This month marks not only the beginning of a new year, but a special anniversary for libraries on Whidbey Island.
Sno-Isle Libraries officially formed 60 years ago, in January 1963. Two months prior in November 1962, Island County voters approved the organization of an inter-county rural library district with Snohomish County.
Longtime Langley Library Manager Vicky Welfare said the library system has seen a number of significant changes over the years. A Sno-Isle Libraries employee since 1984, Welfare said the integration of online resources into the library system as the internet became commonplace has made materials and programs more accessible for everyone.
The library used to house shelves of reference books that people would use to look up answers to their informational questions, Welfare remembered; now those shelves have shrunk, but the library’s internet databases have grown. E-books and audiobooks have also helped to increase readership.
“The number of physical books being checked out has dipped, but with the rise of the digital book formats included in the mix, more books are being checked out than ever before,” Welfare said.
Programming within the library system has also expanded, she said. While for many years, library programs began and ended with children’s storytimes, in the years before the COVID-19 pandemic, programs for adults took off. When those programs moved online to accommodate pandemic safety measures, attendance soared, she said.
The Langley Library building is the only one on the island that predates the formation of the Sno-Isle district; established in 1923, the Langley Library will celebrate its 100th birthday this year. The library in Coupeville was built in 1988. The Oak Harbor and Freeland library buildings followed, in 1993 and 1994 respectively, and the Clinton library opened its doors in 2000.
In the midst of 60th anniversary excitement, island library employees are also celebrating a year of reading on Whidbey.
According to data provided by Sno-Isle Libraries Communications Manager Katie Leone, Whidbey Island libraries saw 311,677 visitors in 2022. Whidbey Island customers made 425,091 checkouts and renewals from the library system during the year.
Top checkouts system-wide in 2022 included several thrillers, such as “Run, Rose, Run” by Dolly Parton and James Patterson; Pacific Northwest guidebooks like “The Mountains Are Calling” by Nancy Blakey; young adult reads such as “Gallant” by V. E. Schwab; and books for younger readers, including “Sunlight on the Snow Leopard,” the latest Magic Treehouse installment by Mary Pope Osborne.
Library staff also shared some of their favorite reads from 2022. For Welfare, “The New Yorkers” by Sam Roberts and “California Soul: an American Epic of Cooking and Survival” by Keith Corbin were among her top picks. The former is the story of “31 individuals who played key roles in the development of New York and America since colonial times,” and the latter is the “inspirational story of how a tough street kid working every hustle changed his life and became a well-respected Michelin-starred chef,” she wrote in an email.
From the Clinton Library, employee Kathryn O’Brien enjoyed “Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus, Zo Hill’s favorite was “A Prayer for the Crown-Shy” by Becky Chambers, and Kaley Costello picked “Where the Drowned Girls Go” by Seanan McGuire.
A complete list of 2022 staff picks can be found online at sno-isle.org/blogs/post/2022-staff-favorites. Sno-Isle staff also compiled six lists of their favorite books from the past six decades in honor of the district’s 60th anniversary. Those recommendations can be found at sno-isle.org/blogs/post/our-60th-anniversary-60-books-in-60-years.