Library hosts online events

Library hosts online events

Following Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phased reopening plan, the library is preparing to safely offer more public services.

“When Phase two begins, we will start sending some staff back to the library to prepare the physical spaces for safer interactions and to prepare new services to begin in Phase three,” San Juan Public Library Executive Director Laurie Orton said, explaining that during the third phase, the library will begin new services, including curbside pickup and returns of library materials.

Orton added that Phase Three might also include computer use, by appointment only, and small numbers of patrons browsing and checking out materials.

“We expect to be in Phase Three for quite a while as we join efforts with others in our county to limit the spread of COVID-19,” Orton said.

There was a discussion of physically expanding the library while it is vacant, but the board of trustees decided during its April 14 board meeting to postpone the planning.

“The board decided this would not be the right year to ask voters to approve a bond levy for construction, nor to fundraise for the project as so many islanders have been economically devastated by the coronavirus and its fallout,” Orton said. The board will meet later this year to work on a new timeline for the project.

The library has not remained dormant during the shutdown, however. Online events continued, including a Nature Matters series in partnership with the San Juan Island National Historic Parks. The first presentation was Foxes and Rabbits, according to Orton, nearly 30 people remotely attended.

Storytime readings for kids with Miss Melina, Miss Kathy and Miss Jenny have proved popular as well, Orton said. The videos often feature special guests like Mr. Funny Walkerr and Miss Penny, a guinea pig who lived at the library for the month of February. Speaking of guinea pigs, Miss Penny recently read “Nibbles: A Green Tale,” by Charlotte Middleton, which centers around guinea pigs and sustainable food.

The closure of the library has been difficult for staff as well, Orton explained.

“We want to be there helping when people are stressed. We miss seeing our wonderful community members,” Orton said. “We know they need access to computers, free WiFi, books, movies, financial resources and all the rest.”

Orton added that the staff is looking forward to opening again, acknowledging that the process will seem slow and frustrating at times.

“When we do reopen, we will be doing our best to make their experience as safe and comfortable as possible. In the meantime, we are doing all we can online, and more is coming,” Orton said.

Using the Zoom program, the library will bring some of its programmings straight into the homes of San Juan Islanders. Visit for more information.

Upcoming events

Monday, June 1, 7 p.m.

Zoom Event: Know Your Islanders: Thane Pratt, “Kokoda Sketches: A Birding Trek across Papua New Guinea”

Lace-up your (virtual) hiking boots and join wildlife biologist Thane Pratt and artist Szabolcs Kokay on a trek across the mountain ranges of Papua New Guinea. We’ll relive some of the adventures and experience the biological wonders of this, the world’s largest tropical island. Authors of the field guide Birds of New Guinea, Thane and Szabi were there to search for and paint the remarkable birdlife of this remote corner of the planet. Co-sponsored by the San Juan Island Trails Committee.

Monday, June 8, 1:15 p.m.

Zoom Event: “Mullis Center Book Club reads Michael Ondaatje, Warlight”

The Mullis Center Book Club reads Michael Ondaatje’s “Warlight.” Years after growing up in the care of a group of mysterious protectors who served in unspecified ways during World War II, a young man endeavors to piece together the truth about his parents and the unconventional education he received. Read the book and participate in a discussion about the book moderated by librarian Beth Helstien.

Wednesday, June 10, 7 p.m.

Zoom Event: “Nature Matters: Written in Stone — Geology of the San Juans”

The geology of the San Juans is a story of change written in stone. Hidden just beneath the surface is a story that tells of cataclysm and collision, upheaval, and tens of millions of years of transformation by ice, water, sun, and wind to form these unique and beautiful islands. Presented by Jeff Hodge and co-sponsored by the National Park Service.

Saturday, June 13, 7 p.m.

Zoom Event: “Open Mic for Writers”

Held on the second Saturday of the month, Open Mic Night is for anyone interested in writing. Don’t be shy, come read your work or just listen. You’ll be inspired to write more. For more information please contact Pam Herber at

Wednesday, June 17, 7 p.m.

Zoom Event: “A Beginning Surfer’s Guide to Internet Genealogy”

Stay home, stay healthy and open up all those family closets you’ve been meaning to explore in your spare time! Join Boyd Pratt, local history buff, for an introduction to research genealogy on the internet. His emphasis will be on websites available through the library as well as local, regional, and state online resources.