Coupeville High School seniors Jacob T. Smith and Raechel Kundert love to read.
They love books.
Real books, physical books, the kind of books you put in your hand and turn pages again and again to find out what happened.
The past few months, they’ve been going through thousands of books at the school library, sorting them, cataloguing them, shelving them.
Since a full-time librarian left some four years ago, access to books for students hasn’t been the same, Smith said.
“We have the space and we have the books,” he said. “It’s not really useful to have that and not take advantage of it.”
Over the years, more computers were set up in the sprawling library space and books got shoved aside for computer classes and robotics.
A portion of the books — some 10,000 of them — still line shelves on one side of the room.
So Smith put together a plan to reboot the library — with no computers involved and at no cost to the school.
He proposed to inventory the entire collection and record book titles and authors by hand, using a pen on a master list made of paper.
When a student wants to check out a book, information is entered on a 3-by-5 inch card and put in a small wooden file drawer.
Smith went the old-fashioned route for a few reasons, one being that it means his peers won’t be looking at a computer screen while volunteering in the library.
“It’s all done by hand so we have a nice wholesome volunteer opportunity,” he said. “They won’t be sitting around doing nothing on a computer.”
Using volunteers helps students in clubs and sports who need to accrue volunteer hours.
The library serves both Coupeville’s middle and high school students, grades 8 to 12, totaling 508 students.
High School Principal Duane Baumann said students have continued to be able to check out books since the librarian retired and teachers occasionally filled in.
“The library project is well thought out and very organized,” Baumann.
Kundert said she may borrow organizational ideas from Sno-Isle libraries, such as putting large labels on selections of books.
“Maybe they’ll be a “How to Survive AP Literature’ section,” she said.
From Tolstoy to Tolkien, the library’s collection includes fiction and non-fiction, classics from all eras and many collections, including The Harvard Collection.
Asked to predict what the most popular book will be, Smith and Kundert replied in unison, “Harry Potter.”
Kundert said middle school students especially miss the library.
“They come from elementary school where they’ve taken classroom trips to the library and when they come here, they ask, ‘When’s our library time?’
Smith said he hopes the project helps re-introduce the value of libraries to his peers who grew up in the age of Google instant answers.
Standing by volumes of encyclopedias, Smith picked one up, saying, “This was somebody’s life work.”
Smith, who’s also a star sprinter on the track team, said he likes creating systems and hopes one day to have his own home library for his collection of science, music, medical and political books.
He’s also recently completed writing his third novel and plans to study political science at Montana State University.
Kundert, a fan of languages, said she’d like to study Japanese and work in Japan as a translator or at a school. She’s not a fan of electronic books.
“Physical books have a different value to me,” said Kundert. “I still buy CD’s, too. There’s really something satisfying about holding something in your hand.”