KCLS: Looking back on accomplishments, and forward to safely reopening

During a year of uncertainty, upheaval and unprecedented impacts, King County Library System has worked hard to remain a steadfast, positive presence in the community.

Reflecting back, we are so appreciative of our patrons, who not only adapted to new ways of accessing library resources, but also sent us countless emails expressing support and gratitude for our efforts.

The coronavirus gave us new terms–lockdowns, social-distancing, masking-up and pivoting–that required us to find different ways to provide existing services. It also created the need to develop new services for those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Staff responded quickly and creatively, and KCLS was honored to be recognized for their work. Our Find Financial Assistance service, a program that helps people recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19, was named by the Urban Libraries Council as a 2020 Top Innovator in the Workforce and Economic Development category. The program connects residents with KCLS librarians who create customized information and resources for assistance with rent, unemployment claims, food, and other pressing needs in times of financial crisis. Find Financial Assistance, also available in Spanish, offers an economic lifeline and illustrates the importance of libraries, especially when times are tough.

Another bright spot in this challenging year is the recent announcement that KCLS was once again ranked a five-Star Library–the highest possible rating–in Library Journal’s 13th Annual Index of Public Library Services. Of the 5,608 public libraries reviewed nationwide, KCLS was among 262 to earn a three-, four- or five-Star ranking based on per-capita statistics in seven categories: physical circulation; circulation of electronic materials; library visits; program attendance; public internet computer use; Wi-Fi sessions; and electronic retrievals - a new category that measures the use of online content, including databases.

A five-Star rating is a tremendous honor, as it recognizes KCLS’ overall excellence and demonstrates a strong return on taxpayers’ investment in their libraries.

We know that our patrons look to us for a wide range of resources, and the good news is that KCLS has continued to serve the public during the pandemic, delivering a host of contactless services and online programs that provide trustworthy information, educational opportunities, entertainment, and enrichment. With plans to expand many of these services in 2021, including Curbside to Go and 24/7 lockers, KCLS also will lengthen book-drop hours, extend due dates for oversized items, and waive all late fees accrued since March 1, 2020, until further notice. And thanks to a grant from King County, work is underway to install equipment that increases access to KCLS' Wi-Fi signal even further beyond the exterior of our buildings.

KCLS continues planning and preparations to reopen library buildings with limited services. However, we will not enter that phase in January as hoped, due to ongoing restrictions and current spikes in coronavirus cases. 

This has undoubtedly been an unusual journey, but we look ahead to 2021 with optimism. We will continue to strive to be an uplifting force in the lives of King County residents, and wish everyone a safe and healthy new year.