Last summer, the solar eclipse of 2017 was a HUGE event — and libraries stood at the epicenter.
Eclipse glasses were sold out in stores, online, and pretty much everywhere. As a result, the small stash of glasses we saved at the Washington State Library to hand out on eclipse day became a truly hot commodity. Some people even camped out in their cars to be first in line for glasses! Our eclipse event was a smashing success.
Upon seeing the huge positive impact the Great American Eclipse had on libraries around Washington, we in the Office of Secretary of State brainstormed about other ways we could encourage visits to Washington’s wonderful libraries. Out of this sprang the idea of a Library Passport. The original idea was to use a physical passport that people could take around the state on their summer vacation, but we decided to embrace technology and create a live updating interactive map.
Last year, the State Library formed a partnership with Seattle Public Library to expand the reach of the Washington Center for the Book, whose mission is to “promote literacy and a love of books, reading, and libraries.” This seemed like a perfect program for this partnership.
Libraries are already overloaded in the summer, and we wanted to make the passport project easy and enjoyable. To make the project fun, wonderful illustrator Amy Hevron designed a map. Amy lives in Washington and is a children’s book illustrator.
We requested a map of Washington that was playful, colorful, and promoted reading and literacy. We could not be happier with the end result.
Using an ArcGIS Story Map we set up the mapping program and sent posters and postcards to all the public libraries in Washington State.
In the first month, over 1,100 visits have been logged. Families on road trips stop to explore new libraries. Grandmothers have made missions out of taking grandchildren on library exploration trips. Individuals use their weekend jaunts to discover new libraries in their area. The list goes on and on!
Because each upload includes something learned during the visit, we’ve also learned a lot about our state’s libraries. We thought we already knew a lot! Here are a few tidbits that we’ve learned so far:
- The Ballard Library in Seattle has a green roof.
- The Coupeville Library is solar powered.
- The “ghost town” of Molson in north central Washington has its own library.
- The easternmost library in Washington is in Newport.
- Many, many libraries have great art collections on display.
- The West Pasco Library has the first drive-through pick-up in eastern Washington.
- Packwood’s library has an old bomb shelter underneath its circulation desk.
- The UW libraries have Berenstain Bears books!
- The Renton Library is built over a river and at certain time of the year you can watch the salmon swim upstream.
- STEM programs are BIG in libraries all over the state.
- Lots of libraries are not open on Sunday.
But don’t take our word for it. Why not visit the map and see all that people are discovering? Or better yet why not join in? Everything you need to know to participate can be found here. Happy travels and happy discoveries. We can’t wait to hear what you learn!