Issaquah-based King County Library System is named No. 1

June 21, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

The top library system in the United States is headquartered in Issaquah.

Moreover, strong circulation at the Issaquah and Sammamish libraries — and others across the 46-library system — helped earn the King County Library System the Library of the Year title from Library Journal magazine and Gale, a publishing company.

“We really got this award because of our patrons and our communities,” Julie Brand, community relations and marketing director for the library system, said after the announcement. “It’s really a reflection of their support and their use of us. Going forward, we need to continue to find the ways to be relevant to them in their lives, in how we deliver services, and the sorts of resources and information that we provide to them.”

Organizers cited the library system’s efforts to encourage reading, help people searching for jobs and community outreach. The library system is run from offices along Newport Way Northwest.

Library Journal and Gale honored the library system as the “public library in the United States that most profoundly demonstrates service to community, creativity, leadership and innovation in developing specific community programs, particularly programs that can be emulated by others.”

On the day organizers announced the honor, June 7, Gov. Chris Gregoire also proclaimed the day King County Library System Day.

“King County Library System has a lot of fans at Library Journal, with good reason. We’ve watched KCLS lead the way for years in innovative service to their community,” Francine Fialkoff, Library Journal editor in chief, said in a statement. “This year, all their efforts aligned — from new buildings to new services to record-breaking usage — and we’re thrilled to name them Library of the Year.”

Strong circulation at the Issaquah Library and others in the system stretching from Skykomish to Federal Way also served a key role in the Library of the Year honor.

“Their circulation and their traffic definitely helped us reach the 22.4 million circulation mark,” Brand said. “Circulation is not necessarily a criterion in the award, but it certainly speaks to the level of service that we’re providing our patrons, and obviously that we’re delivering something that patrons love, because of that circulation.”

Other touches also boosted the library system’s entry. Brand cited the bustling public meeting space at the Issaquah Library as a good example of the community outreach Library Journal highlighted in the award citation.

The honor includes a $10,000 prize. Officials plan to donate the money to the King County Library Foundation.

In May, Library Journal honored the Sammamish branch as a New Landmark Library — a distinction afforded to only a handful of libraries each year.

“I think that that definitely played a part in our submittal, because we highlighted all of the libraries and, of course, they were already very familiar with Sammamish and that building being kind of a hallmark library for the next generation,” Brand said. “That absolutely had something to do with us winning the award, I can say with complete confidence.”

Library officials plan to pick up the awards at the American Library Association’s annual conference in New Orleans from June 23-28.

“We’re delighted to receive this recognition from Gale and Library Journal on behalf of the entire community,” library system Director Bill Ptacek said in a statement. “This honor rightly goes to our patrons who made KCLS libraries the busiest in the nation, our friends and advisers, the voters who make it possible through their continued support, and for our hard-working staff who continuously create innovative programs and services that best meet the needs of the communities we serve.”

On the Web

Learn more about the King County Library System’s Library of the Year honor at www.kcls.org/libraryoftheyear.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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