Moving books to the new La Conner Swinomish Library became a cross-generational once-in-a-lifetime experience


October 12, 2022

Craig Barber

It is a rare day when you can be loud in a library.

Saturday, in La Conner, was one of those days. The new La Conner Swinomish Library on Morris Street was the site of what was fondly dubbed "organized chaos that morning and afternoon." Noise, laughter and joy filled the spacious new facility, a long sought gleaming addition to the town's landscape.

Enthusiasm was the word of the day, as it had been since Thursday when children, parents and grandparents began pitching in to move books from the old La Conner Regional Library a block away into the new structure, with its stunning outdoor story pole fashioned by master carver Kevin Paul and his son-in-law, Camas Logue.

"This is history, a generational event," said photographer Craig Barber, who captured for the Weekly News – and for posterity – the festive three-day scene. "The kids who are here will be able to look back years from now and say they were a part of this."

Barber – whose wife, Katryna, is a library staff person – was himself the picture of endless energy as he bounded, camera in hand, from one photo op to another.

He spent much of Saturday recording images of families conveying carts and wagons loaded with books into the new children's section, sure to be a popular area with its distinctive replica tugboat, including portholes.

In keeping with the generational theme, Barber photographed dad Kai Otteson and eight-year-old daughter Clara bringing their loads of books to the new library. For their family, books are literally part of their DNA. Kai's mom, Planning Commissioner Carol Hedlin, formerly served as librarian at the University of Alaska-Southeast in Juneau.

Barber marveled at how La Conner students stood elbow-to-elbow to form a book brigade the entire distance between the two buildings on Thursday.

"The day was significant," Barber reflected. "The bulk of books were moved."

In fact, library director Jean Markert said the student book brigade was efficient beyond expectations.

"This is something that you don't really know how to plan for," she explained. "You don't build a library every day.

"They moved 800 books in an hour," Markert said. "We had to slow down to leave something for the other volunteers. It was very impressive and a nice problem to have. We pretty much emptied out the other building on Friday."

That left the children's collection. Shelter Bay mom Dana Phillips and kids Beverly and Nora helped get the Saturday "wagon train" started. Reinforcements came en masse once the morning's local youth soccer matches wrapped up.

La Conner teacher Crista Landworth and children Cash and Anja were typical of the families that made repeated loops from one building to the other.

La Conner Library Foundation Executive Director Susan Macek watched admiringly as children took pride in filling shelves with the books they had carried from a block away. The bustling activity rekindled for Macek memories of her own youth when a library provided a welcome refuge from searing Arizona summer heat.

Kids delivered hardback copies of favorite titles such as Eric Carle's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" on a day that, ironically, was unseasonably warm for early October

"Getting the community together for this has been great," Barber stressed, "especially with the kids being so invested in it."

Library staff were gratified that the effort was so unified. Residents from all walks of life rallied behind the library in common purpose, they noted.

Barber pointed out how libraries can help everyone write meaningful new chapters in their lives.

"It was books," he said, "that made me want to travel. They've impacted my life in so many ways."

Craig Barber

Just as the new La Conner Swinomish Library and the volumes it houses will impact countless lives for decades to come.


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