New! Improved! Our email and chat reference service

By Terry Beck
Information Services Manager

Here at Sno-Isle Libraries, our goal is to answer your questions as easily, quickly and professionally as possible.

 To do that, we’ve been providing email/chat reference service since 2001, as part of a worldwide network of libraries. But those of us in reference — now known as Information Services — learned that our customers prefer to work directly with a Sno-Isle librarian to get answers to their questions and to assist them with technology. So we decided to move to a more responsive and customer-friendly product.

Our Ask Us/Tell Us page looks different. As you begin to type in your question, you’ll notice that some suggested answers will start to appear. One of them might just be what you’re looking for! But if it’s not, you’ll be taken to a page that asks for more information and then we’ll begin to work on your question. If you know that you want to submit your question via email, you have the option of selecting that option and bypassing the suggested answers.

Our new chat service is staffed by our own librarians from 8 a.m. until the close of business day, all days that our libraries are open. This is a change for us. We lost the back-up and after-hours coverage from our former service, but we know that after-hours demand was less than 10 percent of the total chat sessions Sno-Isle customers requested in 2015. And most of after-hour sessions involve questions that could not be answered by the outside librarians and required a response from Sno-Isle. You’ll know if we’re available because, if we’re not, it will say so on the Ask Us/Tell Us page.

We look forward to chatting or emailing with you!

Leave a comment

Photo archive offers discovery, mystery

By Melissa Crowe
For Sno-Isle Libraries

Owl Drug Store scene

Everett street scene, February 1953

A man in a suit and overcoat and a woman clutching a Sears bag stand among a crowd gathered outside the Owl Drug Store on the northeast corner of Hewitt and Colby avenues in Everett.

The caption provides few clues of the chain of events leading to the sepia-toned photograph snapped in February 1953. From the clarity of the film, to the man’s pose, fingering a cigarette with a gaze into the camera, it’s like seeing into another time.

“I just always found this one striking,” said Katie Mayer.

The image is among the 1,127 preserved in Sno-Isle Libraries’ Historical  Photo Archive. The page includes links to other library resources related to history, genealogy and photography.

Mayer, a University of Washington library sciences graduate student and former Everett Daily Herald staffer, recently worked as a Sno-Isle Libraries intern, scanning photos for addition to the archive. She was attracted to the community-building nature of the project.

“The library becomes the keeper of community memory,” she said.

Her favorite pictures, like the one outside the drug store, capture ordinary life.

Worldwide access to Northwest history

The collection started in 2013. Colleen Brazil, the libraries’ content access manager, hopes it will be a resource that people across the world can use to explore their ties to the region, that teachers will use the images as classroom resources, and that kids will have a greater appreciation of their roots from of the photos.

“The collection tells our story,” Brazil said. “You can see the huge timbers, Boeing — what built our community. It’s about our history.”

The collection is focused on local interest: people, landscapes, buildings, industries, sports, construction, education, and daily life.

“Some of these images had never been seen before,” Brazil said.

The collection includes photos from the Everett Daily Herald, along with the Darrington, Edmonds, Granite Falls, Monroe, Snohomish, South Whidbey and Stanwood historical societies. The PBY Naval Air Museum in Oak Harbor will add photos this year.

A boon to historical societies

Katie Kelly, director of the Edmonds Historical Museum, said the partnership has created an invaluable resource for the museum and historical society. The museum’s own collection contains more than 6,000 images.

By partnering with Sno-Isle Libraries, the small historical societies like Edmonds’ can continue the mission of sharing local history.

Katie Mayer scans images for the archive

Katie Mayer scans images for the archive

“I hope it creates more ways to work together to showcase the history that is happening every moment of every day,” Kelly said.

Some of the photos are very old; one from the South Whidbey Historical Society, of the Emil Pearson home, was taken in 1870. But there are many pictures from the 1900s.

“The film and paper are degrading with time, and many smaller organizations do not have the resources to preserve them, or to keep their doors open as much as they’d like for visitors to view the originals,” Brazil said. “By digitizing these images, they will be preserved forever.”

The archive is one of Sno-Isle Libraries’ many online research resources. The pictures can be searched by subject in the library catalog.  (Tip: Choose the “digital photo collection” format option.)

Cultural memory preserved

“I like the idea that you encounter these earlier versions of this place that you know,” Mayer said. “It gives people this chance to be hands-on and involved in the preservation of this history and this cultural memory. They can know, love and use it themselves. It’s their community history.”

During 10 weeks scanning and processing historic photos, she added more than 100 to the collection.

Some have detailed captions including names and meta-data with geo-coordinates. Others are just an image leaving questions of who the person was and what their life was like.

“I want to be able to answer those questions,” Mayer said.

What's the story behind this photo from the Sno-Isle Libraries historical photo archive?

Know the story behind this 1954 Everett High School photo? Comment below!

She uses microfilm to match dates where possible, and clues found in street signs or store fronts to determine where a photo was snapped.

“I’ve learned a lot about the community from poking around in these images,” Mayer said.

One in particular has her stumped. The envelope reads “Everett High Golden Wings.”  The photograph shows teenage boys after dark in mid-October wearing only shorts, socks and shoes. They’re all holding their clothes, save for one boy who is holding out a can of cat food.

“I love the idea that someone will know the story behind that photo,” Mayer said.


Sno-Isle Libraries, greener all the time

Sno-Isle Libraries informational graphic shows progress toward sustainability

Click image for a closer look at Sno-Isle Libraries sustainability progress

By Jim Hills
Public Information Manager

Stewardship of public resources is a core value of Sno-Isle Libraries, and the approach of Earth Day 2016 is a good time to take stock of our library district’s environmental and economic progress.

Over the past five years, we’ve systematically become a greener, more sustainable operation. With 21 libraries, five mobile-library vehicles, a fleet of additional vehicles and a service center, Sno-Isle Libraries has plenty of places to look for efficiencies.

The tax-funded district has seen tremendous energy savings at the buildings it owns, says facilities manager Brian Rush. Those buildings are its Service Center in Marysville and eight libraries: Camano Island, Coupeville, Freeland, Granite Falls, Monroe, Mukilteo and Snohomish.

“More comfortable, more efficient buildings with reduced operating costs mean we can then spend that money on better services for our customers,” Rush says.

Steps from simple to sophisticated

When Rush joined the Sno-Isle staff in 2011, his initial conservation efforts were ones a homeowner might do. “We started with the simple things like more efficient light bulbs and sealing draft windows and doors,” he said.

More recently, Sno-Isle has implemented a sophisticated Delta Controls energy management system that makes sure the heating and cooling equipment at each building is scheduled and operating at peak efficiency. The system also allows Rush to monitor energy use from his smartphone.

The savings generated can be impressive, he said.

For example, improvements made over the past year to Marysville Library resulted in 66 percent less energy used in March 2016 than in March 2015. That could mean as much as an $18,000 savings on the utility bill, Rush said.

In 2015, Snohomish Library used 17 percent less electricity and 70 percent less natural gas than in 2011. Over the same five-year period, the Monroe Library used 23 percent less electricity and 51 percent less natural gas.

Being sustainable means more than reducing energy use, Rush said.

A drive toward fuel economy

In 2014, Sno-Isle Libraries started using Green Seal-certified cleaning practices, meaning cleaning products and methods minimize toxic impact on people and the environment. Sno-Isle contracts with ServiceMaster Building Maintenance, a firm that is certified by Green Seal.

Sno-Isle Libraries Bookmobile delivers books and fuel efficiency

Delivering books … and fuel efficiency

Improvements are also being made with Sno-Isle’s vehicles.

“Our fuel costs are less than half of what they used to be, and that’s not just because of lower fuel prices. We’re using more efficient vehicles” Rush said. “Our bookmobiles went from 6-7 miles per gallon to 15 miles per gallon. That’s because the engines are now 4- and 6-cylinder diesels instead of V-8 gasoline engines.”

The journey toward a more sustainable Sno-Isle Libraries has just begun, said Director of Facilities and Technical Services Jeanne Crisp.

“We will continue to transition to LED lighting wherever possible and there is more we can do with recycling and composting,” Crisp said. “We’d also like to explore solar power in the buildings where that would be appropriate, and perhaps find grant opportunities to help us.”

Rush agreed that sustainability is an ongoing process, one that he hopes, increasingly, to measure.

“There are standards such as Green Seal and LEED and Energy Star that set the bar,” Rush said. “I’d like to see us get certified in, say, Green Seal and Energy Star; we’d be rock stars.”


What makes a good Whidbey Reads book?

By Becky Bolte
District Manager, Sno-Isle Libraries
Project Manager, Whidbey Reads

Whidbey Reads started as Oak Harbor Reads in 2003 with author Connie Willis and her book Bellwether. Over time, the program expanded to Whidbey Reads and featured annual presentations from a popular author each year including Ivan Doig, Jim Lynch, Jonathan Evison, Elizabeth George, Daniel James Brown and others. The Whidbey Reads committee, consisting of staff from the five Whidbey Island libraries, Skagit Valley College staff, and community members begins reading books early in the year to recommend for the author presentation in the spring of the next year. Those first meetings are a series of lively discussions in which titles and authors are pitched and discussed, all with the intent of finding the perfect book to read and discuss across our island. The goal of the committee is to select a book by September or October in order to present the title to the community in December. The title is promoted in January each year on the Sno-Isle website Whidbey Reads.

What makes a good Whidbey Reads book?

Broad appeal. The committee looks for something that will appeal to a wide variety of readers–female and male, Baby Boomers and high school students, long-time bibliophiles and those who only pick up a book because their class requires it. Both fiction and nonfiction are considered.

Compelling theme. Since the purpose of Whidbey Reads is to bring people together, the work has to touch on themes that generate discussion. Does the book spark passionate discussion? Is it meaningful to current society and/or our local area? “The Boys in the Boat,” had themes of commitment and determination. The 2016 selection, “The Wind is Not a River,” had themes of survival and sacrifice. The committee uses those themes to build a series of adjunct programs leading up to the author event to generate interest and discussion around the chosen work.

Format options. The book needs to be available in paperback when the title is selected, as well as available as an eBook, and in audio and eAudio. The Whidbey Island Friends of the Library groups currently provide funds to purchase paperback and ebook copies of the chosen while Sno-Isle Libraries adds copies in all available formats to support the event.

Regional author. Finally we generally look for a West Coast author, because the culmination of Whidbey Reads is bringing the author to the island to speak to our readers. If the book itself has a local connection, even better.

Is there a book you’ve read that you can’t wait to share with a friend or give to a family member? Contact your local Whidbey Island library and make a suggestion.

Leave a comment

Graphic novels go mainstream

Graphic novel fan and expert T. Andrew Wahl

Graphic novel fan and expert T. Andrew Wahl

By Melissa Crowe
For Sno-Isle Libraries

Forget their seedy past as serious contraband. Teachers and librarians are changing their philosophy about graphic novels and the format’s ability to motivate new readers.

T. Andrew Wahl, an Everett Community College journalism instructor and Humanities Washington comic book historian, laughs when considering the paradigm shift graphic novels experienced over the last 65 years.

“The stigma came during the 1950s when a psychiatrist blamed juvenile delinquency on comic books,” Wahl said. Now, he said, some of the best fiction being done today is done in this format.

Their power comes from the juxtaposition of words and pictures working together.

”You can immerse yourself in another world,” said Wahl, who has created a list of recommended graphic novels from the Sno-Isle Libraries collection.

A new, fast-growing library collection

Graphic novels are on the New York Times bestsellers list, they’re behind box-office hit films and successful TV series. They’re inspiring a new generation of readers. From the fringes to the mainstream, the popularity of the graphic novel is soaring.

Sno-Isle Libraries is letting its graphic novels shine by sorting them into a special collection, a change made in 2015.

“Before, they were just lost in the stacks, filed by author with all the rest of the general fiction books,” said Jackie Parker, the district’s lead librarian for readers’ services. “We weren’t really highlighting them and they weren’t easy to find.”

More than good vs. evil

Although Marvel’s 1960s superheroes are the most recognizable graphic novel and comic book characters, the libraries’ collection includes more than good vs. evil plotlines. Whether you prefer Shakespeare and Dostoevsky, history and civil rights, humor and sci-fi, there’s a graphic novel for you.

“If there’s something you like to read in fiction or nonfiction, we can find a graphic novel that you will enjoy too,” Parker said. “We are here to help customers find books to read.”

When words and artwork come together on the page, the storytelling possibilities are endless.

A regional sensation

Becky Buckingham, who is in charge of selecting teen and adult graphic novels at Sno-Isle Libraries, remembers when she was hired in 1982, and there wasn’t a single one on the shelves.

By the early 2000s, libraries across the country started jumping on the graphic novel bandwagon. Sno-Isle’s collection started with in the 2000s in the teen section with manga, which are Japanese or Japanese-influenced comics and graphic novels.

Graphic novels are a growing part of the Sno-Isle Libraries collection

Graphic novels are a growing part of the Sno-Isle collection

While the manga collection still has fans—girls and women particularly like the romance-heavy shojo manga, Buckingham said—graphic novel offerings have expanded far beyond to include more collectible materials, superheroes and literary works.

The Walking Dead” is what really got people interested, Buckingham said.

“There’s a community within the graphic novels community,” she added. “It’s not just American. There’s a broad range of people working in it now.”

There’s also a large community in the Puget Sound region.

Willow Wilson, a Seattle resident, created the story of “Ms. Marvel.” The character is a typical 16-year-old until she discovers she has super powers.

Ms. Marvel, known to her parents as Kamala Kahn, is a second-generation American Muslim, the first person with her background to star in a graphic novel series.

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo & Me,” by Seattle-based artist Ellen Forney, explores her diagnosis with bipolar disorder and its effect on creativity. Then there are the humor pieces by Matthew Inman, also based in Seattle. Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, wrote a No. 1 New York Times bestseller, “My Dog; the Paradox.”

Keeping up with demand

“In July of 2015, we made special shelving for children’s graphic novels and, since then, we have purchased about 20,000 of them,” said collections librarian Lorraine Burdick. “The librarians tell us that they can’t keep enough books on the shelves.

The most popular children’s title? “My Neighbor Totoro 1,” a comic based on the Japanese film of the same name.

Graphic novels are an alternative for reluctant readers, said Nancy Messenger, collection development manager. “Some people love the artwork of the format, for others it’s a way to get into reading and a way to learn about a new topic.”

For Wahl, who is 45 and a lifelong graphic novel reader, it’s more than the storylines interacting with the artwork. It’s the way the format makes him feel.

Graphic novels are such an important aspect of his life, that he named his daughter, Katja, now 17, after a character in X-Men No. 129.

“She thinks it’s great she was named after a mutant,” Wahl said. “She was raised Geek.”

From the classics like “Dark Knight Returns” and “The Watchmen,” to a Romeo and Juliet inspired tale in “Saga,” Wahl revels in the growing collection in Sno-Isle Libraries.

“As an academic, I can give you 10 reasons why graphic novels are worthwhile,” he said. “The truth is, these are the comics that make me feel like a 10-year-old boy again and there’s magic in that.”


Library resources nurture family trees

By Melissa Crowe
For Sno-Isle Libraries

Bob Overstreet at work in the library

Bob Overstreet scans photos at Marysville Library

Bob Overstreet, a forester and genealogist, is a regular visitor to the Sno-Isle Libraries online genealogy research center.

He also goes to the Marysville Library, one of 21 community libraries in the two-county district and one of two libraries (along with Lynnwood) that has a Creative Tech Center  with photo scanning equipment. There, he has scanned and digitized more than 100 historical pictures. He helps others do the same.

“Genealogy is not a spectator sport,” Overstreet said. “You have to be involved and dedicated.”

Overstreet’s experience demonstrates how, from deep roots to fresh green shoots, Sno-Isle Libraries is nurturing a forest of family trees.

The library district offers cardholders free access to premium databases with original-source documents, organizational tools and free subscriptions to popular genealogy websites. It provides a comprehensive national collection of newspaper obituaries and death notices, plus access to MyHeritage Library Edition and to

All skill levels welcome

Much has changed since Overstreet started tracing the first lines of his family tree. That was 1981, when Ronald Reagan was president, home computers were a new concept, and genealogy as a hobby was in its infancy. Now, with online databases, sophisticated imaging software and other resources available through Sno-Isle Libraries, finding one’s roots is a much easier and enriching experience.

Library customers can also take part in research classes, technology tutorials and one-on-one training with photo-editing software.

“The library staffers are generous in their allocations of time to help people, to show and guide them to appropriate documentation,” Overstreet said. “And then you have to do the work.”

Library customers interested in genealogy run the gamut in terms of skill. Some are just beginning and need help getting started and staying organized. Others have been building their family history for years and seek library assistance only when they hit a wall trying to find the next piece of evidence they need.

“One similarity shared by all is enthusiasm,” said Jennifer Forman, a Sno-Isle Libraries genealogy specialist based at the Snohomish Library. “At any skill level, they are usually sleuthing for the fun of it and almost every genealogist likes to talk about their family history.”

Elisha and Starr Overstreet in 1903; photo scanned by Bob Overstreet at Marysville Library

The Ancestry Library Edition database is the most popular on-site resource and offers library cardholders free access to the subscription-based website, Forman said.

She especially enjoys helping people find documents such as marriage licenses that include their relatives’ signatures.

“Original documents are very powerful,” Forman said. “They make people feel connected to their relatives. It can be emotional.”

Only a small percentage of documents are available online, she said, but the library’s access to microfilm, books, historical and genealogical societies can help researchers in their sleuthing where online tools leave off.

Leaving a legacy

As a member of Marysville’s Comeford Genealogy Group, Overstreet is passing along lessons he has learned from the library. He pores through historical census data, old diaries, Bibles, deeds and other records in his quest to document the past, not just for himself, but also for others.

His hope is to leave behind something of value for the next generation of Overstreets – a detailed account of the family, something to help make sense of one’s life, something to feel like you’re not just passing through.

“It’s a personal pride knowing I’ve left something for future generations that may be meaningful,” Overstreet said. “Hopefully it will give families a better understanding of what ‘family’ can be. My values and my satisfaction come from my family.”

For more information, visit For personal assistance, call your local library or Book-a-Librarian.


Historical photos offer inspiration

By Julie Titone

Communications and Marketing Manager

When the Sno-Isle Libraries communication staff goes looking for seasonal inspiration, we often turn to our historical photo archive. That’s where we found the regional scenes used in this year’s winter holiday home page banner, shown above. Our multimedia specialist, Laurie Lyon, animated the rotating sequence of pictures with sparkling snowflakes.

snowstorm Darrington

Darrington view: Train depot and the Hotel Leland

Darrington — of all our 21 library communities, the one most likely to be snowy — offered up two scenes. The first shows a man on skis on a mountain that is presumably near Darrington, because the same skier is shown in a similar photo that includes a view of Glacier Peak.

Another photo, also from the Darrington Historical Society, was taken at the southeast end of town on Feb. 3, 1916 after a big snowstorm. In foreground is the train depot and the Hotel Leland, background is Mt. Higgins. The picture is from the collection of Betty Knowles, the great-granddaughter of  the photographer, W. Ward Woodward.

The Granite Falls Historical Society also provided a winter scene for our banner project. It was taken from the porch of the Sheridan McElroy house, which was still standing when the photo was added to our collection in 2014. It was taken around 1910.

Stanwood waterfront

Stanwood waterfront

The other two photos weren’t winter scenes, but look great with some snow added. They include a panoramic photograph of Stanwood’s waterfront on a celebration day, possibly July 4th, about 1905. It was provided by the Stanwood Area Historical Society.

Finally, we included a picture of the steamer “Buckeye” making a stop at Freeland’s Bush Point. The boat carried passengers and cargo up and down Puget Sound.  The South Whidbey Historical Society provided the picture.

The photo archive was established by the Digitize Our Community History Project.  Other contributing organizations are the Daily Herald and the Edmonds, Snohomish and Monroe historical societies.

Remember, it’s always “Throwback Thursday” in the archive. We encourage you to browse. To search for a particular photo title or subject, go to our catalog and, in the “limit by” field, choose Digital Photo Collection. When you find the photo you like, you’ll have the option to share it on social media or email it.

However and whatever you celebrate this winter, we wish a happy holiday season.


Nancy Pearl shares her booklist, keeps up Whidbey Island tradition

By Kate Poss
Library Associate, Langley Library

America’s best-known librarian held a rapt audience in the palm of her literary hand as she spoke at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley for the 18th year in a row.

“This is a gift the Friends give to the island each year,” said Clare Creighton, president of the Friends of Langley Library, as she introduced Nancy Pearl on Nov. 4.

Nancy Pearl

Nancy Pearl

The diva of booklists and author of “Book Lust” addressed the 100-plus audience as if they were all close friends in a living room. Dressed in a red cardigan and charcoal gray dress, she first spoke glowingly about author Judy Bloom’s latest book, “In the Unlikely Event.” It is a story told from the perspective of a 15-year-old girl whose life is forever affected by the crash of three airliners in her New Jersey town.

Then she shared her 2015 booklist:

  1. American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity,” by Chistopher Appy is Pearl’s No. 1 choice in nonfiction for 2015. “This is a relevant read for high school and college students,” she said. “It puts present events in context and asks the question: Does America occupy the moral high ground in terms of war from the 1940’s to the present?. It is a very accessible book.” By the way, Nancy Pearl has master’s degrees in both library science and history. She mentioned that she likes reading historical fiction mysteries.
  2. Hard to read, according to Pearl, but her favorite novel for the year is “The Sympathizer,” by Viet Thanh Nguyen. “It’s the best satire since “Catch 22,” Pearl said, telling the audience that the story is centered on an apparent South Vietnamese sympathizer who is rescued by Americans in 1973. Turns out the young man is actually a North Vietnamese spy who confronts his past while living as an immigrant in the USA.
  3. Best Friends,” by Mary Bard. One of the children’s books in Pearl’s “Book Crush” series that was returned to print by Amazon. Its audience is girls 9 to 12.
  4. Oregon Trail,” by Rinker Buck is a non-fiction title that Bill Bryson fans would enjoy. The modern-day adventurer constructs a covered wagon, hitches it to a team of mules and sets off to revisit the Oregon Trail. The author’s slightly crazy younger brother provides comic relief. “After reading this I wanted to go on the Oregon Trail myself, but only with my Toyota,” Pearl said.
  5. Highly Trained Dogs of Professor Petit,” by Carol Ryrie Brink is a slim book aimed for 7- to 9-year-olds. It takes place in 1873 and one of the professor’s highly trained dogs helps solve a crime.
  6. Heap House” by Edward Carey is Pearl’s third-favorite novel. This young adult tale is “not Harry Potter…more Philip Pullman—strange and dark.” The story takes place in a parallel-universe London that is filled with garbage. “Something’s off and evil,” in this story, Pearl said.
  7. Strangler Vine,” by M.J. Carter. The mystery is the first in a series set in 1839 India. A soldier is tasked with finding a missing author and is forced to work with an unfriendly Foreign Service officer. Pearl notes that Miranda is the ‘M’ in M.J. Carter. Miranda used the initials to encourage more male readers. “Men tend to read stories by male authors.”
  8. Tabula Rasa” by Ruth Downie is a mystery that is set during the Roman occupation of Great Britain. The eighth book in the “Medicus Investigation” series, this title concerns the challenge of British acceptance of Roman rule, specifically as it relates to a Roman official who marries a British woman.
  9. Crooked Heart,” by Lissa Evans is a novel about the odd relationships that can occur during war. In this case, it’s WWII and a young London boy is shipped to the countryside where he stays with a strange woman.
  10. Good Son,” by Michael Gruber is “hands down, an old favorite. A terrific thriller. The pages turn and I forget the grayness outside,” said Pearl. The story concerns a neglected son whose mother marries a Pakistani and then is kidnapped while on a peace-keeping mission in Asia.
  11. Single, Carefree, Mellow,” by Katherine Heiny is not typical of Pearl’s usual reads, “But I loved this book.” Readers who like Laura Colwin’s “Home Cooking,” and “More Home Cooking,” will enjoy Heiny’s novel, which has “splendid writing, is funny, pointed and about relationships.”
  12. Two books by Mick Herron made Pearl’s list. “Slow Horses” is a satire about disgraced British spies who are relegated to solving cold crimes. “Nobody Walks” is a dark thriller about a father who learns his estranged son has been murdered.
  13. Hold Still,” by Sally Mann is a memoir by a woman who was once criticized for publishing photos she took of her children. Pearl said this is her second-favorite non-fiction book. The book covers ancestors, Mann’s long marriage and what photography means to her.
  14. Vanessa and Her Sister” by Priya Parma tells the story of Vanessa Stephens, the “merely intelligent” sister of writer Virginia Woolf. This is Pearl’s “second- or third-favorite novel. It details Vanessa’s caretaking of her mentally ill sister up to Virginia’s suicide in 1941.
  15. Murdstone Trilogy,” by Mal Peet (who died after it was published this year and was, sadly, unable to complete the trilogy) is a “terrific satire that casts doubt on the world of books and publishing.”
  16. The Prize: Who’s In Charge of America’s Schools,” by Dale Russakoff. This Washington Post education reporter writes about the state of education in America today and whether proposed reforms such as charter schools are working. “The book expands your mind and illuminates the issue about this endemic problem,” Pearl said.
  17. Unbecoming,” by Rebecca Scherm is, Pearl said, an excellent book for discussion by book groups. Near the top of her list for favorite fiction of the year, the book explores what it means to un-become who you once were.
  18. Bonus books to read on the plane: “The Distance: Thriller” by Helen Giltrow; “Altered Carbon,” by Morgan K. Richard; “The Swimmer: a Novel,” by Joakim Zander; and “The Last Supper,” by Charles McCarry.

While Pearl is clear in her likes and dislikes of the many books she reads, she answered one question on what to read by saying: “Never finish a book you’re not enjoying. Life is too short.”


Leave a comment

TEDxSnoIsleLibraries: Thanks to all

By Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory
Executive Director, Sno-Isle Libraries

On Nov. 6, Sno-Isle Libraries made history with TEDxSnoIsleLibraries. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people connected with Sno-Isle Libraries in a new way through our first TEDx event.

Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory at TEDxSnoIsleLibraries

Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory at TEDxSnoIsleLibraries

More than a year ago, we embarked on the TEDx path based on our Strategic Focus. It was the perfect example of building literate, economically sound and connected communities. Our co-organizers Ken Harvey and Jessica Hanaumi, together with staff and volunteers, planned and produced a quintessential Sno-Isle Libraries event filled with inspiration, information and delight. And, of course, it wouldn’t have happened without our partners.

People from teens to seniors, from many walks of life, came together to explore new ideas. They joined us at the Edmonds Center for the Arts, 10 community libraries and four additional public viewing sites to be part of the event. Even more will take part by watching the 23 talk videos when they are posted at All of these audiences will have experienced what a library is and what we offer our communities. Because, at its essence, TEDx is a library without walls providing ideas worth spreading.

Based on the buzz of excitement and reports of the day, it was a tremendous success. We are hearing from many people who watched and listened to the speakers that it was a “day of inspiration.” They’re asking: “Will there be a TEDxSnoIsleLibraries next year?” The answer is “Yes, of course.”

I am confident that TEDxSnoIsleLibraries 2015 was the start of our next chapter in serving our communities. The Board of Trustees, Deputy Director Kendra Trachta and I are very proud of how our staff worked together to make it happen.

Indeed, Sno-Isle Libraries is a world-class library.


Want to learn a language? Here’s help!

By Melissa Crowe
For Sno-Isle Libraries

The museum clerk looked up in astonishment at Ian Babbitt.

“Where are you from?” the clerk asked in Croatian.

“Mi smo iz Seattle.”

If checking out dozens of language audio books or joining a conversation group seems too arduous or time consuming, Sno-Isle Libraries has tools to you help you say “two tickets, please” in no time.

Sno-Isle Libraries teens discuss the magic of Mango

The libraries are offering fresh approaches to traditional language-learning programs with on-the-go apps like Mango Languages to help parents, teachers and travelers communicate.

Mango offers instruction in more than 70 languages including Spanish, Swahili, English, Icelandic, Shakespeare and Pirate. It is free to Sno-Isle Libraries customers, who simply need to create a Mango account to track their lessons.

Danielle Dreger-Babbitt, a Mill Creek librarian, introduced her husband Ian to Mango before their trip to Croatia.

“He was immediately hooked,” Danielle said. “He would go to the zoo or when he was on the bus, he would have his headphones on listening to the instruction.”

The look on the museum clerk’s face still makes Danielle chuckle.

“He asked, ‘How did you learn to speak my language?’” Danielle recalled.

The clerk and Ian went back and forth, asking questions in English and answering in Croatian.

“He was so impressed that Ian took the effort to learn the language he gave him a free ticket,” Danielle said. “It’s such a hard language. I had to pay because I didn’t learn.”

Take your time

Danielle in Croatia

Danielle in Croatia

When conducting business or preparing for a trip abroad, more library patrons are using Mango to learn a new language, she said.

“It’s allowing us to be global citizens,” she said. “You don’t have to wait for someone to return Portuguese for Beginners, you can listen to it immediately, take your time and listen to it without a deadline.”

Not everyone needs to master a language. For people who need a quick answer, translating tools might be a better option.

Melanie Liu, a children’s liaison at Lake Stevens Library, is helping connect parents and teachers with smart phone apps that bridge the gap of languages.

Language is less and less of a barrier in Snohomish County, thanks in part to the tools and resources found in libraries, she said.

“The scary part is if they can’t access it,” she said. “If people don’t know where it is or where to find it. We want to make sure that these tools get into the hands of the people who need them.”

Help for English language learners

Nearly 20 percent of Snohomish County households speak a language other than English at home, according to Census data. English language learners who want to practice their skills can take part in weekly Talk Time conversation groups at Sno-Isle’s Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mukilteo and Mountlake Terrace libraries.

For non-English-speaking parents trying to help their child with homework, Google Translate can make all the difference, Melanie said.

“How can parents help if they can’t understand what the school is asking their child to do?” she said. “This is more of a family tool than a children’s tool.”

At an English Language Learners Family Night for the Sunnycrest Elementary School in Lake Stevens, she showed native Chinese, French, Russian and Thai speakers how to translate with Google Translate.

A parent from Togo, a French-speaking West African country, gasped when Melanie introduced herself in his language using the Google Translate app.

“He got the attention of everybody,” she said. “Everyone was coming over to see what was going on. The kids called it magic.”

Google’s translator can work by voice or by print. A person can speak one language into a microphone and it will translate audibly into another, or can scan a smart phone’s camera over text and it will translate that way.

“It’s really cool,” Melanie said. “If you don’t understand, you can write it out and it translates immediately. It’s imperfect, but it’s better than nothing, for sure.”

You’ll find a link to Google Translate on the Sno-Isle Libraries World Languages page, along links to magazines, book collections, library card registration and other resources in some of the most common “first languages” used in Snohomish and Island counties.

Students and others who need help with English-language grammar can also turn to Help Now. The service, also free to Sno-Isle Libraries customers, offers live tutors and many online lessons.

While on-line resources are great, Melanie said, she encourages people to visit or call the library for assistance.

“We’re always ready and happy to help our customers make the most of our language resources.”