Heat Wave and All, Eager KCLS Patrons Flock Back to Reopened Libraries

The King County Library System likes to remind residents that we are here for them.

This was true throughout the pandemic, when we continued to offer online programming, resources and contactless ways to pick up holds, such as Curbside to Go and 24/7 lockers.

It also was true during the area’s recent heat wave. Amid soaring temperatures, we opened 10 libraries as cooling centers on Monday, June 28, when libraries are normally closed. More than 2,500 people came in to beat the heat.

We are also here for you now in our buildings and in person. As of July 14, all 50 of our libraries are open for in-building service at 100% capacity, per revised state health guidelines. We welcomed 64,853 patrons between July 1 and July 16, with many expressing gratitude for our online services throughout the pandemic, but also eager to return to their community libraries. Patrons lined up outside even before buildings opened, then went straight to the shelves to browse and read. They checked out books, movies and music; picked up holds and printouts; used computers and sought help from our knowledgeable staff. A reopening story captures patrons’ enthusiasm.

Staff are grateful to finally provide information and resources in person. Most locations are open five days per week, Tuesday through Saturday. Services will be modified at first and expand over time.

KCLS also continues to increase access to services and opportunities. In time for the August 3 Primary Election, we have installed another King County Elections Ballot Box. Julie Wise, King County Director of Elections, and Councilmember Dave Upthegrove (5th District), attended a ribbon-cutting at Kent Panther Lake for the 23rd ballot box placed at a KCLS library.

The Library System also is pursuing ways to improve digital equity and access. I was recently invited by Senator Patty Murray to participate in a roundtable discussion of federal investments in broadband internet access. I shared my analysis of the current needs of KCLS patrons and communities, and the services we provide to address them.

Senator Murray is sponsoring the Digital Equity Act of 2021 to expand access to broadband for citizens who historically have been underserved, and who may lack the skills, technologies and support to fully participate in our society, democracy and economy. The legislation would establish two grant programs to promote an array of digital inclusion projects at the state and local levels, including digital literacy education; improving online accessibility and social services for individuals with disabilities. KCLS pursues grant funding that benefits our users and increases digital equity throughout King County.

Finally, Summer Reading Program continues for all ages continues through August 31. Visit kcls.org/summer to sign up, track time, and register for online events.

You can take advantage of your community library in so many ways. We are, indeed, here for you. Welcome back!