EVERETT — About 200 people pass through the doors of the Mariner Library each day.
The library’s capacity is 37 at a time. Sometimes, things get hectic, branch manager Sandra Beck said. She’s seen every seat filled, with more guests perusing the shelves.
Sno-Isle Libraries opened the Mariner location in February to bring stable service to an area that had long been under-served. A book-mobile previously brought library materials to the neighborhood, but it didn’t offer space for programs, computers or much of an inventory.
Just about every day, it seems, guests tell the staff how happy they are to have the library, Beck said.
Michell Mitchell is one of them. The 35-year-old comes in once or twice a week and checks out a laptop. The library is designed so that people can bring their own devices or borrow one and plug in wherever they sit. Mitchell surfs the web looking for bargain items she can repurpose.
The librarians are friendly and the library is comfortable, she said. She hopes it stays in the community.
“They don’t have enough libraries around here,” she said. “Especially in these technology years, people need to be able to put their hands on a book.”
The Mariner Library is a demonstration project, with a five-year lease. Sno-Isle plans to assess use and options for establishing a permanent location. A similar approach was used to open the Camano Island Library in 2015.
With success on Camano and a bustling new space at Mariner, Sno-Isle is moving on to its next demonstration.
The Lakewood/Smokey Point Library is scheduled to open in January. Sno-Isle has a five-year lease on 4,000 square feet at 3411 169th Place NE, near the Tractor Supply Co. The plan is to open the library five days a week. Hours have not been set.
The library is expected to serve upwards of 20,000 people who are in the Sno-Isle district but not close to other libraries.
“There’s a considerable distance, not only in miles but in terms of traffic,” Sno-Isle executive director Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory said.
The plan is to have laptops and plenty of plug-ins, modeled after the Mariner Library. There will be youth and adult programs, and a meeting room.
“When we open these smaller facilities … it really puts out the feel of what a community library should be,” Woolf-Ivory said. “I think it’s one of the best things we do.”
The Smokey Point lease is $84,000 a year from Sno-Isle’s operating funds.
At Mariner, the need for a library grew as the area did. Neighborhoods became isolated by distance and traffic, Woolf-Ivory said. The same thing is happening in Smokey Point.
“These libraries are serving existing needs as well as what we know is coming,” she said.
At Mariner, Sno-Isle staff still are testing programs and inventory to see what clicks. Every library is different, Beck said.
Business programs have been a hit, with as many as 20 people crammed into the meeting room for presentations on how to start, market or insure a business.
Children’s programs gained momentum over the summer.
On Monday, the library hosted the Museum of Flight for a science lesson where kids made suits to protect marshmallows in simulated outer space. They gasped and pointed as they watched to see if their suits would keep marshmallows from swelling in a vacuum, then crumpling as air pressure was let back in. Most of the marshmallows came out dented, a few crushed.
“I think I know how this ends,” one boy told his friend when their team handed over a suited-up mallow.
“Oh no, no, no,” another kid chanted as the space suit swelled in the vacuum. “It’s gonna die.”
Both science sessions were full, with 25 participants each.
More programs are in the works, including a possible talk group for English language learners.
“We have a really diverse community, and it shows in the people who come in,” Beck said.
Nearly 900 people have been signed up for library cards through Mariner since it opened six months ago. That includes signups during librarians’ visits to schools and events. Laptops have been checked out for use in the library more than 700 times. DVDs are popular, and regulars swap out stacks of them.
“There was a need for a really long time in this area, and now they’re seeing that in Smokey Point,” Beck said.
“It’s a unique experience, opening a library for the first time and immersing yourself in a new area. It’s kind of scary, too. But I think it’s been a wonderful opportunity.”
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.