PORT TOWNSEND — As Emily Bufford sees it, the library is bigger than its stacks.
In high school, Bufford, now 26, reveled in the number of young people who came into the Jefferson County Library after school. As a 16-year-old page there, she saw how this was a place to connect with the community; to be around adults who are there for you.
“The books are amazing, and I’m super passionate about reading,” she said on a recent afternoon.
But it’s that sense of community plus lifelong learning that kept her coming back to the library.
Bufford, who grew up on Marrowstone Island and earned a master’s degree in library and information science at the University of Washington, has just become Youth Services & Outreach Library manager at the Port Townsend Library.
“This is the library my mom took me to as a kid,” long before she got that first job at the county library.
“It’s been really nice coming back,” said Bufford, who worked for two years at the Kitsap Regional Library on Bainbridge Island.
That job included youth programs and mobile services, and after the pandemic began, she found a way to connect the two.
Bufford invited young library patrons to write letters — messages of encouragement and solidarity — to people staying at home.
More than 100 “Letters from Your Library” were delivered by the mobile services team.
“Emily is a ray of sunshine,” said Port Townsend Library Director Melody Sky Weaver.
As it turned out, Bufford’s first appearance at the library’s Tuesday morning story time was bathed in the stuff.
On the grass where a tarp and a circle of chairs were set up, Bufford joined Associate Librarian Paige Wynkoop, another new staffer, and a small coterie of babies, toddlers and parents.
First Wynkoop presented a couple of picture books, and then invited everybody to take a break, stand up and wiggle. Next came one more “Pete the Cat” book.
The story times, which start at 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays outside the library at 1220 Lawrence St., are part of the spring programming detailed at PTpubliclibrary.org.
Next up is the summer reading program, which Bufford noted is for kids, teens and adults.
“We’ll have a lot of programs aimed at families,” she said, adding she’ll do a weekly story time at Chetzemoka Park, at Blaine and Jackson streets, from June into August. Bufford’s stories will start there at 10:30 a.m. every Friday.
Weaver noted that Bufford, whose annual salary is $69,935, is part of a team of library staffers who are continuing to navigate pandemic-era challenges. They seek to provide COVID-safe programming, Weaver said, be it outdoor story times or author presentations online.
The library recently restored its Sunday hours of 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., in addition to Tuesdays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Face coverings are encouraged.
For those who want to use the library outside those hours, any services are available 24-7 via PTpubliclibrary.org, Weaver noted.
In-person, indoor programs will restart at some point, the library director said. She also looks forward to exploring the return of the Salish After Hours and Summer at Salish programs at the Salish Coast Elementary School library.
Of Bufford, Weaver added: “I am so excited to see her vision for connecting patrons of all ages.”
Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or durbanidelapaz @peninsuladailynews.com.