KCLS Exceeds 7 Million Digital Downloads in an Online Pandemic Year

It has been nearly a year since the coronavirus was first reported in King County, and we continue to see the toll the pandemic has taken. But as we reflect back on a tough year, King County Library System has some good news to relay, thanks to resilient patrons and our hard-working library staff and supporters.

The numbers are in, and 2020 proved to be a record-breaking year for online library use. KCLS patrons checked out 7,408,428 digital titles in 2020—up 30.5% from last year, making KCLS the No. 2 digital circulating library in the United States and No. 3 in the world. KCLS’ per capita digital usage remains the highest in the U.S. based on data from Rakuten OverDrive, a digital reading platform used by libraries nation-wide.

We anticipated the numbers would be high, given public-health mandates requiring people to stay home and stay safe. But it is gratifying to see the degree to which King County residents turned to their Library System, adapting to online programs, services and resources. Another noteworthy point: KCLS saw a 226% increase in eCard applicants, who took advantage of everything from online newspapers to streaming services.

While buildings were closed, KCLS’ usually robust in-library program attendance understandably fell. However, nearly one hundred thousand logins were recorded for our adult, teen and children’s online programs during 2020. Logins are the standard method for tracking online program attendance, and it shows the desire among patrons of all ages to remain engaged with their Library, whether accessing Story Times or information on economic empowerment, to learning how to Zoom or Zumba.

We know that many of those logins represented families; parents, grandparents and kids who attend programs together. One such “gathering” was a bilingual Story Time held on Facebook Live as part of our annual Dia De Los Niños/Day of the Child programming. KCLS registered a whopping 39,000 logins.

The Library System is all about public service, and our ability to adapt has yielded ongoing innovations that include Curbside to Go; new lockers that allow 24/7 pickup, and expanded Wi-Fi hot spots.

We have forged partnerships with King County government and local organizations, helping to distribute masks and personal protective equipment. Our partnerships continue in 2021, bolstered by nearly $1.2 million in grant funding from the KCLS Foundation that will support programs and services ranging from children’s literacy and digital equity initiatives to providing mobile services to people experiencing homelessness.

We look forward to when staff can engage again with our patrons in person. Until then, we will continue to come together online as we offer a new year of programming and services that support learning, growth, and opportunities for meaningful connection.