Sound Off: Sno-Isle keeps 2 counties reading

The mission of the Sno-Isle Libraries is “to be a doorway to reading, resources, and lifelong learning and a center for people, ideas and culture.”

That’s a promise we make to all of the people who use our 20 libraries, Web site or mobile services. I’m proud to say we did a lot in 2004 to keep that promise to you.

Year of the Book: This yearlong, all ages reading initiative did what libraries do best: promoted reading. People of all ages have been streaming into your libraries checking out new books, listening to an author speak or introducing a child to the world of reading.

Celebrities in the Library: Through the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation’s Year of the Book fund, our libraries hosted a showcase of renowned authors and illustrators this year. Children enjoyed meeting favorites Jennifer Blomgren, Jasper Tomkins, Ken Mochizuki, Andrea Helman and Will Howell. Ivan Doig drew a crowd from across the library district to the Monroe High School; local author Helen Thayer told tales of wolves at four libraries in September.

Library Card Campaign: What better way to motivate children to get a library card than to give them one, attached to a brightly-colored key chain coil? For the second year, we worked with schools to get library cards to every school age child in Snohomish and Island counties. I have heard that the coils have become fashion statements in some communities. What you may not know is that the library card campaign has resulted in a significant increase in online borrower registration, and, anecdotally speaking, brings along other family members in about 25 percent of the registrations. Not only is this campaign bringing new library users to our doors, it is re-introducing former customers to our libraries.

Community Outreach: Three communities with elections in a single year is a lot, even for us. While not all of the measures were successful at the ballot box, they were successful in the resulting community contact. Staff and volunteers made presentations and provided information at literally hundreds of community meetings in Oak Harbor, Stanwood and Mill Creek.

Two Counties, One Book: If you’ve ever tried to get people in two counties and 20-plus communities to read the same book, you’ll know what a challenge that is. It was a challenge that we met this year, with the first Two Counties, One Book event. Many libraries hosted book discussion groups or searched the local community for a program that would enhance the story told in our selected title, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. In partnership with Everett Public Library we will be doing this again in 2005.

Local Community Wide Reading Events: We continued to support two local community reading events on Whidbey Island. South Whidbey Reads and Oak Harbor Reads each planned and hosted their second communitywide reading. Both communities put together programs that reflected a love of reading and learning. Individuals from throughout the two communities were engaged in promoting reading and encouraging the use and support of their community libraries.

Live Homework Help: We began to offer two new and innovative services to students and teachers in the library district. Live Homework Help is a new service that offers real-time, online tutoring for students from 4th grade through early college age. Hundreds of students have taken advantage of this service since we launched it in September. Overwhelmingly we are hearing from these students that the service helped both with subject mastery and assignment completion.

Assignment Alert: Students aren’t the only ones who need their library during the school year. Supporting educators is an important part of the library’s work. This year we implemented a new way to connect with teachers on upcoming school assignments. Assignment Alert is an online communication tool between teachers and their local library to make sure the subject materials students need for school assignments will be available when they come into their library.

Your libraries have lived up to the promise of the Sno-Isle mission statement in many ways in 2004. In case you missed some of them, don’t worry. Check us out in 2005 – we have many more activities and programs that can make the library a meaningful part of your life and the lives of your family.

Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory is Library Director for Sno-Isle Libraries.

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