Blogs: Sno-Isle Blog

How Book-a-Librarian service helped business owner Suzi Quillen

Posted: May 14, 2015

By Julie Titone
Communications and Marketing Manager

Granite Falls yarn shop owner Suzi Quillen is a library power user. She regularly downloads free audiobooks and movies; she checks out stitchery books to share with customers. But she learned some new library tricks when she tried out Sno-Isle Libraries’ Book-a-Librarian service.

Shop owner Suzi Quillen at Perfectly Knotty

Shop owner Suzi Quillen at Perfectly Knotty

The one-on-one free consultations can be booked for 30 or 60 minutes. They can focus on any subject—a specific research question, a technology lesson, or just an overview of services that might be helpful to the customer. Most sessions take place at a library. But Granite Falls Library manager Jude Anderson is glad to go where his customers are. So when Quillen booked his services, he took a laptop to her shop, Perfectly Knotty, to explore library services she hadn’t known about.

He demonstrated how to access online databases that reveal the age groups, interests and average incomes of area residents.

“He showed me how to look up demographics, how to pull different pieces of information together,” Quillen said. “It was really fun and neat to get some concrete information, less speculative than I’d had before.”

Anderson showed her how to track consumer spending not only by geographic area, but by types of purchase—crafts, for example. “This information is really powerful and important to me as I focus on a market beyond Granite Falls,” she said. “The town proper is small—fewer than 3,500 people. But there’s a huge outlying area.”

Quillen is a needlework blogger and writes a newspaper column called Chronicles of Yarnia. She’s always looking for new information about the history of crocheting, her favorite form of needlework. She’d found most of the relevant books in the library’s catalog, but Anderson showed her how to look for magazine articles on the subject.

“He also showed me how to use Price-It,” she said, explaining how she used the antiques and collectibles search engine to research the value of a 1922 sock-knitting machine. She’s also priced some of the vintage furniture that her husband, Jeff, has restored.

“The results were things I could have found elsewhere—it pulled up a lot of eBay sales—but Price-It filters the information more cleanly. You don’t have to go through pages and pages of Google results.”

Quillen has long used her library card to download audiobooks that satisfy her taste for classic literature (“Robinson Crusoe” and “Atlas Shrugged”) or boost her business savvy (“The $100 Startup” and “The Barefoot Executive”). She listens while she’s driving and running errands, such as stopping by the library to pick up books.

In addition to bright skeins of yarn, Quillen’s shop always contains stacks of library books, books about knitting and crocheting; books with patterns and instructions. She tells customers—or, as she calls them, “my people”—that they can afford to buy better yarn if they don’t spend so much money on books.

Quillen sees frugality as a key to success for herself as well. And what would perfect success for Perfectly Knotty look like?

“I would love to be able to hire local people so I could spend more time with my designing and writing,” she said. “We don’t have a coffee shop here or a barber shop where people can watch the world go by. I’d like this to be a place in the community where people can feel connected.”

Her mission: Helping you find your next favorite book or movie

Posted: March 23, 2015

By Debra Vaughn
For Sno-Isle Libraries

Lead Librarian for Readers’ Services

Jackie Parker, Lead Librarian for Readers’ Services

Your community library is a treasure trove of books, music, movies and more. But where to begin?

Jackie Parker is here to help. It’s her job to find better ways for Sno-Isle Libraries to connect with customers, so they can more easily find their next favorite books or movies.

“We want people in our communities to know that they can come to us for suggestions,” she said. “We’re bursting with recommendations, and we’re eager to share.”

In her new role as Lead Librarian for Readers’ Services, Parker works with other librarians on how to best talk with customers about what resources will suit their needs. Many algorithms — think Amazon — attempt to match readers with their next books and movies, but no formula can compete with a library’s personalized service.

For example, a customer might tell a librarian about a book she or he liked — say, “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon, about a modern day nurse who time travels 18th century Scotland. Perhaps the customer enjoyed the Scottish setting, the romance or the time travel. The librarian might ask a series of questions about the customer’s preferences for pacing, storyline, tone and writing style to help make the best recommendation for other books.

“We want to have a conversation with individuals, learn what they’re looking for and match them with their next favorite item — whether it’s a book, movie or an album,” Parker said.

Jackie Parker is looking forward to “The Game of Love and Death” by Martha Brockenbrough. The novel, about two teens tangled up by immortal forces beyond their control, is set in 1930s Seattle. Here are some books on her “recommended reading” list:

She leads the Readers’ Advisory Team, which is made up of staff from Sno-Isle’s 21 libraries in Island and Snohomish counties. Their task: Determine how librarians can best steer you toward materials you need and like.

The solution is likely a suite of services that encourages customers to interact with librarians in whatever ways they’re most comfortable, in person or online. For example, the library could ask customers via email to learn if they want to receive personalized reading recommendations, inspired by examples of what they like to read. Another idea is to challenge people to read something they wouldn’t normally consider — perhaps a coming of age novel, a book originally written in another language, or a book set in their hometown.

Parker also wants to find ways to connect with people who rarely, if ever, use the library.

Before joining Sno-Isle, Parker worked as a librarian for the Spokane County Library System. She earned her master’s degree in library and information science from Wayne State University in Detroit. In addition to her reader advisory role, Parker continues to work as a teen librarian at the Lynnwood Library, a job she’s held since 2008.

She views the library as a haven where teens can feel welcome, and learn something and have fun, too.

“Libraries are an essential service that improves lives in the community,” she said. “There is something for everyone if they know how to use it.”

Shared smiles, quavering voices: Dedicating the Linda McPherson Community Room

Posted: March 21, 2015

By Julie Titone
Communications and Marketing Manager

Linda McPherson Community Room dedication

Click above for photos and voices from the Linda McPherson Community Room dedication at Darrington Library

When the Darrington Library Community Room was dedicated to Linda McPherson’s memory on Saturday, her spirit was very much present. She was a vivid if unseen force, like the cloud-shrouded Whitehorse Mountain.

On sunny days, the mountain is framed by community room windows that, at Linda’s insistence, are  perfectly positioned to capture the view. She was library manger for 28 years.

“This was her space,” said Catherine Austin, secretary of the Darrington Friends of the Library. “She worked so hard for the library remodel and this room. She fought hard for that view.”

Linda felt it was important for residents of this town in Washington’s North Cascades to have a gathering space. At the dedication, the room overflowed with nearly 100 people. They laughed at shared memories, dabbed at tears. There was inevitable talk of the massive March 22, 2014, landslide that demolished a rural subdivision and killed 43 people west of Darrington. Linda’s body was the first one found.

Her husband, Gary “Mac” McPherson, was among the survivors. He was on hand at the dedication. Speakers included Linda’s sister Sylvia Fusetti-Caldwell, who promised the audience that the magnolia tree that Linda’s son planted outside the window in her honor would not grow so tall it blocked the mountain view.

She recalled Linda’s enthusiasm for reading. “Do you know the ‘World Book of Knowledge’? She was probably 7 when she read that A to Z … Up until shortly before she was killed, she was still reading until 3 in the morning.”

About 30 family members attended the dedication, said Irene Kuntz, also Linda’s sister.

“I know she would be just ecstatic to see the turnout and see the expressions of people that loved her,” Kuntz said.

“She was my go-to sister,” added Kuntz. “If anything came up, it was ‘call Linda.’ And sometimes I still want to call Linda. Things come up.”

plaque honoring Linda McPhersonThe community called on Linda for decades. She was a longtime member of the Darrington School Board. Former board member Peter Selvig said her strength was in keeping the curriculum on track. The fact that she was library manager gave her an advantage when it came to understanding children who “marched down here almost every day” to take advantage of the library’s resources.

“She knew them from almost when they started to walk … until they graduated from high school,” he said.

Asheley Bryson, who took over as library manager this month, was originally hired by Linda. Following in such footsteps is daunting, she said. “But I learned to trust Linda, and she hired me. Here I was this city girl who moved into Darrington, and she gave me a chance. She gave everyone who walked into the library a chance.”

Sno-Isle Libraries Executive Director Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory recalled watching Linda interact with customers.

“One day I was up here and she was chatting with a teenager. She came back over to me and said ‘Sam needs some extra attention right now. Things are really rough at home for him.’ I don’t think that was unusual for Linda. That’s where her heart was.”

Merle Green, former children’s liaison at the library, felt Linda’s presence on Saturday even before the dedication. Her morning began with the sight of two complete rainbows extending “from North Mountain all the way over to Whitehorse Mountain. I just stood there speechless. I’ve lived here 67 years and I’d never seen anything like that.”



Meet Karen Pickard, puppeteer and hero

Posted: March 5, 2015

By Debra Vaughn
For Sno-Isle Libraries

Karen Pickard, master puppeteer

Karen Pickard, master puppeteer

The preschoolers at the Lake Stevens Early Learning Center only see Karen Pickard once every month or so, but they know her name. And they can’t wait for her to arrive.

She shows up with a box of books, an entourage of puppet friends and a heart full of love.

Pickard delivers library materials for Sno-Isle Libraries to area preschoolers, the elderly and other adults who are home bound. While she enjoys visiting with everyone she meets, it’s her preschool library customers she can’t wait to see.

“It might sound a little goofy but you look out at those little faces and you are their hero,” Pickard said. “They beam out their goodness and love, they give so much. If I’m feeling down, I just look at those kids.”

Those who see Pickard in action say she’s the one doing the giving. The Snohomish County Human Services Department recognized her with a Caring Community Award for making a difference in the lives of young children.

The staff at Lake Stevens Early Learning Center nominated Pickard for the award. Teacher Lorena Ahola said it takes someone special to get a class of preschoolers to sit wiggle-free for half an hour.

“Karen brings so much joy and excitement to the kids,” Ahola said of the master puppeteer. “She can take a story and bring it to life. They get so excited and enthralled.”

In the decade she’s taught at the center, Ahola has never seen Pickard do the same program twice. She has integrated some of Pickard’s rhymes, songs and finger puppet plays into the curriculum.

“As a teacher it’s hard to let someone take over your class,” Ahola said. “I look forward to her coming. She shows them so much love and consideration. She’s completely in the moment, enjoying herself and the kids.”

The perfect job for her

Pickard, 59, used to drive a school bus. One trip, she was taking a sports team to Whidbey Island. On the ferry, she saw a Sno-Isle Libraries bookmobile. She approached the driver and asked if she liked her work.

“She loved her job,” Pickard remembered. “She got to do something different every day. … I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Karen entertains kids at Lake Stevens Early Learning Center

Karen entertains kids at Lake Stevens Early Learning Center

Pickard quit her school bus job and started working for Sno-Isle Libraries at the Monroe Library as a page. It took multiple applications before she was finally hired for a job with Library on Wheels.

Each month Pickard and her colleagues deliver library materials to licensed child care centers, Head Start and Early Childhood Education Assistance Programs. Every other month she presents a story-time program. She brings a variety of books for different ages as well as ideas and activities for caregivers and teachers.

When she slips a puppet onto her hand, the fabric comes to life with its own personality. Next to her desk at the Sno-Isle Libraries Service Center in Marysville, an entire shelf is filled with puppets. Just for starters, there’s Scruffy the Dog in his goggles and yellow swim trunks, Tony (or sometimes Tina) the T-Rex, who reminds the kids to brush, brush, brush those ferocious pearly whites, and a mouse aptly named Tiny.

She keeps a notebook to scribble ideas for story time, and she spends her own time at home cutting out felt characters for a board to serve as a visual aid. Her creations are so captivating that some immigrant children become engaged with the puppet and story even if they haven’t mastered the English language.

Boosting children’s literacy

What Pickard does is just one of many services Sno-Isle provides to promote children’s literacy. All 21 of the community libraries in the library district employ staff dedicated to children services and programs that help young children develop the skills they need to read and to continue on as lifelong readers.

The district includes vastly different communities. Lynwood Library, for instance, serves a bustling, culturally diverse city, while Darrington Library serves a small, tight-knit town.

“I believe these frontline staff members in our community libraries make a huge difference in many young lives,” said Leslie Moore, youth and outreach services manager for Sno-Isle Libraries.

Sno-Isle is working to educate parents and caregivers, too, on how they can help little ones get ready to read. The library district offers classes with free continuing education STARS credits for licensed daycare providers. At-home daycare providers can check out Ready Readers Kits with 18 age-appropriate books, a music CD, a puppet and activity guide.

Research shows the first few years of life are critical for brain development, Moore said. It’s important for parents and caregivers to talk, sing, read and play with babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

“The younger you reach them, the better chance they’ll have to read and succeed in school,” Moore said.

Those efforts to keep children engaged continue once they reach school.

One popular Sno-Isle Libraries program geared for third graders is back this year with 37 area elementary schools participating. The Third Grade Reading Challenge has students read six books and then compete in a knowledge bowl quiz game.

When Pickard hears a child say he doesn’t like books, she just smiles and tells him to wait and see. By the end of story time, that child usually decides he might, indeed, like books.

“Anybody can use the library and take books out,” she said. “All you have to do is bring them back and take care of them. That’s a power I try to give to the kids.”

Great Courses collection grows, thanks to generous donor

Posted: February 10, 2015

By Darren J. Nelson
Collection Development Librarian

Great Books

A few of the donated Great Courses sets

Great Courses is a series of recorded lectures on topics ranging from ancient philosophy to American history to modern medicine and science. You might call it the quintessential “people’s university.”  Thanks to a gentleman from Arlington, Sno-Isle Libraries customers have access to many more of these lectures.

Edward Back has donated an incredible 73 sets of Great Courses from The Teaching Company. These videos and audio CDs, which come with matching books, are from his private collection. The topics reflect deep and wide interests, ranging from “The High Middle Ages” (on CD), and “Introduction to Astronomy” (DVD) to “Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt” (DVD), and “Einstein’s Relativity” (DVD). Edward estimated their value at $10,000, but if we were to buy these all new at full price it would be considerably more, as new orders can run $300-400 per set if not on sale.

great courses search

Click image above to search our collection

The donated sets are being added to our catalog, where customers can find them by topic or by searching for “Great Courses” and browsing. The lectures are a welcome enhancement to Sno-Isle’s collection. Our heartfelt thanks go out to this generous and public-minded citizen!

Interested in donating materials to Sno-Isle Libraries? Great! You’ll want to read our policy.

Foundation boasts new website, same enthusiasm

Posted: January 29, 2015

New Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation website

New Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation website

By Paul Pitkin
Executive Director, Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation

Residents of the mountain town of Index, all 178 of them, have library service thanks to a state-of-the-art bookmobile—which exists thanks to the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation.

This charitable arm of Sno-Isle Libraries is also one reason that third graders in Snohomish and Island counties are getting excited about reading. And the reason Issues That Matter forums bring people together to delve into meaty community topics such as drug use, bullying and end-of-life care.

You can learn about Foundation-funded programs on the new Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation website. While you’re browsing, you’ll be reminded that none of these great programs would exist without donors who value literate, connected and economically sound communities. People like you.

The Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that funds programs that make the Sno-Isle Libraries special. The district does much, much more than just lend books, and the Foundation plays a key role in helping Sno-Isle Libraries expand its scope of service to become an indispensable asset to 21 communities.

As the Foundation’s director for the past year, I’ve been especially excited to see donor money spent on first-time “seed projects” that are eventually replicated throughout the Sno-Isle Libraries system, such as science and early education programs.

Each year brings new Foundation-funded initiatives, such as 2014’s Generation YZ Project, the first of its kind in the nation, that is exploring ways for the library to serve the needs of people aged 13 to 29. In 2015, the Foundation will support the first Sno-Isle TEDx event, bringing all the communities of Snohomish and Island counties together to learn, grow, and discuss the most important ideas of our times. Mark your calendars for Nov. 4 and stay tuned for details.

Ongoing Foundation-funded programs include the Third-Grade Reading Challenge, which gave third graders across Snohomish and Island counties the opportunity to improve their literary skills and develop a lifelong love of reading. We’re supporting efforts to help teenagers use library services to unlock their creativity and curiosity. And, thanks to that classy bookmobile we funded, people in rural communities and those with disabilities can access library services.

Please visit to see all that the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation does to enhance your community library, our region, and generations to come. Questions? Please contact me.

Aviation history rolls down street, comes alive in library resources

Posted: January 28, 2015

Brian Haight
Technical Assistant, Oak Harbor Library


Historic plane rolls past Oak Harbor Library

World War II aircraft history in motion right outside the Oak Harbor Library. That’s what I saw this week as historic PBY-5A Catalina aircraft was moved down the sidewalk just below the library building and made its way to Southeast Pioneer Street. It was a perfect photo op from the library deck, and my iPhone camera was in hand to capture the moment.

It took two days for the Catalina, known as GiGi, to be towed from the NAS Whidbey Island Seaplane Base to a new display area across from the PBY Memorial Foundation PBY-Naval Air Museum. Most of the move happened at night, as you can see in this Whidbey Times-News video.

Consider visiting this museum dedicated to the preservation and study of all PBY “Catalina” aircraft as well as the aviation history of NAS Whidbey Island and the role of naval aviation in the history of the Whidbey Island and Puget Sound Communities.

Refueling a PBY in 1942. Library of Congress photo

Refueling a PBY in 1942. Library of Congress photo found via eLibrary

If that visit piques your interest in aviation history, Sno-Isle Libraries can help you learn more. In our catalog, you’ll find the book US Navy PBY Catalina Units of the Pacific War. Among our online research resources, look under Academic Search Premier  for the Naval History Journal; search eLibrary for some nice photos of the PBY. I also found, in the History Study Center, this journal article: Consolidated PBY Catalina: The Peacetime Record.


Remembering Karen Alessi, library booster supreme

Posted: January 26, 2015

By Debra Vaughn
For Sno-Isle Libraries

Karen Alessi

Karen Alessi

When Karen Alessi was young, she sat on the end of a dock at Lake Stevens and sketched plans for a new city downtown.

Years later, Alessi helped shape Lake Stevens as a volunteer and a civic leader. She died Sept. 24 at age 75 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. But her legacy lives on anytime someone visits Lake Stevens Library.

“Karen was one of those bedrock members of the community,” said Eric Spencer, who managed the library from 2000-2003. “She was a planner and visionary for the future of the community and believed the library was essential to its success. She also represented the quintessential library customer whose high expectations we were striving to meet.”

It was Alessi who, in 1984, led the charge for a library to replace the one that was shoehorned into an old post office building. For years city leaders knew the growing community needed a larger library, but finding the money to expand proved difficult.

Alessi was a member of the Friends of the Library and a co-director of the project. She helped gather support and donations to turn a pharmacy into a 2,400-square-foot library, tripling the size of the previous location. The library was built with donated labor, materials and cash. Alessi, who had connections with Hewlett-Packard, talked the company into kicking in $5,000 for the project.

At the time, Alessi told the Lake Stevens Journal, “It’s been a wonderful experience. It’s been lovely to see all the contributions. We’ve had some interesting methods of donation.”

An avid reader and ‘professional volunteer’

Her husband, Art Alessi, described his late wife as a frequent library patron and avid reader, who devoured sometimes four or five books a week. She liked fiction and non-fiction – whatever struck her fancy.

“She was a big reader all her life,” he said. “She could read fast and retain just about everything she read.”

Alessi was born Karen Johnson in Seattle. Most of her childhood her family lived in Everett, but the family spent every summer in a cabin on Lake Stevens. As a young woman, she liked to water ski and swim.

She met Art Alessi as a student at the University of Washington. He was her next-door neighbor. She moved to Hawaii before graduation and Art followed. They moved back to the area in 1968. The pair were married 50 years when Karen Alessi died. They have one daughter, Allison Alessi.

Karen Alessi was by all accounts a vivacious people-person who loved to entertain and tell stories. Her husband described her as a “professional volunteer,” always ready to start a new project.

“When Karen set her mind to do something, there was nothing you could do to stop her,” Alessi said. He described himself as “a tag-along husband.”

Her determination extended to her personal life. She always wanted to finish her degree and not just anywhere, but at Smith College. So at age 49, Alessi packed up the car and moved to Northampton, Mass., by herself to finish her degree. She graduated in 1992.

Her commitment to the community expanded beyond the library. Alessi served as president of the Lake Stevens City Council and the Rotary Club. She revitalized Aquafest and brought a rowing club, regattas and major athletic events to town that brought dollars and exposure to Lake Stevens. She served on the Arts Commission, helped start a music at the park program and encouraged the city to display the work of local artists at City Hall. She worked to get a bigger, better Senior Center, too.

Forward-thinking, positive

She was an active Chamber of Commerce member and the Chamber made her an inaugural Lake Stevens Hall of Fame inductee in 2009.

“Karen was pivotal in bringing so much to Lake Stevens,” said Tonya Christoffersen, a long-time member of the Chamber of Commerce. “She was vivacious, very outgoing, full of energy, always doing things for the community. She was always forward thinking.”

Today the library needs another champion like Karen Alessi. The library again is popping its stitches. In the past 15 years, the city of Lake Stevens has expanded its boundaries and grown from 6,000 people to 30,000.

The Lake Stevens Library covers the same service area as the Lake Stevens School District and serves 40,000 people. City leaders have talked about a new library for years. Those plans were shelved when the economy tanked. Now that the economy is improving, city leaders are again talking about a bond measure in the next few years.

Karen Alessi remained cheerful, even in her final years as Alzheimer’s robbed her mind. Her husband cared for her at their home as long as he could. Then he would visit her at the nursing home, Bethany at Silver Lake, nearly daily. He’d take her for a ride and every Friday they’d go to the Senior Center for lunch, where her old friends still would stop by and see her.

“She had a great sense of humor,” Art Alessi said. “She found life funny. She was very positive. She could find the most positive thing in everything that happened. She loved people. She just had a great love for life.”


Lights! Camera! YOU!

Posted: January 8, 2015


Dawn Rutherford, teen services coordinator


Would you like to have a starring role in a new video for Sno-Isle Libraries? We’re looking for two energetic actors who can communicate the exciting non-traditional products and services offered by our libraries, from video downloads to online practice SAT exams.

• Female, 16 to 18 years old, any ethnicity, know-it-all teen who schools her dad on the value of libraries, several lines
• Male, 40 to 55 years, any ethnicity, lovable but clueless father of a teenage daughter, several lines

PROJECT TITLE: “Library That!”

PROJECT SUMMARY: Non-union, 90-second promotional video for Sno-Isle Libraries to be used primarily on the Internet

SHOOTING DATE: To be determined. End of January, one day for up to six hours

LOCATION: Snohomish


SUBMISSIONS TO INCLUDE: Headshot (snapshot ok), resume, link to demo reel if you have one



DIRECTOR: Deborah Tahara, marketing specialist, Sno-Isle Libraries, 360-651-7032

Selected actors will be asked to audition. Previous acting experience preferred but not required. A talent agent is not required to submit for this project. The actors hired should be legal to work in the U.S. and provide their own transportation. Minors (those under 18 years of age) will need to have a parent or legal guardian’s consent.

Contact Deborah at with any questions.

Coming up: DVD loan period change

Posted: November 20, 2014

 Popular moviesBy Nancy Messenger
Collection Development Manager

Beginning Jan. 1, the Sno-Isle Libraries loan period for movies on DVD will change to seven days, down from three weeks. If that makes you sad, here’s the happy news: The change is expected to shorten waiting lines for those popular movies you’re so eager to watch.

We will continue to check out television series, educational DVDs, and children’s DVDs for 21 days. If you download a movie through our Hoopla service, the checkout period remains three days.

Why change now? Because use of the entertainment DVD collection has grown as brick-and-mortar rental stores have closed their doors. In 2014, we are spending more than half of our DVD budget adding copies of popular titles. While we want to continue to meet the demand of customers in our hold queues, we would like to spend less on a few titles and increase the variety of titles we can offer the public.

We’re hardly alone in this approach. Seven-day check-out for DVDs is standard practice for many libraries, according to neighboring districts and our DVD supplier.

If you have questions about the change, please contact me or your library manager.

Meanwhile, go to our catalog to browse for a movie … and keep passing the popcorn.

Sno-Isle Libraries: Connecting people, ideas and culture

Sno-Isle Libraries Administrative & Service Center, 7312 35th Ave NE, Marysville, WA 98271-7417
360-651-7000 (local) • 877-766-4753 (toll free) • 360-651-7151 (fax)

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