WA Secretary of State Blogs

Using the Lobby to “Lobby”

lobbyFrom the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library

If you are a repeat visitor here at WSL’s Central Library you will no doubt notice some changes in our lobby. What you are seeing is an experiment that is the result of brainstorming from several staff members and one exceptional volunteer. But first, a bit of background.

The Feb. 2001 6.8 Nisqually Quake hammered most of the buildings on the Capitol Campus to the point where they were not safe to inhabit. Unfortunately for us, the Pritchard Building, our old home, was pretty solid with concrete and rebar and survived relatively intact. We were sitting on prime real estate. And so we had to move.

Time was of the essence and by the end of 2001 we relocated to a new office building in neighboring Tumwater. This structure was not designed to be a library, but we have been very creative in trying to adapt to our architectural restrictions.

The actual browsing portion of our collection is on the 2nd floor. This means the library customer has to walk through the lobby and then take an elevator. Before our massive budget cuts we had our circulation desk in that area, but now it is just an empty room with signage and some library displays.

Since we have moved out here to the site of Washington’s first American settlement on Puget Sound we have seen several new office buildings erected and filled with Washington State agencies. Our new neighbors. This area has essentially become Capitol Campus South. And so far as I can ascertain, our lobby is the only truly public state government space (without a commercial coffee bistro) on this campus where a person is not confronted by a security guard and is compelled to account for their presence.

So as a community space, and in the spirit of reaching out to our neighbors, we are going to give different state agencies some display ground as a public service. We want to be the hub of Capitol Campus South. Our services overlap the needs of all of our CCS fellow residents. The most dominant presence out here is the Washington State Dept. of Health, and they have been wonderful in being willing to take the risk and work with us on this idea.

Now for the really good part. This year WSL turns 160 years of age. It could be easy to dismiss us as antiquated.

But get this.

DOH selected West Nile Virus (which apparently is still a problem) as their theme for the exhibit. As I collected library materials to supplement this display it became apparent that the bulk of what the Washington State Library has to offer on this topic is not in hardcopy, but digital. Among the over 20,000 electronic state publications we have captured, cataloged and preserved are numerous titles on this topic. Just by using our catalog you can access entire DOH publications on this or any other subject.

And this service isn’t limited to just DOH.

Try it, you’ll like it. And you’ll see we offer a very unique electronic portal into all aspects of Washington State government and public service. Providing online access to state government publications in an organized and centralized manner with detailed subject headings supports the concept of transparency and enhances public discourse. No one else does this as well as the Washington State Library.

Recently WSL Public Services became the main information source for questions coming into the Access WA website, the primary online gate into Washington government, demonstrating that although we are steeped in history we remain very much a part of Century 21.

Well, my, my, I sort of strayed there. But hopefully I have explained some of the thinking behind the experiment in the WSL lobby.

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