Seattle Audubon Nature Shop staff look through the book selection in the library.

by Mike Seamans and Shirli Axelrod

A birders’ library, home to more than 1,500 books about birds, is located in the basement of the Birds Connect Seattle Nature Shop. With a few exceptions for reference books, members can borrow these books to plan for an upcoming trip, expand their identification and bird behavior knowledge, or to explore other Washington nature, such as trees, plants, and wildlife.  Within the next couple of months, the library catalog will be accessible online, an exciting evolution thanks to our volunteers who have been hard at work to implement the new online system.  

Looking for ways to open the library to greater use by members, volunteers researched tools that would allow the library catalog to be available on the web. Ultimately, they selected Open-Source Automated Library System, or OPALS. Members will be able to search and locate books by subject, authors, and title, as well as a few other categories.

Working closely with staff, several volunteers are organizing and entering all the books into the online catalog. Soon, you’ll be able to search the catalog from the main Birds Connect Seattle. Members are of course welcome to visit the library in person to look through the selection of books. 

A Little History 

Over the years, volunteers have developed and maintained the library, from the days of a hand-written card catalog. The scope of the library collection, at one time proposed to be much broader, now focuses on books for birders. It is not a full-blown nature library, but the collection runs deep in birding topics.  

Books for the library have been donated over time by members and friends of Birds Connect Seattle “thinning” out their own libraries. This practice has brought in a wide range of birding resources, including many published in other countries and a few in other languages. However, it also has meant that there’s a lot of duplication of well-known books and older editions.

While the organization continues to accept book donations, those which are duplicates or outside the library scope of birding are sold or donated elsewhere by the volunteers. You can find many such donated books for sale in the Nature Shop, while others are sold to local bookstores. In some cases, books are donated to other libraries, such as the Elisabeth C. Miller Library at the Center for Urban Horticulture, the Friends of the Seattle Public Library, and the Ann Lennartz Memorial Library at Seward Park Audubon Center. 

What’s in the Collection? 

More than half of the books in the library cover how to identify and where to find birds throughout the world, ranging from well known as well as eccentric field guides to “finding” guides. These include some books that are very hard to find. For example, we have “The Birds of Colombia”, “Birds of the High Andes”, and “Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands. You can also find “The Birds of Hustai National Park,” which is in Mongolia, and is a book probably not found in any other library in Seattle. In a nod to how birders travel, separate sets of plates are available for some of the very large field guides, allowing one to have their bird ID illustrations on hand without the added weight of a bulky book.

Another third of the books cover ornithology and bird families, and focus on the biology and lives of birds. These range from books focused on specific species such as Peregrine Falcons to pictorial and technical works on nests, eggs, and the rearing of young. Suited to our Pacific Northwest conditions, we have many books about wading birds, shorebirds, and seabirds in particular. 

You can find many photographic books of birds; answer questions about bird names; and delve into other aspects of nature of local interest or by local leaders and teachers:  Arthur Lee Jacobson’s “Trees of Seattle,” Zella Schultz’s seabird observations, and a biography of organizer Hazel Wolf. The library includes many popular narratives like Kenn Kaufmann’s “Kingbird Highway,” and Pete Dunne’s “The Feather Quest,” “Bird Brother” by Rodney Stotts, and books by local authors Lyanda Lynn Haupt and Connie Sidles. 

When Can I Use the Library? 

Members are welcome to visit the library during open hours of the Nature Shop, and volunteers or staff can assist you with your check out. Visit the online catalog to peruse our expansive selection of books online, before coming to the Nature Shop.

Library volunteer  Mike, assists a member find a travel book.

About Mike Seamans and Shirli Axelrod 

Mike and Shirli have been members for more than 40 years, and have been volunteering for the Birds Connect Seattle library for the last four. They enjoy expanding their bird knowledge, and planning for their next birding vacation utilizing the books they find in the library while volunteering. Several other volunteers, currently and in the past, have made significant contributions to bringing the library to its present state.

Birds Connect Seattle would like to acknowledge our current library volunteers: Betsy Donahue, Renée Remlinger, Shirli Axelrod, and Mike Seamans, who have spent countless hours organizing and preparing our library for the future online catalog.

Explore other articles in this issue of EarthCare Northwest

From Young Birder, to Collision Monitor, to Lifelong Advocate 

Spotlight on teen member Yoon Lee 

Yoon isn’t sure where to credit his fascination with birds – Wild Kratts television show, an Anna’s Hummingbird on his school campus, or a global pandemic. Whatever his inspiration, it is here to stay, and he is busy creating a better future for birds in our community through his activism.

Five Destinations in North America for Bird-related Travel 

Recommendations from our members 

Just as birds are in the midst of their spring migration, you may also be feeling the pull to plan your next vacation. Pack your field guide and binoculars and check out one of these great birding destinations in North America to plan your next trip around. 

Make the Most of Nesting Season  

by Dan McDougall-Treacy 

What a joy it can be to observe the nesting and fledging of birds from home. Depending on the species you might be trying to attract, providing nesting materials and nest boxes, and modifying your own garden practices, can set birds up for greater success.