As a public institution, the King County Library System serves people of all ages, abilities, genders, ethnicities, cultures and economic backgrounds. The values that guide our work – knowledge, diversity, equity and inclusion, and intellectual freedom – ensure that patrons have equal access to our libraries and that all feel welcome.
Demonstrating our values means addressing the needs and interests of our diverse communities. It is also an opportunity to build understanding and connection among community members who have different life experiences.
Throughout the year, KCLS shines a light on diversity by offering programs tied to monthly observances that celebrate, commemorate or raise awareness of issues, groups or events. From Autism Awareness Month (April) to LGBT Pride Month (June) to Native American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month (November), multi-cultural programs provide opportunities for library patrons to acknowledge the experiences that define us as individuals and recognize the characteristics that bond us as human beings.
KCLS plays an important role as convener, bringing people together in a welcoming environment to learn from experts and from each other. For example, in Tukwila, where more than 80 world languages are spoken in school, the Tukwila Library participated in Welcoming Week, a national movement to bring immigrants, refugees and native-born residents together to highlight the benefits of a welcoming society. Throughout the week, library visitors could feel part of a larger community whether they gathered to discuss topics of interest, enjoy a documentary screening or simply read a book.
We enjoy tremendous freedoms and liberties as citizens of the United States. But for others who have fled war-torn countries or oppressive regimes, it may be difficult to understand the concept of a public library founded on the principles of Intellectual Freedom. Every day, our staff has the privilege to introduce newcomers to their public library, a trusted institution where one can seek knowledge from all points of view without restriction.
And where everyone is welcome.
Lisa Rosenblum is director of the King County Library System.