We are so lucky to have a wonderful Seattle Public Library branch right in our backyard.
September is Library Card Sign-up Month and The Seattle Public Library wants every Seattle resident to know about all the new and innovative services available for free with a card.
“The Library is much more than books,” said City Librarian Marcellus Turner. “You can check out a Wi-Fi hotspot, get tech help, attend a business workshop in Spanish, download movies and music, get help filing your taxes and receive librarian assistance 24 hours a day. Signing up for a Library card is easy and it’sfree.”
The Library has six unique cards to choose from. Sign up on-line or visit any Library location.
The Library registered nearly 10,000 people for Library cards last September and is working to surpass that number this year with a widespread “With My Library Card I Can” campaign. The Library currently has more than 375,000 cardholders.
Leading the campaign to highlight all the ways the Library benefits children, teens and adults are: Theresa Fujiwara, president of The Seattle Public Library board of trustees and Beacon Hill resident; Ross Baker, president of The Seattle Public Library Foundation and Wedgwood neighborhood resident; and Carmen Bendixen, president of the Friends of The Seattle Public Library and Green Lake resident.
Fujiwara, Baker, and Bendixen are the faces and voices promoting the many ways the Library empowers every resident and improves the quality of life in our city.
Each one recognized the value and importance of the Library at an early age, which contributed to their desire to support the ongoing work of the Library in their current leadership roles.
Fujiwara grew up within walking distance of the Columbia Branch. “The Columbia Branch was my second home,” she said. Fujiwara said her role model for reading was her mother. “She was a book worm. She never had enough books. I think it just rubbed off on me.”
Fujiwara said the vital role of the Library became even more apparent to her after graduating from college and becoming a social worker. “If you are a community organizer, you are always thinking of the logistics of getting people together and organizing,” she said. “What I witnessed in my work was that libraries were these natural gathering places – they provided a sense of belonging and an opportunity for groups to come together and network and have a collective voice.”
Fujiwara, who helped establish Seattle’s Asian Counseling and Referral Services early in her career, said that what inspires her most about the Library is how it makes all people feel welcome and comfortable. “Immigrant and refugee parents can come into the Library and see people just like them – there are no divisions of people, or income – it is the most democratic of places. You don’t have to meet anyone else’s agenda. The Library is always there to help you navigate and help get you what you need.”
Fujiwara, who also worked with immigrant and refugee communities for the Annie E. Casey Foundation after stints under Mayors Norm Rice and Paul Schell, is currently associate vice president for community services at United Way of King County.
The Library Board president said the books that have been most important and influential to her are rooted in ethnic studies and social justice, such as “A Testament of Hope: The Writings and Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” and “America is in the Heart,” by Carlos Bulosan.
Baker, head of the Library Foundation, grew up on Beacon Hill. His first experience with The Seattle Public Library was at his elementary school, where the bookmobile would visit. “It gave us all a sense of empowerment and joy when it arrived,” he said. Baker supplemented those visits by regularly using the Beacon Hill Branch – which at that time was located in a former grocery store. “I felt like I read every book in the branch. I gravitated toward biographies and nonfiction,” he said. “And it was always a treat to be able to come to the Central Library.”
Baker said he always participated in the children’s Summer Reading Program and is “very happy” the Library now has an adult summer reading program.
Baker, an attorney who works as the public policy director for Virginia Mason Medical Center, is an avid reader and founder of a popular nonfiction book club. “The book club has about 30 participants and I get a lot of great reading recommendations from my branch librarians,” he said. He enjoys attending Library author programs, noting memorable readings by Walter Mosley, David McCullough and Isabel Allende. He also has used the Library’s database for genealogy research.
Before he joined the Foundation Board, Baker was instrumental in the 1998 Libraries for All campaign that resulted in new or improved library buildings, as well as the 2012 Library Levy. “I believe fund-raising for the Library is important because the Library provides educational opportunities for all the city’s residents and readers,” he said. “It stimulates your creativity and teaches you so much – even how to fix things in your home or car!”
Baker said he encourages everyone he knows to get a Library card. “A Library card gives you free access to so many online resources that are currently being offered for a fee,” he said. “The Library has subscriptions to myriad databases and services – such as newspapers – that would cost a person hundreds if not thousands of dollars per year.”
Bendixen grew up on the rural Olympic Peninsula, using the Timberland Regional Library. “There was a little library a couple of blocks from my elementary school, and our class would walk to the library to check out books once a month,” she said. “I went through books like tissues.”
She regularly used school libraries in high school and college. “They were my sanctuaries,” she said. While attending Willamette University in Oregon, she had the opportunity to work in the university library one summer. “It was a great job – I got to process all the new periodicals, so I’d be the first to see all the new issues,” she said.
After attending graduate school in Philadelphia, she came back to Seattle to work as a transportation planner. “One of the first things I did was get my Library card from The Seattle Public Library,” said Bendixen, who frequents the Green Lake, Greenwood and Central libraries. “I knew the Library was a great place to explore resources and get to know more people.” That’s how she ended up getting involved with the Friends. “I had some free time on the weekends and began volunteering at the Central Library FriendShop.”
She did Friends committee work before becoming the Friends president, and helped on the 2012 Library Levy campaign.
Bendixen said she is thrilled when her friends tell her how much they love the Library. “I have a friend who is a real techie, who I thought would not be much of a Library user, but he is a big e-book user and appreciates the fact The Seattle Public Library is so welcoming and is always innovating with new programs,” she said.
Bendixen said she reads both print and e-books and checks out movies all the time. “I’m in a movie club, so I’m always seeing what the Library has available through streaming and services like Hoopla,” she said. She also enjoys browsing the Library’s digital collection of historical Seattle photos.
“Having experienced the way that libraries affect a rural community, I have a renewed sense of appreciation of the resources they brought to me as a young person,” she said. “By seeing how many books, music, periodicals and other materials were available, even though it was a tiny collection compared to what The Seattle Public Library has, it gave me an idea of the wider world. This idea of possibility, when combined with how often the library served as a community gathering space – and not just for a neighborhood but a whole town – I can see now that my family and I were very lucky to have such a resource.”
For more information about services of The Seattle Public Library or its support groups, call 206-386-4636, or visit www.spl.org.