Orcas Library continues to shine | Adult programs expanding

As program director at the Orcas Library, Sam Gailey has spent the last eighteen months harnessing local talent to strengthen community and bringing outside talent to the island to inspire readers, artists, makers and farmers.

He has partnered with Darvill’s Bookstore, Friends of the San Juans, Orcas Center, the Choral Society, the Chamber Music Festival, the Orcas Island History Museums, Humanities Washington and HALO to offer dozens of live events over the past year — from arts and science lectures to Mother’s Day flower events to late-night novel writing sessions. The library just received a significant anonymous donation in recognition of his efforts.

“The support of donors and Friends of the Orcas Island Library has been encouraging. As we grow our adult programming, we want to build a stronger sense of community and inspire people,” Gailey said. “I am also striving to bring awareness to the various library services. A lot of people don’t know you can check out bat detectors and telescopes, for instance. I’m also excited that we are fostering a more diverse presenters pool and audience, including a proposal submitted to offer free Spanish and English classes to build stronger ties on island.”

Some upcoming highlights include the second annual Field Sketch and Journaling expedition in mid-June, the All Island Reads in September and the Adult Spelling Bee in October. After a positive reception at the inaugural competition, the bee will be expanded for 2024.

“It was so much fun. We had 18 contestants and 60 people showed up to watch,” Gailey said. “This year we’re doing it on the Orcas Center main stage. It will be an annual event with audience participation. It has also inspired creating a Battle of the Book Clubs, a literary trivia event in the future that we would love for a business to sponsor.”

The library supported NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November, which included a late-night writing sprint session hosted by graduating high school senior Lael Watson, with help from local author writing coaches, NaNoWriMo’s local rep Elizabeth Menozzi and HALO, a newly formed group of art lovers and volunteers on Orcas working to bring more visibility to our fine artists while inspiring the next generations. To learn more, visit https://www.wearehalo.org/.

This year’s All Island Reads is working with HALO to highlight two Pacific Northwest authors: Jane Wong and Willy Vlautin. Both will visit Orcas on Sept. 28 and 29 for a special literary weekend of readings, panel discussions, performance art and song. It is being supported by Darvill’s, Emmanuel Episcopal Church and Outlook Inn.

Gailey, who is a novelist, has also worked hard with other islanders to create safe spaces for local writers to grow and share.

“It’s so important to read work out loud, to learn what is working, what isn’t,” he said.

The library has been hosting Island Voices open-mic evenings where any islander can share works in progress, such as poetry, essays and short stories.

Additionally, the library has been hosting once-a-month Friday Night Writes during the shoulder season when the building remains open until 10 p.m. for folks to work on writing projects or read.

“It’s been powerful to provide a meeting place after dark — that isn’t a bar,” Sam shared.

In addition to adult programming, the library’s regular offerings include kids’ storytelling, Monday Game Nights, a genealogy group and knit night. The library programming is free to all ages.

To receive program text reminders, email sgailey@orcaslibrary.org. To stay up to date on the event calendar, visit www.orcaslibrary.org/.