The Seattle Public Library Named 2020 Gale/Library Journal Library of the Year

Deep Commitment to Equity, Collaboration with Community Drives Next-Level Service

SEATTLE, WA & NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 3 – The Seattle Public Library (SPL) is the 2020 Gale/Library Journal Library of the Year. Already a leading library system, The Seattle Public Library raised the bar even further by implementing an organization-wide focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion that informs every decision and has transformed how the library designs and promotes its offerings.

As the 2020 Library of the Year, SPL will receive a cash prize of $10,000, be featured on the cover of Library Journal’s (LJ’s) June 2020 issue, available in print and online, and will be honored during a live webcast on June 3, 2020 at 2 PM ET.

Established in 1992, each year the Library of the Year Award celebrates the library that most profoundly demonstrates service to the community, creativity and innovating in developing specific community programs or has seen dramatic increase in library use and leadership in creating programs emulated by other libraries. To learn more, visit here.

SPL’s numerous innovations – many of them in partnership – include:

  • Conversations throughout all corners of the city through SPL’s Community Engagement Services division, letting community members lead the way on what the library can do for them, such as:
    • Computer classes for Somali immigrants, held where they live, and collaboration on two Somali children’s books
    • Resources for patrons experiencing homelessness, including temporary library cards and an in-house social worker
    • The Legendary Children art, dance, and music event, aimed at LGBTQ communities of color
    • SPL’s STEAM-focused Summer of Learning, bringing summer reading to underserved areas of the city
    • Work with the Clear Sky Native Youth Council on designating a local Native landmark
  • Partnerships with the Seattle Office of Civil Rights, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, Seattle Housing Authority, and more
  • Programs on Equity at the Library and FUTURE-READYing Your Library, held at conferences and a range of other organizations
  • When the pandemic hit Washington State in March, SPL shut down its physical buildings in 36 hours flat. It then pivoted to all-remote, all digital service, extending hotspots and due dates, focusing on online chats, recommendations, and lending e-resources, and recently, opening five restrooms to serve the city’s unhoused population. When planning to reopen, the first step is to get rid of preconceived ideas about “returning to normal,” says Turner. Many services may continue to be offered online—users will have become accustomed to digital services and enjoy the convenience. As for the physical buildings, “people are going to come back when they feel comfortable,” he says. “We’ve got to do a lot to make them comfortable.”

“This award goes to each of our 700 staff members for their commitment to centering equity and community in our work,” said The Seattle Public Library’s Executive Director and Chief Librarian Marcellus Turner. “From prioritizing low-income children in preschool bookmobile stops to breaking barriers to access for the insecurely housed, library staff have been leading the way. Our staff has been persistent in pursing partnerships and community connections where our services are most needed and developing responsive programs and services. It’s also important to recognize the dedication of the staff who keep our buildings well-maintained and clean, the security staff who make patrons feel welcome and safe and the finance staff who ensure we are good stewards of public tax dollars. It is our entire organization that is responsible for our success and receipt of this award.”

“SPL consistently wowed the judges with its thorough, concrete methodology for making sure the library walks the walk on equity, and the way the library team brought that toolset to the field as a whole,” said Meredith Schwartz, editor-in-chief of Library Journal. “Personally, I’m particularly impressed with how Turner and his team acknowledged, apologized for, and moved forward from their mistakes in deeper conversation with the affected communities. It’s impossible for anyone to always get this work right the first time, so a willingness to learn and not get defensive is crucial.”

Also featured in the June 2020 issue of Library Journal are two other libraries honored with special mentions in the 2020 Library of the Year Award program. They are:

  • Anythink, Adams County, CO
  • San Antonio Public Library, TX

A team of LJ editors winnowed the competitive nomination pool to a group of semi-finalists, and each of those was evaluated by a panel of qualified industry professionals.

Click here to read more about The Seattle Public Library.

For award guidelines, visit here.

About Library Journal 
Founded in 1876, Library Journal is one of the oldest and most respected publications covering the library field. Over 75,000 library directors, administrators, and staff in public, academic, and special libraries read LJ. Library Journal reviews over 8,000 books, audiobooks, videos, databases, and websites annually, and provides coverage of technology, management, policy, and other professional concerns. For more information, visit www.libraryjournal.com. Library Journal is a publication of MSI Information Services, which also owns School Library Journal, The Horn Book, Junior Library Guild, and AKJ Education, Inc.

About Gale
Gale, a Cengage company, provides libraries with original and curated content, as well as the modern research tools and technology that are crucial in connecting libraries to learning, and learners to libraries. For more than 60 years, Gale has partnered with libraries around the world to empower the discovery of knowledge and insights – where, when, and how people need it. Gale has 500 employees globally with its main operations in Farmington Hills, Michigan. For more information, please visit here.

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Media Contact:

Kayla Siefker, Gale, a Cengage company

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