Every Sno-Isle Library

Two months into 2019, I finally finished one of my 2018 New Year’s Resolutions.

The goal was to visit all the libraries in the Sno-Isle system. I am trying to deal with the fact that I have both wanderlust and children by embarking on a series of micro-adventures. Since I can’t visit all fifty states or every continent (right now, anyway), I am settling for visiting all 23 libraries in the Sno-Isle system.

Luckily, library branches are on islands, peninsulas, mountains, and near hiking trails. Lots of opportunities for adventures.

So, with my two kids in tow, the challenge was to make an expedition out of each library visit.

I was so anxious to get started I forgot that a resolution should take plan in one calendar year and started on December 27th of 2017. At the time, I figured that I’d be done by the time the 2018 baseball season started and I could give all my extra attention to the Mariners. I was a few months off.

I just crossed the last library off my list today, February 23rd 2019. So I was only a year off. Close enough.

Trailhead Libraries

The Darrington library is up in the northeast corner of my region, surrounded by the North Cascades. It was a library that I kept putting off. Part of the problem is that it’s closed Sundays. Initially, I figured that we’d stop here on one of our trips out of town. We passed Darrington twice last summer, once while heading to Ross Lake to go camping one rainy weekend in June and a second time on the way Winthrop. However, we never ended up stopping there on the way to our vacations, and both return trips were on Sundays when the library was closed. Therefore, summer came and went and I realized that I’d better get up to Darrington before it started snowing, since I am deathly afraid of the driving-mountains-snow trifecta of death. My delays turned out to be a good thing because the girls and I headed up to Darrington in the middle of fall when all the leaves were busy looking gorgeous.

Hiking was a total bust. I tried to take the girls up Boulder River Trail, and after four miles of driving on a gravelly pot-holed forest service road, my five-year-old pitched a total anti-hiking fit about 200 meters into the hike. So that was fun.

Sultan was better. It was one of the first libraries that we went to during the early spring of 2018, and after the rainy drive and library, we headed to Wallace Falls, which is a great kid hike. There is a less-than-a-mile loop with a waterfall early in the trail that served as motivation for my lackluster little hiker.

A train pulled through town just as we headed into the City Hall-Library combo, which is VERY exciting if you are three. We enjoyed the slow comfort of book, stuffed bears, cozy chairs and magnet building blocks before heading to Wallace Falls State Park in Gold Bar.

Wallace Falls one of my favorite kid hikes. It starts with a gravel straightaway that just begs to test out your sprinting skills. That was everyone gets the impulse to run out of the way before the real hike starts are we all need to stick closer together. Once in the woods, the trail splits off into paths of varying length and difficulty. We chose the .5 mile down to Small Falls and then did an extra little loop before heading back. 

The Granite Falls Library is also tucked in between mountains and trailheads, although we opted to visit the museum instead. It was a delightful tiny open-only-on-Sundays place that featured mostly logging lore and very enthusiastic staff of elderly volunteers who gave us candy. The library was super cozy.

The Mukilteo Library is a trailhead library, which is weird because Mukilteo is not in the mountains, but right on Puget Sound. However, the library is surrounded by the Big Gulch Trail which leads down to the beach.

The Oak Harbor Library also turned out to be a hiking destination. Even though Oak Harbor is (like Mukilteo), is right on the water, in order to get to the place, you have to drive over a very dramatic bridge. The Deception Pass Bridge connects Whidbey Island to the mainland, and the little park on the Whidbey side is a perfect place to park your car and take a walk across the bridge (unless you are scared of heights) and/or walk down to the beach.

Island Libraries

When the girls and I visited Camano Island Library, I wasn’t expecting the place to feel so island-y, since Camano Island. It’s more of a peninsula that has a couple of slough-like rivers separating it from the mainland. Yet, the minute we drove over the (not at all dramatic) bridge I got that island feeling. Everything was immediately brighter, more relaxed, slower, more fun. We stopped at a park, got ice cream by the library, took the scenic route to the beach. Total island stuff. Sorry for misjudging you, Camano Island.

The Clinton and Langley Libraries on the south end of Whidbey Island. The Clinton library is tiny and charming. We took a ferry across the sound to visit. It must have been sometime in October, because I remember the Clinton librarian taking my girls on a pumpkin-counting hunt through the library. The Langley library was fun because it was right in the middle of the tourist center of town, near a firehouse-turned-glass-blowing factory and lots of good places to eat. The library itself was bright and airy with tons of great toys. This was one of the girls’ favorites.

We visited the Coupeville and Freeland libraries in late February 2018. The thing I remember most of about these libraries was that my husband was there too. Most of our library adventures were just me and the girls, but in February we went to Coupeville as a family because I was running a trail race that I was not at all prepared for. Oblivious to the fact that I was about the run the worst race of my life, we spend the weekend on Whidbey visiting libraries and staying at a perfect little AirBnB.

Destination Libraries

Edmonds: With a rooftop overlooking the town and the water, this is one of those libraries that people get married in.

Monroe: This library was an unexpected wonder. A glass wall backing up to a forest, the best play area of the bunch, a fun park next door and delicious taco trucks nearby.

Snohomish: Definitely the pearl of the sno-isle system, the Snohomish library is going for that old-world charm feel, with dark wood and tall ceilings, and cozy chairs tucked around the fireplace. A perfect place to spend a dark and rainy night. Naturally, I don’t have a picture but you can see some good ones here.

Stanwood and Marysville: Okay, these libraries weren’t really the destination, but they were perfect stops on the way to the Warm Beach Lights of Christmas Festivals. We stopped at Stanwood in 2017, and Marysville in 2018.

Around Town

Lakewood/Smokey Point, Arlington, Lake Stevens, Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood: Okay, when it came to these libraries I’ll have to confess that I didn’t really make an expedition out of them. There were no ferries, ice-cream stops, AirBnBs or trails. Usually the most exciting thing we did after visiting these libraries was to stop at Safeway for groceries on the way home. Not that they aren’t great libraries though.

The library in the town that is 5 minutes from my house and I have never been there

Brier is the town right next to me. In the five years I’ve lived here I had never even driven through Brier. It’s a little pocket neighborhood tucked in a triangular space between two freeways. I know that sounds horrible, but it isn’t. Because Brier is on the way to absolutely nowhere, nobody ever goes there. Unless they are on a quest to visit every library in the Sno-Isle system. We stopped in at a pizza joint in Brier where everybody knew each other, and we were clearly the out-of-towners (again. I live about five miles away from the place. Total out of towner).

Ah, the strip mall library

The Mariner library is in a strip mall between Everett and Lynnwood. It’s next to a Park n Ride and a good chunk of its patrons have questionable living situations. It is my favorite library because it is mine. It is where I rush nearly every week to pick up my holds. It is where I see my neighbors at the story time, which is tucked in a too-small room in the back. It is the library where my students go to check out laptops and use Wi-Fi and find a tiny space of quiet in their lives. It’s where the best and most patient librarians work – juggling the demands of toddlers, high school students, and an ever-increasing homeless population with grace. It may not have a fireplace or wood paneling or a view of the ocean, but this library is exactly what all libraries should be – a place where anyone, from anywhere, can find a warm welcoming space…and maybe even find themselves the perfect book.

library, sno-isle libraries


Jenna Vandenberg

Teacher, writer, runner, mom and wife.