February 17, 2018

ALA Annual 2011: King County Library System Receives Gale/LJ Library of the Year Award

SeanALASun1(Original Import)
UPBEAT AND ALWAYS INNOVATING An enthusiastic group of staffers from King County (top) gathered at the House of Blues to accept accolades; (clockwise from middle l.) KCLS’s Jed Moffitt also had a chance to jam with the band; San Francisco’s Marcia Schneider talked with with Edmonton’s 2011 Mover & Shaker Tina Thomas and NISO’s Todd Carpenter; 2003 Librarian of the Year Raymond Santiago took time out with Louise Schaper, former director of the Fayetteville Public Library, the 2005 Library of the Year; UW iSchool Ph.D candidate Lassana Magassa, LJ‘s Rebecca Miller and Francine Fialkoff, KCLS’s director Bill Ptacek and trustee Richard Eadie, and Gale’s Rich Foley with the award from Gale; and Gale’s Ron Stefanski raised a cup with Ptacek. Photos Copyright 2011 Sean Gardner/Getty Images


An enthusiastic crowd gathered last night at the House of Blues in New Orleans’ scenic French Quarter for the presentation of the Gale/Library Journal Library of the Year Award for 2011 to King County Library System (KCLS), Issaquah, WA. Live blues music played as attendees celebrated the innovative system.

“A winner always, and a winner this year”
Francine Fialkoff, Library Journal editor in chief, started off the ceremony, saying that it is the staff who have made KCLS “a really terrific system that we can all be proud of.” She also noted that Angelina Benedetti, a library manager at KCLS, had received the Public Library Association’s Allie Beth Martin Award, and that KCLS’s Sammamish Library was also recently named one of LJ‘s New Landmark Libraries. “It’s a trifecta this year,” she said.

John N. Berry III, who wrote LJ‘s June 15 Library of the Year cover story, praised KCLS for acting on “really basic principles of librarianship-the fact that libraries and information can change loves, make life in a community better, and really help people.” He also praised KCLS’s “belief in intellectual freedom, including the confidentiality of patron records,” calling KCLS “a winner always, and a winner this year.”

Berry also noted that the other “great libraries in the running” for the Library of the Year Award this year, singling out Jefferson County Public Library, Lakewood, CO; Middle Country Public Library, Centereach, NY; and San Diego County Library, CA.

Innovative programs praised
Rich Foley, executive VP, Sales and Marketing, at Cengage Learning (of which Gale is a part), followed with his remarks. “King County Library System has truly wowed us with their unique programs and creative marketing to make sure they spread the word to their entire service base,” he said, particularly praising KCLS’s partnerships with local community organizations to expand access and innovative ideas such as its “Take Time to Read” program, in which KCLS provides books and chairs in unlikely public places, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“They truly embody what the Library of the Year is and what the Library of the Year Award represents: service to the community, creativity, innovation in developing community programs, and leadership-and that can be emulated by all the public libraries that we see,” Foley said.

“We strive to be relevant to the people we serve”
KCLS director Bill Ptacek praised his staff, calling them “phenomenal,” and saying he “could go on and on about all the terrific things that they do” in providing services. As an example, he talked about how local officials had wanted to shut down one KCLS library due to local teens that were deemed “out of control;” in response, KCLS hired teen librarians and instituted new teen-oriented programs. “It’s our approach, and it’s our culture, and it’s at the heart of what we do…. We strive to be relevant to the people we serve.”

“We have a very special and unique community,” Ptacek said, noting that “everybody in our community believes that reading is a good thing,” and is extremely supportive. “It’s synergistic: we do stuff that fits their needs, and they reciprocate by providing us with the support we need to continue to do those things.” In other communities around the country, he said, “the community doesn’t have that vision of how great the library can be, and how much the library can mean to their community and to their lives.”

He also noted that “by its structure, and by the tradition of our culture” KCLS is able to take risks. (For example, KCLS is the largest system to implement an open-source integrated library system.) “You can’t take those kinds of risks unless you have a board and community that’s willing to support you-that’s willing to say, ‘Okay, well take a little grief, because ultimately you guys are going to do something great with it.'”

This philosophy, he noted, has allowed KCLS to be proactive in implementing new ideas. “We have focused on what we do, rather than talking about what we do-because that’s ultimately more important and will continue to incur the support of our community.”

Judge Richard Eadie, chair of the KCLS library board, also added recognition of KCLS’s tradition of outreach. “We have so many populations to reach out to, we have so much language and ethnic diversity in our county that we didn’t have before,” he said. “We reach out to the disabled, and persons that are homebound, and children in daycare centers. All of those kinds of things continue that principle of reaching out to others.”

David Rapp About David Rapp

David Rapp (drapp@mediasourceinc.com) was formerly Associate Editor, LJ.

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