Words on the Water

Avast, mateys! If you’re a literature lover and a seafaring type, you might be surprised to find that you can satisfy both your passions at a public library. With libraries and librarians across the country finding ways to be more embedded in their communities (hello, Radical Reference, Street Books, and Little Free Libraries!), Kitsap Regional Library is taking to the water.

Our county relies on Washington State Ferries for easy access to most of the area’s population centers, especially Seattle. (Yes, you may now be jealous that our daily commute often involves a leisurely sail across Puget Sound.) Because a large number of our residents are gathered on these boats each morning and evening – often passing the time with a good book - we realized this would be the perfect place to build some community around reading.

Our flagship program is a book group called Ferry Tales. Once a month, I ride the ferry between Seattle and Bainbridge Island. In the direction of the commute, a group of regulars discusses one title each month; in the other, I host a drop-in, ask-a-librarian session. I love helping our community of commuters get to know each other, expand our reading horizons, and just share an incredibly enjoyable ride!

Once news got out about Ferry Tales, ideas started pouring in for ferry-based programs and we worked with the ferry system to try some out. This month, author Nancy Rawles hosted an onboard read-along with chapters of her forthcoming book, Miz Sparks is on Fire and this ain’t No Drill. We partnered with the fabulous folks at Unglue.it (you remember them) to promote the DRM-free ebook release of her first novel, Love like Gumbo. Although Unglue.it campaigns have been temporarily suspended, you can still sign up to help unglue her book!

You probably don’t live in a community with a major ferry system. (Or have your own boat and a soul full of pirate-y awesomeness like the folks over at The Story Sailboat.) But you could start up a similar group on a bus or train, or in many other settings. So set sail (literally or otherwise) with a good book!

— Audrey Barbakoff, Kitsap Regional Library, Bainbridge Island Branch


  1. It is a pretty awesome commute. When I was living with my parents over on Kitsap, I totally didn’t mind that I had an hour and a half long commute, since it was so darned relaxing. This is an awesome thing for the libraries to do.

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