It is yet another of those things that just becomes part of local knowledge after a while, but takes some explaining to folks who are new to the island. We have libraries, something that is easy to take for granted; but, they aren’t part of a Whidbey Island Library system, or even an Island County Library system. They are part of Sno-Isle Libraries, a library system that has nothing to do with Snowy Isles or Snowy Owls or Snowy Aisles, though there are days when the weather casts a vote, anyway.
The Sno-Isle system is a classic example of rural counties getting together to get more done. Whidbey Island is part of Island County, (a distinction that is probably worth a post); hence, the Isle. Sno- refers to Snohomish County, our mainland neighbor which is rural and small (~828,000 people) when compared to Seattle’s King County (~2,270,000 people.) Island County has ~87,000, with ~70,000 people on Whidbey, and ~22,000 of them are in Oak Harbor. King County is 100 times larger than Oak Harbor. (Hmm. Which has more libraries per person? That exercise is left to someone with enough time to count up all of the libraries associated with King County and Seattle and whatever other city decides to have some.)
Whidbey Island has five libraries that are nicely distributed: Oak Harbor (near the campus of Skagit Valley College, another affiliation between rural counties), Coupeville (which has nice views from the fireplace room), Freeland (with its excellent meeting room), Langley (in its historic building which is beginning a remodel), and Clinton (close to the ferry and – personal story – the only one where a deer visited me as I was working at the outdoor pavilion.)
As most people know, libraries have adapted to shifting lifestyles and needs for years. (Our Libraries Our Librarians – Betsy Arand, Vicki Welfare) Children are allowed to act like children. Imagine that, laughter in the library. Also, CDs, DVDs, streaming services, and books and magazines, and…
Oak Harbor’s is the largest. Coupeville has a large meeting room. Freeland is a site for researching fundraising in more depth than most. Langley’s is very walkable, with shops and such nearby, ala Coupeville. Clinton is the smallest, and sometimes feels like the local secret.
Go to the Sno-Isle site to get the list of resources, events, and their catalog. Another thing they provide that is not noticeable but is valuable, is the “Book a Librarian” service that is handy for making research much easier, especially when life and work are busy. When Googling it doesn’t work, and researching it on your own is taking too much time (or finding the wrong things), it is handy to see an expert researcher efficiently find an answer – if there is one to find.
Island libraries are also small town libraries. They are professional, but they are also personal. Small towns mean they’re more likely to know you, or know more about what you need to know. Thanks to the librarians, the buildings seem to be there for the people as much as the books. Like a free bookstore with espresso machine to contend with, but you do have to bring the books back.
The libraries are handy and useful. It’s the name that can be confusing, but not for long.