Since taking the post of Sno-Isle Libraries Monroe branch managing librarian nearly three years ago, Phil Spirito’s mission has been to change that situation.
“My goal is to make folks aware that this beautiful building is a community space. It is open 65 hours a week and it is free,” he said.
Most people think of a library as having books, of course, but the modern library system has much more to offer. Besides books and magazines, audio books and DVDs, Monroe Library offers valuable resources in the highly informed staff that are available to assist in many ways, including helping with general tech questions, how to use the libraries extensive online resources, writing resumes and searching for hard-to-find information. The public can ‘book a librarian’ for an hour by making an appointment.
Being part of an extensive library system that covers both Snohomish and Island counties, Monroe has access to a vast range of books and materials. If something is not in the system, a librarian can order it from a library outside the system; even from the Library of Congress. Phil wants everyone to know that this wealth of knowledge and entertainment is at their fingertips.
Phil is very proud of the play area, a recent addition to the facility. “This is not a feature you will find in most libraries,” he says. The play area is stocked with toys geared toward literacy, word games, unique chairs for kids and comfortable seating for parents. Families often use the play area after Story Time, a daily program sponsored by the library to promote literacy and reading. It provides a great opportunity for parents to visit and observe their children interacting with each other in a stimulating environment.
To accommodate the number of older kids that hang out at the library after school, an area has also been dedicated to providing video and board games supervised by a staff member.
“We also offer a variety of informative programs, which are free to the public,” Phil says. The Socrates Café, a group that applies the Socratic Method of problem solving to real issues, meets every Saturday; Young Monroe Writers meet on Wednesday evenings, and special lecturers are hosted on everything from photography to travelogues.
Phil is especially pleased to announce that the library is partnering with Everett Community College to provide ESL classes on Saturday mornings.
With a degree in Library Science, Phil brings to his position a varied background. He originally hails from Maine, where his father was a science professor. As Phil was an early avid reader, his father encouraged him by providing more challenging and interesting books. This valuable experience contributes to Phil’s desire to enrich the lives of others.
Phil has other passions. He enjoys cooking, and became a chef for 10 years before moving into the field of technology while living in Chicago in the mid-90s. His work allowed him to indulge his other passion — music. A guitarist, bass player and drummer, Phil toured with bands all over the U.S. and Europe. Twice he was able to realize a dream of playing his own music in Italy, his ancestral home. Phil is also a singer and composer, and has produced several CDs of his original music.
Phil then decided he wanted to work in a career that allowed him to help others, which led him to acquire his degree in Library Science from the University of Illinois. At that time, libraries in general were behind the technology curve, and he was able to apply his knowledge and experience in IT to his new career. He worked in the Chicago library systems for several years before deciding to make a change. His wife’s family is located in Seattle. In 2014, they visited the libraries all along the I-5 corridor of Western Washington. Phil was impressed by Sno-Isle Libraries and the Snohomish county area, and soon secured a position as the managing librarian in Monroe.
Phil’s wife, Libby, is an organic farmer. In 2015, they purchased property on Old Owen Road suitable to begin Orange Star Farm. Libby focuses on growing the tastiest organic vegetables and caring for a flock of ducks. The Spiritos produce and preserve most of their own food and bake their own bread. Libby sells duck eggs and produce at local farmers’ markets, including the Queen Anne Farmers Market in Seattle and to several restaurants.
Phil and his wife love living in a small-town community, which is much like the town in Maine where he grew up. He enjoys the people and rural atmosphere of Sky Valley. Phil has made it part of his role to reach out to community leaders in order to spread the word of the vital resources available to all, and of the importance of literacy to assure the stability of an informed society.
Monroe Library is at 1070 Village Way. Phil Spirito can be reached at Pspirito@sno-isle.org.