KCLS Responding Positively to Challenging Times

The King County Library System is adept at adapting, and that’s a good thing. Change seems to be the name of the game.

Back in March, few could have foreseen that we would still be in the midst of a pandemic as we enter the fall. Like other businesses and organizations, KCLS has continued to pivot to meet our patrons’ needs, and we will keep doing so, offering fun, enriching and educational programs online, as well as Curbside to Go service for holds pickup and book returns.

Among other changes will be two new staff who will help guide our efforts through these challenging times.

The King County Library System Foundation has announced the selection of Ken Ryals as its new Executive Director. Ken has spent the past 16 years at Microsoft, most recently with Microsoft Philanthropies and Corporate Responsibility, where he managed internal and external fundraising campaigns that generated more than $700 million globally. He helped launch Microsoft’s first-ever Giving Tuesday campaign, built partnerships and programs that led to positive social impacts, and expanded digital audience reach and engagement. Ken has an MBA in Finance from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and an undergraduate degree from Pacific Lutheran University. What excites him most about KCLS is its mission and reach across the county, and how the Foundation, as the fundraising arm of KCLS, can make an impact on the communities we serve.

In the next few weeks, KCLS also will be interviewing candidates for a newly created Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This position will further strengthen our commitment to serving people of all ages, abilities, genders, ethnicities, cultures and economic backgrounds.

Despite the pandemic, KCLS has remained focused on addressing the needs of our diverse communities. We offer a wide range of programming and resources in multiple languages; support social-justice initiatives; partner with nonprofit organizations and other public agencies to expand access to services and resources for underrepresented communities, and continue to advocate on a local and national level for digital equity.

The pandemic forced KCLS to shift much of its programming online. Our first-ever online Summer Reading Program saw staff pulling out all the stops to offer engaging programs and reading opportunities for all ages. The KCLS Foundation also donated nearly 13,000 books to give to children at summer camp and summer meal sites, many of whom are from low-income households.

Our Author Voices series, which connects book lovers with local authors, includes LGBTQ, Native American, Latinx and other writers representing marginalized voices. The interactive, livestream events allow participants to engage in a moderated conversation with the author, who gives a book talk on one of their recent titles. Featured authors have included Molly Wizenberg, discussing her memoir The Fixed Stars, Terese Marie Mailhot (Heart Berries) and Cristina Henriquez (The Book of Unknown Americans).

KCLS expects that Curbside to Go service will continue to be extremely busy in the fall. As of August 18, patrons have placed nearly 460,000 holds and more than 69,000 curbside pickup reservations, with many more walk-ups. Patron have checked out 326,705 items since the service launched July 1.

And as children and teens return to online classrooms, access to KCLS’ digital resources will support the homeschooling needs of students, teachers, parents, and caregivers.

We are grateful to our patrons who have expressed appreciation for all that their libraries have to offer–even while buildings remain closed during Phase 2. And we will continue to find ways to keep you connected in the months ahead.