As the new director of the King County Library System, I am excited to relocate to the beautiful Pacific Northwest, and am honored to be given the opportunity to serve as leader of one of the finest library systems in the country — one with such a rich history and promising future.
While I am sorry to have missed KCLS’s 75th birthday celebrations last year, I am happy to be here to mark another important milestone: the completion of KCLS’s $172 million Capital Improvement Plan approved by voters in 2004. Our final two projects — a new Kent Panther Lake Library and the remodel of Boulevard Park Library — will fulfill a promise to patrons to build 17 new libraries, renovate 15 libraries and expand 11 other libraries and two parking lots. The plan increased the footprint of the library system by 30 percent; its culmination is definitely cause for celebration.
One of the many things that drew me here is KCLS’s new strategic focus: a renewed commitment to listening and responding to our patrons and communities, and to create opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with each other through an array of programs and services.
I have 30 years of experience working at various library systems throughout the country and it is not as common as you might think for libraries to have a clearly defined strategic focus. But it is a critically important leadership tool and one I wholeheartedly embrace. Libraries have the power to change people’s lives and having a specific goal to work toward gives purpose to that power. I am impressed that the undertaking to identify a new strategic focus was not only far-sighted, but also incorporated broad public input through surveys, meetings and other community interactions.
I am confident that KCLS’s strategic focus reflects the values our patrons and staff told us were important to them. Those values — knowledge, diversity, equity and inclusion and intellectual freedom — provide the framework for us to continue to build on community partnerships that KCLS has developed over the years.
For example, we work with county government to provide library service to incarcerated youth at juvenile-detention facilities. We bring books and programs to summer camps through our partnership with the YMCA. Library staff work with local food banks to provide summer meals for children who qualify for free- or reduced-priced meals during the school year. And mobile services vehicles serve residents in assisted-living facilities, homeless encampments and other locations to connect those who do not have access to a library with the materials, programs and resources they need.
Whether you’re attending a story time with your child, participating in a library-sponsored book club, seeking assistance with income taxes or a job search, attending a program on technology or simply spending an afternoon browsing the shelves, all of us at KCLS look forward to bringing communities together for a new year of growth, learning and enrichment.
Lisa Rosenblum is the director of the King County Library System.