A beloved Stanwood librarian to retire

STANWOOD – Want to know the words of an obscure poem from the ’50s, the author of the “Alice” teen book series or the batting average of the Mariners’ backup third baseman?

Icle Crow knows.

For 32 years, she’s answered the queries, tracked down the books, and filled the shelves of Snohomish County’s readers.

On Wednesday, she’s retiring.

With her goes an institutional memory that dates back to the time of card catalogues and Super 8 films.

As Stanwood’s chief librarian for 24 years, Crow has ushered the library into the digital revolution – computers in 1984, Internet in 1997 and now DVDs. She’s steered the library through population growth that increased her staff from two to nine and nearly doubled circulation.

More importantly, in her mind, she’s helped generations of people connect with books.

“Books are your friends,” she said, sitting in the library she has grown old in. “If you have a book, you’ve always got a friend. You can go anywhere in the world with a book. You always have something to do. You always have information to get.”

Icle Crow loves to read. She always has.

As a girl growing up in rural Missouri, she looked forward to trips with her mom to the tiny local library.

As an adult – even as a single mom raising three girls – she has always made time for reading.

She checks out a dozen books at a time, easily plowing through them in a month. She’s currently reading a J.A. Jance mystery, a teen fiction book by Phyllis Naylor, a nonfiction account of first families, a juvenile biography of Woody Guthrie and “Bound for Glory,” a semi-autobiographical novel by Guthrie.

She says she can’t fall asleep without a book.

On Thursday, a day after retiring, Crow will leave for her first cruise – a four-day jaunt to Victoria, B.C.

She has 15 books on hold she plans to take with her in case she doesn’t like the cruise.

With short, gray hair and cardigan sweaters, Crow, 71, may look like a traditional librarian. But don’t tell her that. She scoffs at stereotypes of stuffy, “shhhing” librarians.

“I don’t believe it. We certainly don’t do this anymore – never have,” she said, raising a finger to her lips as if to quiet the room.

Crow has helped children research animals, young adults write resumes and adults navigate the stock market. While working at the Edmonds library, her first, she even sang the “Missouri Waltz” for a man who phoned in wanting to know the first line.

“I finished and he said, ‘Now, what key was that in?’” she recalled with a laugh. “He was serious!”

For many Stanwood readers, Crow is as much a fixture at the library as the Dewey Decimal System.

“Icle is the library,” said Dorothy Bowler, 81 of Camano Island. Crow helped her research patents, enabling her to start her own business.

“Pretty much everyone who walks in the door knows her,” said children’s librarian Darlene Weber. “It’s hard for me to talk about without getting choked up.”

The library’s children’s liaison, Almira Jones, added, “She’s a stalwart.”

In her absence, Crow says she hopes the library continues to grow in size, books and technology. Despite critics who say TV is replacing literature, Crow says she’s not worried that libraries or reading will ever become obsolete.

“The library is the living room of the community,” she said. “It’s a gathering place.”

Want to know what makes a library more than a brick building?

Icle Crow knows.

Reporter Kaitlin Manry: 425-339-3292 or kmanry@ heraldnet.com.

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