SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Library Building Project
By Charlotte L. Glover


January 10, 2008

Dear Sitnews,

As the unofficial library historian (I would be happy to share my binders full of newspaper clippings, documents, and scrapbooks going back decades with anyone who asks), I wanted to address Linda Auger's concerns as we have been getting a lot of questions about the library building project.

The short version is that the City of Ketchikan does own a tiny bit of property deep into the valley beyond the bypass. It is not appropriate for building on. George Lybrand owns a fair amount of land in the bypass area, some of which was offered at a price for a new library, and I believe the Borough bought a parcel for a bus barn.

All of the land which was offered to the library project in the bypass area is far from existing streets and would require serious site development with total costs having to include new sidewalks, sewer, electricity, and street lamps, not to mention a long drive to pave and maintain in the winter, and hardly any visibility from the road.

The library building project has never come to a public vote. The last vote for a public building was October 3rd, 2006 when Proposition 1 and 2 were on the ballot for a sales tax increase and bonds to renovate the White Cliff School for an arts/senior center. That vote failed.

The long answer is that the Ketchikan Public Library has been trying to get its own building since 1941. It didn't happen then and the library moved into the building where the city council chamber is now. In 1968, the library moved into the Centennial Building, which was not designed specifically as a library, but had more space. Dave Kiffer wrote a nice article on the history of the Centennial Building for Sitnews a few months ago. It is archived on the website.

An April 2003 contract with Fletcher, Farr, Ayotte in Portland working with Millard and Associates in Ketchikan did a community needs assessment, facility plan and site surveys. A site selection committee made up of city employees, Friends of the Library and citizens looked at thirteen sites. Focus groups with thirty citizens met three times in May of 2003. At that time the consensus was to build the new library on a parking structure on Main Street across from the police station which would meet Main School Hill.

The Daily News headline of October 23, 2003 was "Main Street Preferred Site for New Library."

A Town Hall meeting was held November 20, 2003 and was well attended.

A public presentation November 25, 2003 with the architects and city representatives, librarians, etc. was well attended.

In January 2004 the architects delivered a Facility Development plan. This document contains hundreds of pages detailing the project summary, space needs assessment, cost estimates for the proposed project, site analysis for the thirteen sites examined and notes from the many public meetings. The library has copies of this document.

After that promising start, the library continued to fundraise with events such as a jazz concert, sock hop and the Sara Hickman children's concert while the city studied the project costs. Several people made major contributions to the future project including Marjorie Anne Voss, who willed her entire estate to the library, and her classmate Norm Reams who wrote a check for $50,000 to the Friends of the Library building fund.

The rising cost of structural steel and the tremendous weight bearing load of library construction quickly made it apparent to the City of Ketchikan that the proposed parking garage with a library on top was not going to be affordable and an alternative plan had to be found.

At no time was the library project taken to a public vote.

In Spring of 2006, a bond issue passed for uplands improvements and the City of Ketchikan put out a request for proposal to architectural firms interested in working on development projects such as a parking garage, etc. C.B. Bettisworth of Fairbanks and Welsh Whiteley of Ketchikan got that contract after the City Council and Department Heads looked closely at ten architectural firms from around the state.

This past year, nine potential library sites were looked at closely with a committee made up of engineers, librarians, Friends of the Library, and citizen volunteers who made a recommendation to the City Council. There were many opportunities for public comment, dozens of public meetings of the library building committee, and posters and brochures about the sites were available at the library. If anyone wants to get involved with the process, all they have to do is ask!

Recently, the City Council voted to have the new library building place on Main School hill with a stand alone parking structure to be built concurrently below at the corner of Main and Grant. An elevator would provide access to the library from the parking structure on Main Street.

As always, the staff of the Ketchikan Public Library can help you research any issue of personal or political interest in Ketchikan.


Charlotte L. Glover
Ketchikan, AK

About: Charlotte Glover has been the youth services librarian at the Ketchikan Public Library for the past seventeen years. As the daughter of a historian, she enjoys keeping documents and scrapbooks about our library for future generations to enjoy.

Received January 09, 2008 - Published January 10, 2008


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