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King County Library System, WA
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Innovation Summary

KCLS Convey began with a community-wide conversation about uses for a former railroad right of way purchased by the City of Kirkland, Washington. Independent of the City, KCLS and a local organization sought public input and ensured neutrality in the process. KCLS Conveyed information between the public and their City.

Problem Statement

The City of Kirkland purchased the land when it was no longer used by the railway, to keep the land intact and prevent piecemeal commercial development. The City sought an unbiased way to gather public ideas for a strip 100 feet wide and 5.75 miles long, extending through the entire city. The corridor also is connected to two transportation hubs serving residential and business areas throughout the greater Seattle urban area, and offers “peek-a-boo” views of Lake Washington and the Seattle skyline, and has potential for links to other urban trails in the County. The City’s land use decision for this corridor would affect all residents, as the property winds through neighborhoods, past schools, business districts, and older industrial areas ripe for development. It was important to the City to have the widest possible participation in the discussion, requiring new approaches beyond the traditional town meetings with typically low attendance. They turned to their trusted community library—the KCLS Kirkland Library—for assistance. Theirs was a natural choice: KCLS already acts as a means for discovery and conversation, and the Kirkland Library has long been a trusted part of the Kirkland community. Founded in 1920, the Kirkland Library joined the King County Library System in 1968. KCLS staff worked closely with the City and local groups to develop a new tool for civic engagement.


In consultation with the KCLS Community Relations department, Library staff in the Kirkland/Redmond Libraries cluster worked in tandem with the Kirkland Arts Center (KAC) to develop an approach to providing information and gathering wide-ranging public input in a new way that enabled residents and community groups to discover information, post ideas, and engage interactively with other parties, review comments, submit and collaborate on drawings—all in their own time through asynchronous conversations online via DialogueApp. Printed forms and dedicated computer stations were also made available in multiple locations in the City to reach residents who wanted to submit a suggestion but weren’t regular library visitors. During two months of operation supported by intensive local PR and outreach to community organizations, enews, homeowners associations and local media, more than 120 individuals took part in the conversation, providing 244 informed and wide-ranging comments, ratings and responses. In tandem with the library initiative, an in-person interactive community charrette was held at the Kirkland Arts Center on July 12, 2012. A panel of architects, urban planners, and a game designer made presentations that prompted the audience—more than 80 residents already well-versed in the online dialog—to further lively conversation. As a neutral third party, KCLS' role was to gather and disseminate information. From the beginning KCLS clarified that the arrangement between the City and the Library and the Kirkland Arts Center was informal, in order to maintain the Library’s neutrality. KCLS would remain a neutral agent, and would collect, categorize and forward all public suggestions, without any filtering or editing, directly to the City.


The entire public input from all sources was aggregated by KCLS and presented without any alteration to the Kirkland City Council in September 2012, along with a timeline and a summary of the project. KCLS took no role in evaluating or giving preference to any suggestion, submission, or proposal. The City subsequently made available all of the input from the Convey project, all public suggestions, ratings and comments, online from the City Cross Kirkland Corridor page. In 2013, the Library Cluster Managers who manage multiple branches in eleven assigned areas of King County will explore the many possibilities for future Convey projects. Cluster Managers and their staff will plot potential projects as part of fostering their continuing relationships with city government officials, Library Advisory Boards, legislators, and other regional or political leaders in their area. The emphasis will be given to projects that address broad issues that affect an entire community rather than projects that align with narrow concerns that might affect only a small segment of the population. For the next Convey projects, library staff are considering three important community issues in highly diverse service areas: Federal Way: Work with local organizations, the school district and the public to discuss inequalities in student achievement by race and culture. Issaquah and Sammamish: Bring communities together to discuss community sustainability. Snoqualmie Valley: Escalating drug traffic is a growing issue throughout the rapidly-developing area. KCLS will bring together the sheriff, police chiefs, hospital and cities to discuss public safety concerns and solutions.