Blogs: Sno-Isle Blog

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.

Friends of the Library keep on giving

Posted: October 15, 2014

By Nancy Patton
Volunteer Program Administrator

Nancy Patton

Nancy Patton works closely with Friends of the Library

Have you ever thought about who is behind those amazing book sales in your community library, the ones where you often can find a treasure for a dollar or less? Who put that book on the shelf, who keeps the sale fresh and inviting, and where does your dollar go?

Sno-Isle Libraries is extremely lucky to have 21 Friends of the Library groups, one for each community library. These groups are made up of people who come together to help support the programs and services of their local library. Each group is a 501c3, non-profit organization with its own board of directors, bylaws and decision-making members. As different as they are, it is the mission of all of our Friends groups to be library advocates. That advocacy includes raising money to support community library needs.

In 2013 our Friends raised over $255,000! While most of the funds were raised through the hard work of annual and on-going book sales, our Friends also reached out more to the community through grants, direct requests and partnerships.

What makes strong, vital community libraries is not the amount of money raised, it is what is given back. In 2013 our Friends gave back over $247,000. This extraordinary amount included more than $110,000 for programming. Friends support children’s, teen, and adult programming in our libraries, as well as provide all of those ‘extras’ which make our libraries more inviting.

For example, the Lynnwood Friends recently purchased tables and chairs for the children’s and teen areas and eight computer work stations in the adult section. In Clinton, the Friends purchased two new self-check kiosks. “This allowed us to have two check outs of varying heights,” said Debby Colfer, Clinton Library manager. They are much more attractive than what we had before, making the library a more welcoming space.”

So the next time you are browsing the book sale shelves, remember the hard-working folks who tend the sale. If fact, you may want to consider joining your local Friends group. New members are always welcome!

To learn more about your local Friends of the Library group visit

Book a librarian and open new worlds

Posted: September 23, 2014


Librarian Shannon Dye helps Monroe Library customers

By Phil Spirito
Monroe Library Manager

You probably know that you are welcome to approach any Sno-Isle Libraries staff member and ask for help. But did you know you can schedule an appointment and get free, personal help on a wide range of topics? We call this service Book-a-Librarian.

Maybe you need help downloading an e-book. Or you’re starting a difficult research project. Or you want to brush up on your computer skills. Or you need to know where you can get your resume reviewed. Or you want recommendations on the books and videos to suit your interests.

If so, just call your community library and make an appointment to get help on almost any topic at the time that works best for you. The day of your appointment, a staff person will sit down with you for a free 30- to 60-minute session of personalized help.

A library staff member will give you undivided attention, providing assistance on topics such as starting an email account, browsing the library’s catalog, downloading e-books and audiobooks, and using electronic databases through the Sno-Isle website.

If a staff member with expertise in your area of interest is not available at your preferred community library, we will find a staff member in another Sno-Isle community to help you. If the topic you need help with is outside of Sno-Isle’s area of expertise, we will refer you to a resource where you can get the help you need.

So next time you need help, don’t call a phone support line or visit some genius at a store. Contact your local Sno-Isle library to make an appointment with an information professional. You’re sure to find that library staff are patient and sensitive. Excellent customer service is our No. 1 objective.

Celebrate freedom during Banned Books Week

Posted: September 19, 2014

By Lisa Castrogiovanni
Edmonds Teen/Adult Services Librarian

Banned Books Week, Sept. 21-27, highlights past and current attempts to remove or restrict materials available in libraries and schools. According to the American Library Association (ALA), in 2013 there were 307 reported challenges to books. They ranged from “50 Shades of Grey” to “The Hunger Games.”

Edmonds Library banned books display

Edmonds Library banned books display

No. 1 on the Top 10 challenged list? “Captain Underpants,” a children’s novel series.

Banned Books Week not only calls attention to these threats to free speech, but celebrates all those who stand up to censorship. At the Edmonds Library, we knew we wanted to join in the celebration and decided to create a lobby display.

With inspiration from Pinterest, I covered the display case window with black paper and large red letters spelling “censored.” Then I cut a few holes in the paper, so people could still take a peek.

Behind the concealed glass are copies of the covers of books that have been challenged. Paper flames “engulf” the book covers. The stark black wall with ominous lettering is an eye-catching curiosity that ensures a second look or an attempt to snoop through the holes in the covered window.

Inside the library we have a complementary display of challenged books that people are encouraged to check out. Those books have been flying off the shelves.

The displays are getting people to think about censorship and to wonder what it might be like to have access to their favorite stories restricted. I have heard some funny and illuminating comments whispered from patron to patron:

“Why are they banning these books?”

“Banned Books! Why do they have those here?”

“I didn’t think anyone banned books anymore.”

And a bit of wisdom from one of your younger patrons: “If someone doesn’t like a book, they just shouldn’t read it.”

The most frequent reaction is simply “Why was this book banned?”

I love books, I love libraries, I love reading and I love having the freedom to choose what I want to read. Celebrate with us and check out your favorite banned book today.

Travel planning? Start here!

Posted: August 29, 2014

Librarian Kathy Bullene kayaking in Kauai

Librarian Kathy Bullene kayaking in Kauai

If Kathy Bullene isn’t on the road, she’s talking about her latest adventure or planning the next one. So it’s no wonder her Sno-Isle Libraries colleagues asked Kathy, assistant managing librarian at the Oak Harbor Library, to serve as a library district travel specialist. We asked her how to get the most of library travel resources.

Who can benefit from library travel resources? The person thinking of a weekend getaway, or working on a bucket list, or hitting the road in retirement … Really, anyone who wants to make the most of an adventure should make Sno-Isle Libraries the first stop. Start at our travel web page, which you can find from the research link on our home page. Then go looking for books, DVDs and more in our catalog and on the shelves of your community library.

How do you personally use the digital travel resources?  I generally go to the catalog for our  main collection and order the most current edition of a travel guide for my destination. I like the Lonely Planet guides, National Geographic Guides, and the DK publications.  I’ll also go for anything that is a back-road or off-the-beaten-track type of book. However, since we’ve added the National Geographic Virtual Library, I will likely go in there and check as well.

What do you like about the National Geographic library? For one thing, it means I no longer have to hoard back issues in the attic. The National Geographic Virtual Library  is now available from anywhere I have Wi-Fi and my Sno-Isle library card. It includes not only the famous yellow-framed magazines, but also National Geographic Traveler, National Geographic Kids, and books published by National Geographic. A topic searNational Geographic logoch for “pink dolphins” retrieves the article “River Spirits: Amazon Dolphins,” with color photos handy for school assignments. A search for “tea” retrieves articles, books, and videos; when narrowed to “England” within the results is an article about five great getaways by train from London. Who knew you could go for cream tea and croquet at Mompesson House after visiting the Salisbury Cathedral? Or that Elm Hill, a medieval street in Norwich, offers an afternoon repast at the Tea House?

What are some popular in-library materials or requests?  The Rick Steves books and DVDs.  Beyond that, it’s generally just an up-to-date guidebook. I don’t think customers know about the digital resources, which is why I tried to promote those. And they pack so well!

What about help languages? Does Sno-Isle offer anything for travelers who would like to learn a few words or dig deep into vocabulary and syntax? Definitely. Check out Mango Languages, which offers mangoreal-life situations and actual conversations to teach 45 languages from Arabic to Yiddish. Want to find out how to say new words in Icelandic? Mango can help. If you would prefer to download an audio ebook to your tablet or phone and take it with you, check out the Language Learning section of OverDrive for a range of options from “on the go” books to full language courses.

What do you offer a foodie who likes to travel? CultureGrams! Clicking on the “Eating” link in a CultureGram entry for Morocco tells you that lunch is the main meal of the day there, and you’ll want to be sure not to finish eating before your host, as that might imply that the food did not taste good. In Italy, however, it’s important not to leave the table before everyone is finished. And if you want to try making that great Moroccan mint tea or Italian tiramisu when you return home, CultureGrams has a recipe.

What’s the best thing about using the library to plan your travels? It saves time and money. The print collection includes hundreds of volumes and dvds on destinations as near as your backyard or as far as another continent. Once your bags are packed, digital materials travel free of charge. Both can help make your journey personal and memorable.

Where can customers go for more information? Feel free to contact me or the reference staff at your local Sno-Isle library.

  • Sno-Isle Libraries serves residents in Washington’s Snohomish and Island counties through 21 community libraries, online services, and Library on Wheels. If you have library news or thoughts you'd like to share, drop us a note.

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