Committing to diversity, equity and inclusion in a changing county | KCLS

  • Friday, August 11, 2017 1:56pm
  • Opinion

Stephen A. Smith (Guest columnist)

Interim Library Director

Anyone who has visited the 48 libraries in the King County Library System, as I have done since becoming KCLS’ Interim Director, appreciates the breadth of this county we call home. Given traffic, it is no small feat to drive from Federal Way to Skykomish, Vashon to North Bend, or Muckleshoot to Duvall.

King County is one of the largest counties in the nation in both size and population, and as we all know, its cities and rural areas are changing rapidly. I grew up in Bellevue when it was a mere suburb; it is now the fifth largest city in the state.

When we talk about our changing county, it’s not just about population growth. It’s about changes in cultural norms and expectations; language, ethnicity; religious affiliations; socioeconomic factors; gender identity. Today, the increasingly complex needs of our diverse county span demographics—newcomers and long-time residents; young and old; rich and poor—and reflect human conditions found all over the world.

KCLS has long pledged, and recently recommitted itself, to breaking down barriers, broadening connections and forging new links to people, information and resources. Our recently adopted Strategic Focus, and Mission, Vision, and Values statements make clear our dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion. Our vision of “a world where knowledge allows diverse communities to prosper and grow” plays out in many ways.

We focus on literacy and reading, offering Story Times and other programs in languages such as Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and others.

We offer access to digital technology, knowing that 20 percent of King County households lack computers or Internet service.

KCLS offers Citizenship classes to assist those who desire to become U.S. citizens, and celebrates this milestone by hosting naturalization ceremonies.

Last year, at just one ceremony, new citizens hailed from 17 different countries including Belarus, Bosnia, Burma, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Mexico, Moldova, South Korea, Sudan and Ukraine.

In April, we opened the new Tukwila Library, which was designed to reflect one of the most diverse cities in the nation. The name Tukwila itself is the Duwamish word for “hazelnut,” and today, 80 different languages are spoken by Tukwila School District students, 40 percent of whom take advantage of English Language Learner services.

Our library programs and services reflect the needs and interest of all of our communities, ranging from autism awareness to social justice awareness; early childhood services to older adult services; Native American history to Women’s history; Ramadan to Kwanzaa celebrations.

KCLS has always been committed to equity, ensuring that all communities have equal access to the services and resources they need. It is a core value of all public libraries. Today, our communities face new and different challenges brought on by complex, socioeconomic issues. KCLS will face these challenges in partnership with our communities so that our vision of prosperity and growth for all King County residents becomes a reality.

Stephen A. Smith is King County Library System’s interim library director. He can be contacted at 425-369-3232 or stephensmith@kcls.org.

More in Opinion

White nationalism comes to Renton

Let’s just get down to brass tacks — Patriot Front is a… Continue reading

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Despite ruling on Public Records Act, we need to keep a close eye on Olympia

Washington Supreme Court upholds that state legislators are subject to the Public Records Act.

Republicans chose political power over the Constitution

I’m astounded and appalled that members of both parties in Congress were… Continue reading

The people who use SNAP are already working

SNAP and other welfare benefits help working, low-income families while boosting the economy

From left, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., announce they are pushing ahead with two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — charging he corrupted the U.S. election process and endangered national security in his dealings with Ukraine, at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Will we feel different when Trump is impeached? Probably not

As a historic vote looms in the House, attitudes of the public are pretty hardened on this subject.

Guest Opinion: Eyman’s run an election wildcard for 2020

We knew it would happen. It’s a wonder it took this long.… Continue reading

Growing up as a Republican

I grew up in a Republican home. My family valued honesty, dependability,… Continue reading

Discerning fact from opinion

It can be more difficult than people first think, according to the Pew Research Center.

Why we need media literacy classes now, more than ever

Education on how to find authentic, factual information in today’s digital landscape is a must for future generations

Letters to the editor for the week of Nov. 15

Reader’s child enjoys stories about community Dear editor, I just read “It’s… Continue reading

George Will and ‘conservative sensibilities’

The journalist is a Constitutional Originalist, but the framers’ sole focus wasn’t solely freedom.

Container math: Divide your roots to multiply your plants

By the month of November gardeners and gardening goals have moved indoors.… Continue reading