By Lisa Rosenblum
With summer in full swing, it seems an excellent time to celebrate KCLS communities throughout the county and the many ways the library system brings people together to learn, grow and engage with others. Visit any of our 48 libraries and you will notice not only an expansive collection of books, movies and materials but also computers and meeting rooms that are heavily used by people of all ages. And while libraries have always been about reading and the exploration of ideas, increasingly they are becoming places where patrons can directly access different community services they need, at the library.
One example is Community Court, a collaboration between KCLS, the city of Redmond and King County District Court. Community Court seeks to identify and address the underlying challenges faced by those who appear in a traditional court and provide alternatives to sentencing, such as community service or paying restitution. The goal is to build stronger and safer neighborhoods by reducing recidivism. Since April, Community Court has been held every Wednesday at the Redmond Library, which also hosts a Community Resource Center open to both court participants and members of the public. Visitors to the Community Resource Center can connect with representatives from community organizations that provide diverse legal and wellness services, such as housing, behavioral health, and dispute resolution. In the southwest part of the county, the community of Tukwila celebrated the grand opening of Tukwila Village on July 21. As a partner to the city’s visionary redevelopment plan, the Tukwila Library was the anchor institution when it opened in April 2017. It is now flanked by other eagerly-anticipated public amenities that will serve this vibrant multi-ethnic community, including a new community center and senior housing apartments.
KCLS’ collaborations with schools and social-service agencies have also been instrumental in making summer meals available to school-aged children and teens who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches during the school year. In 2015, summer meals were served at four libraries as part of KCLS’ Summer Reading program. Last year, more than 8,400 nutritious meals were served at 13 locations. In 2016, King County Elections partnered with KCLS to place ballot boxes at eleven of our libraries. That number grew to 16 branches when a ballot box was placed at the North Bend Library on July 25. We look forward to further expanding the number of ballot box locations and providing other programs in partnership with King County Elections about voting and the democratic process. In our mission to inspire the people of King County to succeed through ideas, information, and interaction, KCLS will continue to work with our community partners to identify the needs of county residents and develop creative solutions to address them, with an eye toward strengthening community connections and building new ones.