EVERETT — A swarm of kids and parents poured into Mariner Library when Sno-Isle Libraries’ newest branch opened its doors Saturday morning.
It took Lillyana Hooper, 9, just a few minutes to find a richly illustrated book on movie animation. The voracious reader was still hunting for more — maybe a book she can read to her 4-year-old brother or a Nancy Drew mystery for herself, she said.
She visits a library branch two or three times a week. Sometimes the Sno-Isle Libraries’ bookmobile is in the neighborhood. Otherwise, they drive to branches in Mukilteo or Mill Creek. They are not long drives, but they are not convenient, said Andrea Hooper, Lillyana’s mother.
Last year, she signed a petition urging the library system to open a branch in the working-class neighborhood.
“I didn’t think this would happen,” Hooper said.
The petition drive was led by Peggy Nystrom, a retired Mukilteo School District librarian. From 2000 to 2011, she worked at Mariner High School. During her time there, she was surprised the area did not have its own library branch, and 10 years ago started campaigning to get one.
Over the years, dozens of teachers and students collected more than 2,000 signatures.
In mid-2016, the library system’s board of trustees approved a 10-year plan that included the new branch. To get the branch open quickly, Sno-Isle leased a former yoga studio in a strip mall at 520 128th St. SW, across the street from a transit center, said Jim Hills, Sno-Isle’s spokesman.
Mariner Library is called a “demonstration library,” but it is staying, he said. “We are committed to serving this area.”
Sno-Isle will use the next few years to fine tune the branch to best serve local users. That includes figuring out what users want on the shelves, the programming to offer and even the permanent location. The branch could stay where it is or move to another nearby space, he said.
Mariner Library serves the neighborhoods south of Everett, east of Paine Field and Mukilteo, west of Mill Creek and north of Lynnwood. The area includes five elementary schools, one middle school and the high school, and is home to about 30,000 people. That is roughly the size of Lake Stevens.
Sno-Isle has 22 branches, serving Island and Snohomish counties, and about 250,000 active users.
Seeing the Mariner branch open was the highlight of her career, Nystrom said.
“I would not miss this for the world,” she said. “A library always has been part of a community’s heart.”
Dozens of supporters turned out for Saturday’s opening. In the first 30 minutes, librarians checked out 214 items to customers.
Mariner Library provides more than just books, movies and other materials for people living nearby, said Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory, Sno-Isle’s executive director.
There’s a meeting room where neighbors can get together, internet access for job searches and research, and quiet space for kids doing homework, she said.
“How can you beat this picture here?” she said.
A few feet away, two toddlers played with a wooden puzzle. Three grade-school age kids sat around a table, hunched over open books, with stacks more beside. And a dad read to a toddler perched on his leg.