From Interim Chief Librarian Tom Fay

Posted April 7, 2021 

Interim Chief Librarian Tom Fay
Interim Chief Librarian Tom Fay

Dear patrons,

I want to introduce myself as your new interim Chief Librarian following the departure of Chief Librarian Marcellus Turner, who took a new role in North Carolina. I am honored to lead The Seattle Public Library through this leadership transition as the Library Board conducts a national search for his permanent replacement. We will certainly miss MT and we wish him well!

With 38 years of experience in libraries, I have served the last six as The Seattle Public Library’s Director of Programs and Services. My family and I have enjoyed calling the beautiful Pacific Northwest home over that time. I am truly looking forward to getting to know our community even better from this new role.

‘Nice to meet you, but when are you reopening libraries?’

Okay, I’ll cut to the good stuff! First, I want to say, we truly appreciate the community’s patience, and I know you are eager to reclaim your “third place” with us. We are eager to have you back. Patron and staff safety has been a priority for us, and we have been working with our staff union to develop high safety standards for this move to in-building service.

I am happy to announce that our first three locations for in-building Library service will be the Beacon Hill, Lake City and Southwest branches beginning Tuesday, April 27.

In-building services will be limited initially and will include holds pickup, Wi-Fi and computer access, physically distanced seating, restroom access, and device charging. We will continue to add more services and locations. To learn more about our in-building services, visit

And don’t forget to check out our Curbside Pickup Service, currently available at 15 neighborhood libraries throughout Seattle, at

The only constant is change

Two days after our systemwide building closure on March 14, 2020, the staff of The Seattle Public Library got right back to work redefining what a Library is in the context of a global pandemic and how a Library system stays “open” when you can no longer invite the public in.

Within the first two weeks of our building closure, Library staff had launched a campaign promoting our digital collection and resources to newly homebound workers and families, including educational support, e-books and e-audiobooks, streaming music, movies and more. Library staff also launched our first ever Digital Library Card, providing access to those digital resources for Seattle residents who didn’t already have a Library card in hand. Our digital circulation went up by 34 percent in 2020. By June 2020, our first virtual programs were online, and by August, we launched our first Curbside Pickup locations, circulating our physical collection once again.

While our buildings closed, our system never did. But like you, we are ready to reclaim our Library spaces, too. Some things in our libraries will look different than you remember. Our spaces and services will continue to change as we respond to changing health data and guidance, as well as the changing needs of our community. We know some in our community have faced the brunt of this pandemic at levels many of us cannot imagine, and there is much work to be done to rebuild what has been lost to the pandemic. We will continue to listen, learn and adapt to meet those changing community needs.

We are so grateful that our efforts throughout the pandemic have helped keep Seattle residents informed, entertained – and yes, even “sane” as some patrons put it – during one of the strangest, most uncertain times in all of our lives. It is truly humbling to hear from patrons the impact our work has had on this community during a very difficult and unforgettable time. We thank you for your kind words and your continued support, and we look forward to seeing you once again at the Library.

Tom Fay
Interim Chief Librarian
The Seattle Public Library