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How Libraries are Building a Path to the Outdoors

Posted by tchou at Aug 29, 2022 10:47 AM |

The King County Library System (KCLS) aims to support the community in their outdoor endeavors by providing hiking- and outdoor-specific resources for many years.

When you think about outdoor innovation, you’re probably not thinking about libraries. But maybe you should be!

North Bend is a well-known hot spot for hikers and outdoor activities. The King County Library System (KCLS) knows this and has aimed to support the community in their outdoor endeavors by providing hiking- and outdoor-specific resources for many years.

Lindsay Ellsworth, teen and adult librarian at the North Bend Library, works hard to make resources available for everyone. Among those resources is a section of the library devoted to outdoor recreation education and information — including a computer that lets visitors check trail info at 

A library employee in North Bend stands in front of the kiosk with information on hiking in Washington.
Photo courtesy Lindsay Ellsworth

In the early 2010s, the library had many unused paper maps so KCLS designed and built a kiosk to display them. Initially, it was equipped with a computer, printer and newly laminated maps. Today, users can zero in on a topographical area and print detailed sections using the library print station.

Visitors can also grab pamphlets from organizations like King County Parks for maps and outdoor tips. And the library still has paper maps. Lindsay says many libraries don’t have hard copy documents anymore; she often sees people stop to take a look.

The North Bend Library is always looking for ways to add to its collection of useful outdoor resources because North Bend attracts so many outdoor enthusiasts.

“Here, especially, we keep a lot of hiking books, camping and wildlife stuff,” Lindsay said. “Our community here is just so outdoorsy and interested in them.”

Other KCLS libraries, particularly near outdoor recreation areas, serve hikers too. Skykomish Library, for instance, carries WTA’s Washington Trails magazine, books on the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs through nearby Stevens Pass, local hike information and topographical maps.

However, Lindsay says she doesn’t know of any library branches that have a display like the North Bend Library — yet. She hopes getting the word out about theirs will inspire other branches to create something similar. 

The materials at the North Bend Library outdoors kiosk are popular. Lindsay says she sees hiking books getting checked out quickly, pamphlets being cleared out and the computer being occupied by curious hikers. The kiosk has received positive feedback; the feedback also helps the library discover more of what the public wants. 

“For folks that wouldn’t normally be able to afford it, we definitely want (to provide) all of those resources,” Lindsay said. “Getting information out there, that’s what we do.”

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of Washington Trails Magazine. Support trails as a member of WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.