King County Library System remains responsive and innovative amid pandemic

In a year of unforeseen challenges and considerable change, King County Library System has responded by adapting programs and services in new and innovative ways.

On October 6, Governor Inslee updated Phase 2 of Washington’s Safe Start plan, which will allow libraries to partially reopen at 25% capacity. KCLS is still working on its reopening plan, but the public can expect Curbside to Go and online programming to continue, while modified operations at some or all buildings will resume with reduced hours and limited access to services and technology. Mask and physical distancing requirements will remain in place to ensure compliance with protocols that keep the health and safety of library visitors and staff a top priority. More details will be shared on as plans unfold.

Newly installed lockers for holds pickup at the Bothell and Covington Libraries are predicted to be a big hit with our patrons. The lockers are private, secure, and can be selected as a preferred pickup location when holds are placed through the KCLS catalog. They are accessible 24/7 and offer another convenient option in addition to Curbside to Go service, which is heavily used.

As we continually explore funding to support our strategic initiatives, KCLS recently was selected as a grant recipient for a King County program promoting “Digital Equity for Adults with Barriers to Access and Services.” The $46,000 grant will allow further expansion of Wi-Fi hotspots, and provide funding to install teleconferencing equipment in study rooms for patron use. A second grant from King County for $20,000 will help KCLS purchase Chromebooks and more hotspots to circulate to populations hardest hit by COVID-19.

The KCLS Foundation also has provided funding that enables Mobile Services to expand services to people experiencing homelessness. In accordance with Safe Start requirements, KCLS provides service to 17 outreach locations, including Tent Cities, day and night shelters, transitional housing sites and low-income apartments. All locations have received Wi-Fi hotspots, and 12 locations are receiving totes with books and magazines. King County and the City of Renton donated hygiene supplies and backpacks for more than 200 people, and KCLS is providing themed Activity Kits designed to inspire learning and social connection.

The Library System’s long-standing partnership with King County Elections (KCE) has always been essential during an election year. This year, KCE placed ballot boxes at two more KCLS libraries – Carnation and Black Diamond – in its effort to increase access to secure voting sites throughout the County. KCE is also launching a “Hit 90” campaign to increase registered voter turnout to 90%. KCLS is supporting the campaign by placing KCE voter information postcards (written in both English and Spanish) in Curbside to Go surprise bags for patrons.

KCLS also offers trustworthy, bipartisan voter resources on our website, ranging from how to submit a ballot to a history on U.S. Elections. A video presentation by Kendall Hodson, King County Elections Chief of Staff, offers a “behind-the-scenes” look at how ballots are received, processed, validated and tracked. A link to the presentation, along with much more information, can be found at

The pandemic certainly has shaped how we have responded to our patrons’ needs, but it has not changed KCLS’ mission to build welcoming, inclusive communities. The commitment to our vision and values has led to the creation of a new department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Our new DEI Director, Dominica Myers, was hired in October and will be focused on creating equitable and inclusive experiences for patrons and staff from all backgrounds.

KCLS strives to provide relevant programs and services that are responsive to community needs. And we will keep up that effort as we learn to adapt to new challenges and the opportunities they create.