicron variants of the virus proving to be highly transmissible, our community has once again seen a sharp uptick in COVID cases. We keep a close eye on this data and will proceed with new and expanded programs and services only when it is safe to do so.

And while this is discouraging news, it does appear that vaccines continue to protect against serious illness, while source control measures – like mask-wearing, frequent hand-washing, and physical distancing – are continuing to slow the transmission of the virus. Thank you for doing your part and continuing to wear masks while visiting our libraries. Lastly, in early 2022, the Library Board will begin to interview finalists for a new Chief Librarian. We will share more information about that process, the finalist candidates and opportunities for the public to engage with the finalists in the coming weeks. I’ve enjoyed serving in this interim role since April 2021 and will continue to do so until a permanent hire has been made.

Thank you, and see you at the Library!

Tom Fay
Interim Chief Librarian
The Seattle Public Library