Books and Beyond: Libraries are cheerleaders for learning, adventure


Editor’s note: The Leader welcomes a new column, “Books and Beyond,” a monthly feature shared between the Port Townsend Public Library and the Jefferson County Library. The first column is from city library director Melody Sky Eisler. Next month’s article is to be from Tamara Meredith, director of the county library.

Believe it or not, librarians are passionate. Passionate about books. Passionate about reading. Passionate about sharing books, reading and whatever our libraries are doing within our communities. We don’t want to be the best-kept secret in Jefferson County.

We’d much rather do everything we can to tell as many people as possible about our services, collections, special events and weekly programs. And what better way to share than a monthly library column right here in Jefferson County’s official newspaper, The Leader?

Andrew Carnegie, whose philanthropy built hundreds of library buildings across the United States in the early 20th century, including the one in Port Townsend, said, “There is not such a cradle of democracy on earth as the Free Public Library.”

Public libraries support a community’s cultural, educational and informational needs by bringing people, ideas and information together. We librarians want to encourage a lifelong love of reading. We are cheerleaders for knowledge, learning, creativity and adventure. With the support of the editorial team at The Leader, we now have a monthly venue to do just that.


March is special in Port Townsend. The city has proclaimed March its official Reading Month – all of it dedicated to reading and building community. The program known as Community Read takes place all month long, with the explicit goal of promoting closer ties among community members through the shared experience of reading and discussing the same book and ideas raised by the book.

The concept began in Seattle in 1998, when former Seattle Public Library luminary Nancy Pearl created “If All of Seattle Read the Same Book.” Twenty years later, this one city, one book experience thrives in dozens of cities nationwide. It has been going strong in Port Townsend for 13 years.


This year’s Community Read is “My Old Man and the Mountain” by Port Townsend’s own Leif Whittaker. It is an engaging, humorous memoir of what it was like to “grow up Whittaker,” a unique coming-of-age tale and climbing adventure that begins on the steep slopes of the Olympic Mountains and concludes on Mount Everest.

The book is a delightful mix of the regional and global: Whittaker bedecked in scuba mask and flippers for his Port Townsend High School graduation; Whittaker wearing Eddie Bauer mountaineering gear atop Mount Everest.

Whittaker was thrilled when I told him his book had been selected for this year’s Community Read. We talked about how exciting it will be for teens growing up in Jefferson County to know they can literally or figuratively climb the highest heights.

I love that high school students will meet him knowing he is an alum. Leif also shared his passion for “leaving no child inside.” He hopes his book will inspire not only reading, but a lifelong love of the outdoors. He is, after all, living proof that “reading gets you to the top”– the motto on our Community Read button. Imagine our whole community sharing in such experiences, connecting and conversing at planned events centered on the book.

Leif’s memoir brings courage, humor, adventure and celebration of some of our hometown heroes to our monthlong reading festivities. I hope you will join us in building community through shared reading.

Melody Sky Eisler is the library director for the Port Townsend Public Library. Her favorite book is “A Wrinkle in Time,” which she rereads every 10 years. She also loves to hike, make art and travel. Contact her at


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