The earliest “library story” I remember is the summer reading program at the Jacksonville Public Library.
Summer reading was one of my favorite events each year, and I vividly recall getting a blue ribbon for my efforts. Mrs. Spencer, the children’s librarian, made it feel like something really special. Although it was a small gesture at the time, it made a big difference in my life.
When people find out where I work, almost everyone has a library story to share with me. Some reminisce about a beloved librarian, a favorite neighborhood branch or visits to the bookmobile. Others remember a book or program that had a profound impact. For most of us, public libraries have long been part of our lives and a place that evokes fond memories.
In King County, we’re fortunate to have a long, vibrant history of library stories — 75 years’ worth to be exact. In 1942, during the midst of World War II, a group of passionate community members decided that everyone in King County should have access to information and resources, and put forward a ballot initiative to establish the King County Rural Library District. Voters overwhelmingly approved it.
Boulevard Park was the first library to join the system in 1943, followed by Richmond Beach a few months later, and KCLS was off and running. Next year, we look forward to opening our 50th library.
In KCLS’ early days, patrons browsed printed catalogs to search for books and rural residents were served by Belinda the Bookmobile. Today, people are reading eBooks and taking classes to learn how to code. But while much has changed over the years, KCLS’ core values have not. As the library system has evolved to meet the emerging needs of communities, the foundational principles of freedom, access, privacy, community and inclusion continue to guide our work.
Throughout 2017, we will be celebrating KCLS’ 75th birthday and we invite you to join us. This month, visit our “Birthday” page at www.kcls.org/75 to find out all the fun things KCLS has in store.
Lastly, as we celebrate 75 years of library stories, we would love to hear yours! Whether from your childhood or last week, we hope you will add to the rich history of KCLS by sharing your special library memories online at https://kcls.org/share‐your‐story/.
Stop in and visit us soon, and discover the next chapter of your library story.
Gary Wasdin is the director of the King County Library System.