King County Library System provides lifelong learning opportunities

Stephen A. Smith

Most of us who love libraries share a simple philosophy: Never stop learning.

And why would we? The joy of learning and the knowledge gained from it – through reading, experiences or simply connecting with others – can span a lifetime.

Learning nurtures the human spirit. Knowledge is transformative and empowering. It instills empathy by broadening perspectives, builds confidence to face life’s challenges and helps us navigate a complex world.

As King County Library System celebrates 75 years of service to King County residents, we thought it a perfect time to reflect on the many ways we support lifelong learning. Recognizing that patrons of varying ages have different learning needs, KCLS works hard to provide an array of programs and services ranging from practical to thought-provoking to just plain fun.

Infant Story Time programs for newborns and their adult caregivers introduce early learning through stories, songs and simple games, and reinforce the bond between parent and child. Preschoolers can attend Fiestas in Spanish to develop early literacy skills while their parents learn how to prepare their children for kindergarten. Family Story Time provides interactive fun for kids of all ages. For children in school, the Reading with Rover program gives students who are struggling readers an opportunity to practice reading with specially-trained dogs who listen attentively and encourage gently in a comforting environment. And Summer Reading keeps kids and teens reading over the summer so that students, especially those from low-income families, don’t lose gains in academic achievement.

Tweens and teens can feed their interest in technology by learning about robotics or 3-D printing in IdeaX classes or other STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)-based programming, and Life After High School programs provide inspiration for the road ahead. For students pursuing post-secondary education, KCLS offers SAT tutoring and practice tests, scholarship and financial aid counseling and help with choosing the right college. High school graduates who choose a job track can attend resume-writing and financial planning workshops or classes on how to start a business. Adults who want to transition to a different career can seek assistance with resumes, interview practice and job searches. And it’s all free.

Older adults can attend retirement planning workshops or enjoy Wisdom Cafés, which emphasize the importance of aging creatively through intentional exploration and discovery. Retirees who have time to explore new interests can discover new art forms or experiment with emerging technologies at an Art &Tech Fest program or get computer help from a Tech Tutor volunteer.

Whether you’ve lived somewhere your whole life or just recently moved, it can sometimes be challenging to meet new people. Making connections and learning from others is not only good for the individual, it’s good for the community. KCLS’ year-around program, Everybody’s Talking About It, provides opportunities for community members to come together for meaningful conversations on important topics in an environment that fosters civility, understanding and respect for diverse perspectives.

By providing access to ideas, information and interaction, KCLS has helped individuals shape their best lives for 75 years. Whatever and however you want to learn, the programs, services and resources you need are at your fingertips.

I hope you will take advantage of everything KCLS has to offer on your personal journey of lifelong learning.

Stephen A. Smith is interim director of the King County Library System.