Browsed by
Tag: Washington State Library

Letter-writing champions, in their own words ?>

Letter-writing champions, in their own words


Letters About Literature state champions (from left) Emily Maxfield, Joe Jacobsen and Grace Rivkis with Deputy Secretary of State Greg Lane after receiving their certificates during the awards ceremony at the Capitol. 

Three Washington students showed how inspiration can be passed forward.

The three state champions in this year’s Letters About Literature contest inspired a large audience at the Capitol Friday as they shared life lessons that they learned from authors who inspired them.

The Office of Secretary of State and Washington State Library honored top contestants during the event covered by TVW, which will air it and post it online.

Sponsored by the State Library and the Library of Congress, the competition encourages students to write a letter to an author of a book that changed their view of the world or themselves. Nearly 3,300 students in grades 4-12 took part statewide.

During the awards ceremony, this year’s three state champions read their letters for Deputy Secretary of State Greg Lane, family and friends in the Legislative Building’s Columbia Room. Winners were:

• Grace Rivkis, a sixth-grader at Pathfinder K-8 School in Seattle, is the Level 1 (grades 4-6) champion. Rivkis wrote her letter to Jennifer Roy about her book “Yellow Star.” From her letter:

I’m Jewish, and have always had some connection to the people who died in or survived that massacre. But Yellow Star brought me closer to this horror because it’s different from the other books I’ve read about the Holocaust. It told what it was like to survive the ghettos instead of the concentration camps or the time spent in hiding. When I read Yellow Star, I cry. I must have read it 20 times by now, but I’ve never gotten tired of it. It touches an emotional wellspring in me and probably every Jew. That drives me to make sure that nothing like the Holocaust happens again, ever, to anyone.

• Joe Jacobsen, a seventh-grader at Eastside Catholic School in Sammamish, is the Level 2 (grades 7-8) champion. Jacobsen wrote his letter to Frederic Winkowski and Frank D. Sullivan about their book “100 Planes 100 Years.” Joe’s letter points out how the book reminded him of his father, who was diagnosed last summer with Multiple Myeloma, a type of bone cancer:

My dad spent at least 2 weeks at the hospital throughout the whole process of recovery. I would could home from school and he wouldn’t be there. It was very rare that I got to talk to him in October. He was too busy getting blood tests or chemo. I remember finishing my homework one day after school. I went down to my room to change out of my school clothes when I saw a gold book peeking out from underneath my dresser. I reached down to grab the book and began to read. Thoughts and memories swirled in my head. I remembered my old bed, with red covers and an airplane pillow case. I remember all the nights my dad would tuck me in and read 100 planes 100 years. Anytime I couldn’t see the planes, I would pull the book back towards me. This book really helped me think of my dad anytime I couldn’t be around him. I am really thankful not only for the information it provided, but for what it reminded me of: my dad.

My dad is now almost fully recovered, and even to this day, I still peek at the same book I did back in preschool. Who knows, maybe I will be a pilot one day.


Level 3 state champion Emily Maxfield reads aloud her letter as the other two state champions and Deputy Secretary of State Lane listen.

• Emily Maxfield, a senior at Cedar Park Christian School, is the Level 3 champion (grades 9-12). Maxfield penned her letter to Sherman Alexie about her book “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” In her letter, Emily tells Alexie how she met children on the Yakama Indian Reservation like Junior, a main character in the book, and how her family later moved from middle-class life in the Seattle suburbs to the reservation:

I hope I’m not who I used to be. The reality of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian brought me to another world, a world within my own and yet one that is entirely different. Little ones call me auntie or cousin here. My idea of community has vastly expanded: I’ve seen that communities not only spend time together, but communities bear one another’s burdens, laugh together, cry together, and strive to love, serve, and share with one another. I have a deep love for this group of people, my family of unrelated children, youth, and adults. The kids like Junior mean the world to me; the preschoolers I work with weekly hold a piece of my heart that I can never lose. I am eager to tell others that there are children like these, youth like the ones I know, and adults who are waiting for someone to love them, waiting to know that there is help and hope. As I’ve learned, you just have to be willing to fall, sometimes headfirst, into those roles of example and supporter. Because those are the roles that kept Junior going in the story.

“Grace, Joe and Emily wrote very thoughtful and moving letters,” Lane said. “It was a pleasure to hear them read their letters aloud and to honor them as our state champions this year. Congratulations not only to the students we honored today at the Capitol but the thousands who competed. They and their families should be very proud.”


State champions and other LAL honorees gather for a group shot after the ceremony.

Lane and the State Library recognized the state champions, three second-place runners up and 27 honorable mention letter writers during the event.

Eighty schools from around the state had entries. The contest ran from September to January.

Students wrote a personal letter to an author, explaining how his or her work influenced their perspective on the world or themselves. Students can write about works of fiction, nonfiction or poetry. They cannot write about music lyrics, comic books or comic strips. National winners will receive a $1,000 cash award.

The Washington State Library and the Office of Secretary of State sponsored the competition as part of Washington Reads, which highlights books about Washington or the Pacific Northwest. The project is also sponsored by The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. This is the 11th year that the State Library has run the contest in Washington. The State Library is a division of the Office of Secretary of State.

2016 Teen Video Challenge under way ?>

2016 Teen Video Challenge under way

Teen video photo

It’s no secret that teenagers LOVE to make videos. A contest has just started that can put all of their video-making talent to good use.

The Washington State Library and the Collaborative Summer Library Program have launched the 2016 Teen Video Challenge, a national video competition for teens to get involved with reading and their public library’s summer reading program.

Teens are invited to create a 30-to-90-second video with their unique interpretation of the 2016 summer reading slogan “Get in the Game – READ.” The idea is to involve teens in summer reading, before and during the summer months, by being part of the process. This is an opportunity for teens to showcase their creativity and have their ideas seen and heard by a national audience. The winning video will be named one of the 2016 Teen Videos to promote summer reading nationwide.

A $150 award will go to the creator of Washington’s winning video and his or her associated public library will receive prizes worth at least $50 from CSLP and Upstart. Winners will be announced by CSLP in April.

For full details about the Teen Video Challenge and to find out how to enter Washington’s competition, please go here. Entries must be received by March 25.

Questions? Please contact Nono Burling at the Washington State Library at



State Library/Microsoft IT Academy is now Imagine Academy ?>

State Library/Microsoft IT Academy is now Imagine Academy


The popular Washington State Library/Microsoft IT Academy is getting a new name – the Microsoft Imagine Academy.

Since launching in November 2013 as a partnership between the State Library, Microsoft, and Washington libraries, the program has seen an impressive increase in enrollees statewide, and is helping thousands of Washingtonians improve their skills and lives.

“We’re excited about the program’s name change from the IT Academy to the Imagine Academy,” said Secretary of State Kim Wyman. “The new name reflects that anyone who imagines a new career or a chance to improve skills can make it happen through this incredible program that is free to Washingtonians.

“We are thrilled that this cost-effective program is making a real difference in people’s lives – students, job-seekers, returning military veterans, public employees and others,” Wyman added.


The Microsoft Imagine Academy has about 19,000 users statewide, accessing more than 400 online courses and learning resources. Courses are available in 20 languages.

The Imagine Academy program can help prepare enrollees for jobs and careers in a global economy that is becoming more tech-dependent.

“This program has helped change my life,” said enrollee Christian Osborn of Puyallup. “It was free material and knowledge given to me. (more…)

For Black History Month: WSL’s federal docs on African Americans ?>

For Black History Month: WSL’s federal docs on African Americans


(Image courtesy of Washington State Library)

We recently blogged about the State Library’s vast collection of federal documents. The collection includes publications that chronicle some of the rich history of African Americans.

February is Black History Month, so it’s a great time to highlight this treasure trove. They include a look at African Americans serving in the U.S. military, ranging from the Revolutionary War to World War II (pictured here), the Korean War and afterward.

You can see the State Library’s list of federal publications about African Americans here.

Interested in seeing these or other documents in the library’s federal collection? If you want to view any of the collection but don’t know what you’re looking for, just go on the library’s website and search federal publications in the library’s catalog. If you know what you’re searching for, you can contact the library ahead of time so a staffer can retrieve that document, or you can place a hold on the document in the catalog. Some federal collection items can be circulated, while others can’t due to the item’s age, condition or value.

Go here to learn more about the State Library’s federal collection project.

Hidden gems in State Library’s federal collection ?>

Hidden gems in State Library’s federal collection


State Library staffers who oversee the federal collection look at one of the collection’s maps.

It’s no surprise that the Washington State Library houses many books, maps and other documents related to our state government and Washington in general. After all, it is the STATE Library.

What many don’t know is that it also keeps a vast collection of more than a million federal documents.

In fact, our State Library has been collecting federal publications since its beginning as a territorial library and later as a state library by participating in the U.S. Government Printing Office’s Federal Depository Library Program. The library was officially designated as the Regional Depository Library for Washington and Alaska in 1965. The collection includes printed reports, microfiche, CD-ROMS, DVDs and maps. The program also provides access to online publications and services via the Internet.

“We should get everything that GPO distributes and we are responsible for keeping that whole collection intact,” said Rand Simmons, who oversees the library’s federal collection project. “More and more, these documents are being published online rather than print, which offsets our need to find space for them.”

He works closely with Crystal Lentz, who administers the Regional Depository Library.

Simmons said the federal collection includes some “Wow!” documents. (more…)

New collection showcases life on Whatcom County family farm ?>

New collection showcases life on Whatcom County family farm

Nesset family barn JPG

The almost-completed Nesset family barn in 1919. (Photo courtesy Washington Rural Heritage)

Thanks in part to a grant from the Washington Rural Heritage program, a great new collection of digitized photos shows viewers what life was like a century ago on a family farm in Whatcom County.

A blog post on our Washington State Library’s webpage tells more:

The Nesset Family Farm Collection tells the story of a Norwegian immigrant homesteaders who settled on the South Fork Nooksack River in 1902, and for decades worked tirelessly to coax a living from the land, raise five children, and run a small dairy. In the meantime, they documented the many pleasures of settler life in the South Fork, including hiking and skiing on Mount Baker, and fishing on the Nooksack River.

The Nesset homestead is no longer a working farm, but the land and many of its historical buildings have been preserved by successive generations of Nessets as well as the Nesset Farm Trust. Today, the farm is considered one of the best remaining examples of an intact agricultural homestead in Western Washington. Many of the original buildings, including the farmhouse and barn, are being renovated as of this writing (2015) and will be open to the public when Whatcom County’s newly established South Fork Park is completed.

The Nesset Family Farm Collection is just one part of the Deming Library’s Mount Baker Foothills Collection—a locally-managed digital initiative which promises to bring together a wealth of unique historical materials and make them freely available online.

Digitization in 2014-2015 was accomplished with a grant award from the Washington State Library, funded by the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

The Nesset digital collection comes from the Deming Library, part of the Whatcom County Library System.

You can learn more about the Nesset digital collection here.

Go here to learn more about the Washington Rural Heritage program and see other collections. The program is run by the State Library, a division of the Office of Secretary of State.

Rare, historic atlas wins Library Jewels tourney! ?>

Rare, historic atlas wins Library Jewels tourney!


Our super high-tech tourney bracket shows the path to victory for the atlas.

The secret to winning the Library Jewels tourney? Be old. Be very old.

Just as it done in earlier rounds of the tourney, the State Library’s rare, nearly 500-year-old atlas scored a dominating win in the championship game, attracting 69 percent of the votes, while the Dr. Seuss World War II booklet on malaria managed 31 percent. In all four of its tourney wins, the atlas received at least 60 percent of the votes.

A big thank-you to everyone who voted in our online polls throughout the month-long Library tourney, as well as the Archives Treasures tourney held in November and early December.

‘Chronicling’ America reaches 10 million pages ?>

‘Chronicling’ America reaches 10 million pages


Front page of Seattle P-I’s Jan. 3, 1897, edition. (Image courtesy Washington State Library)

Chronicling America, a free, online searchable database of historic U.S. newspapers, recently reached a milestone by posting its 10 millionth page. Of that total, 306,000 pages are newspaper contributions from Washington state.

Launched by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2007, Chronicling America provides permanent access to historically significant newspapers published in the U.S. between 1836 and 1922. It is part of the National Digital Newspaper Program, a joint effort between the two agencies and partners in 40 states and territories.

The milestone was covered by Time online and The Atlantic.

The Washington State Library left the NDNP last December. Since then, it has more than 34,000 new page files being prepared for a new web portal that is under development. In addition, the State Library has 57 newspapers from its online collections here.

Ray Charles doc tops “WTBBL Jewels” poll ?>

Ray Charles doc tops “WTBBL Jewels” poll


(Image courtesy of WTBBL)

Legendary singer Ray Charles remains a beloved figure years after his death. That even carried over to our recent Library Jewels blog series featuring items of the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library in Seattle.

WTBBL is part of the Washington State Library.

A WTBBL patron ledger featuring the entertainer’s real name – Ray C. Robinson – topped the poll with 48 percent of the votes, edging a photo of WTBBL’s “turntable” room with 37 percent. A photo of the Pratt sculpture at WTBBL’s entrance finished third with 15 percent.

Thanks to everyone who voted. We’re starting the October Archives Treasures soon, so be watching.

Time to pick your favorite WTBBL ‘Jewel’ ?>

Time to pick your favorite WTBBL ‘Jewel’

One of the most beloved services of our Washington State Library is the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library in Seattle. We’ve featured three interesting WTBBL-related items for our September “Library Jewels” blog series, and now it’s time for you, our dear blog reader, to choose your favorite.

Just go to the online poll below to vote. You have until this Friday at 5 p.m. to select your fave.

WTBBL’s “turntable” room

WTBBL’s “turntable” room

WTBBL’s Pratt sculpture


WTBBL’s Ray Charles connection


What is your favorite September Library Jewel?

  • WTBBL's Ray Charles connection (48%)
  • WTBBL's "turntable" room (37%)
  • WTBBL's Pratt sculpture (15%)

Total Voters: 67

Loading ... Loading ...