In February, the King County Library System (KCLS) Board of Trustees adopted a resolution to place a levy measure on the August 4 ballot. Facing a growing budget deficit, a levy lid lift allows KCLS to sustain library programs and services at the level our communities expect and need.
King County residents have historically voted in favor of levy measures to support library operations. But as stewards of taxpayer dollars, KCLS is acutely aware of the economic impacts of COVID-19 and the uncertainty it presents for residents, businesses, and other public service agencies. After careful consideration, the KCLS Board of Trustees has decided to forego placing a levy measure on the August ballot, or any other ballot during the 2020 election year.
As we anticipate the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, KCLS has implemented a hiring freeze and other cost savings measures to scale back expenditures immediately. And the KCLS Foundation is actively seeking federal funds through the CARES Act and other grant opportunities to mitigate the potential impact on fundraising that is vital to KCLS programming.
In the meantime, KCLS remains committed to supporting parents, students, caregivers, and all library users during the Stay at Home order. KCLS has quickly shifted popular library programs and services online, such as Story Times, book clubs, art programs, music classes, and homework help, and staff have created a variety of new programs for virtual audiences, including one called “Cat Chat,” a clever children's program where younger patrons can join a children’s librarian online while she reads to her cat.
KCLS has focused greater attention on our vast collection of digital resources - and library users have responded. Ask KCLS, which provides assistance to patrons via phone, email, and chat has seen a 48% increase in usage. Social engagement among our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram networks has increased 253%. More than 6,800 people have signed up for a library eCard – a 351% increase over the same period last year. There has been a 33% increase in eBook checkouts and online newspaper readership has surged.
As we do each year, library professionals celebrate National Library Week to highlight the valuable role libraries and library workers play in transforming lives and strengthening communities. National Library Week was April 19-25 and this year’s theme, “Find Your Place at the Library” was changed to “Find the Library at Your Place” as libraries have pivoted to online services while buildings remain closed. Staff will continue to rise to the challenge of creating new and innovative ways to reach and engage patrons, and help them navigate the complexities the current situation presents.
KCLS is still here for you. If you haven’t already, we hope you will find the library at your place soon.