Women at a Kent homeless shelter, determined to rebuild their lives, were thrilled when KCLS Mobile Services arrived.
Susy P., KCLS Outreach Service Specialist, came bearing eagerly awaited items: books, music CDs, DVDs, laptops and Wi-Fi hot-spot devices.
“This is awesome,” said resident Denise T., eyeing crates full of library materials and several laptops. “Housing is very important, but so are resources!”
The King County Library System is all about resources and access. Yet not all patrons can get to their local library so the library comes to them.
In 2020, battling the coronavirus required county-wide closures to control infection rates. These closures posed challenges to Mobile Services staff used to providing in-person service. Successful continuation of service meant reinventing outreach operations and adopting contactless delivery, said Christine A., KCLS Outreach Services Coordinator. In July, Library2Go vehicles once more hit the road. Staff adhered to strict public health protocols, wearing facial masks and socially distancing and dropping off items outside front doors.
Mobile Services distributes materials to a spectrum of patrons, including veterans, children and families, older adults, people with disabilities and those experiencing homelessness. Outreach locations include childcares, assisted living facilities, rehabilitation centers, churches, food banks, emergency shelters and other sites.
In 2020, Mobile Services served 38,592 people. Staff say that visits prompted deep gratitude from patrons, including many who said the deliveries “saved” them.
KCLS Outreach Specialist Carrie H. recalls visiting one assisted living site, where vulnerable residents felt isolated due to quarantine restrictions. A resident asked to talk to her through his bedroom window.
“I waved to him and he started crying,” Carrie said. “I put my gloved hand up to the window, and he put his hand up to his side of the window and said, ‘You have no idea what your movies meant to all of us in here all these months...I wanted to be sure to tell you how much it has helped us to get through this time.’ ”
KCLS’ ability to provide such meaningful connections received a boost from the KCLS Foundation and King County. The Foundation, which supports outreach activities, was awarded two important county grants: $20,000 from the Office of Equity and Social Justice and $46,000 from the Digital Equity Program for Vulnerable Adults. The former focuses on outreach to people experiencing homeless, including technology access, employment and human services.
The second grant provides laptops and hot spot devices as “digital bridges” to those without access to technology. An estimated 4,540 people took advantage of hot-spot devices in 2020. Both grants carry over into 2021.
Wendy P., KCLS Older Adults Program Coordinator, delivered laptops and/or hot spots to residents at King County Housing Authority and SHAG (Sustainable Housing for Ageless Generations) facilities. Patrons were “super-excited” to finally get connected to friends, family members and others via the internet and Zoom, she said.
Susy P. saw the same excitement at the women’s shelter, where they immediately turned on laptops to look up information, resources, YouTube videos and find inspiration.
“We’re looking up quotes and things,” said shelter resident Jennifer P. “The laptops help you explore your interests, and how to find the purpose of your life,” she said.
Resident Kassandra B. said she will use a laptop to connect with family, continue her education and find a paralegal job.
“I’ve never been very motivated, but now I have a goal,” she said. “This is the best I’ve felt in a long time. Accessing information and resources is really important for what I am doing. For now, with COVID, it’s amazing that the library is doing this.”