On Nov. 3, 1942, a shared vision of democratic ideals and equal access to information became reality when King County voters approved the formation of the King Country Rural Library District — what we know today as the King County Library System.
With Election Day coming up on Nov. 7, it is fitting to acknowledge the significance of that vote 75 years ago. It established the legal and funding structures to create and maintain a legacy that continues to this day. The King County Library System is one of the most highly regarded library systems in the nation thanks to support from King County voters throughout the years.
With every election, voters are reminded of the responsibilities of citizenship and the importance of civic engagement. Faced with making choices at the ballot box that have social, political and economic ramifications, a knowledgeable and well-informed citizenry is as important as ever.
Libraries can help. A wealth of resources is available at any of KCLS’ 49 locations, and our expert staff is available to help patrons access the information they need to keep current on candidates and ballot measures. KCLS also encourages patrons to actively participate in conversations on topics that affect communities, both locally and nationally. Programs like “Everyone’s Talking About It” bring people together to talk about issues that potentially spark disagreement. The “town hall” format offers a moderated setting that promotes respectful dialog so that audience members can learn from others’ experiences and gain perspective on differing viewpoints.
Working in partnership with King County Elections to help lower barriers and improve access for registered voters, KCLS has ballot boxes at 16 libraries throughout the county: Algona-Pacific, Auburn, Bellevue, Boulevard Park, Covington, Enumclaw, Fairwood, Fall City, Kingsgate, Shoreline, Skyway, Snoqualmie, Valley View, Vashon, White Center and Woodinville. In addition, Bellevue Library is an accessible voting center — one of only four in King County — where trained staff and specialized equipment are available to help voters with disabilities cast a private, independent ballot.
For many residents who are studying to become United States citizens, KCLS offers classes where participants can practice reading and speaking English, and take mock interview and citizenship tests. KCLS proudly hosts naturalization ceremonies throughout the year where we celebrate our newest citizens as they recite the Oath of Allegiance in culmination of their hard work and determination.
Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, well-known for his gifts of public libraries across the United States, said, “There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.”
In our mission to inspire the people of King County to succeed through ideas, interaction and information, KCLS is committed to keeping the cradle rocking.
Stephen A. Smith is the interim director of the King County Library System.