SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Do we need a new Public Library?
By Judith L. Anglin


April 21, 2007

This question ought to be asked and answered by each citizen of the community. Extensive public meetings were held in 2003 and 2004, and it was determined that yes, we do need a new public library. Now that the Grant and Main St. site has been determined to be too expensive to develop a new library, it is time to look for a new location, because the need for more space and better services is still there.

The last building that was designed to be a public library for this community was built in 1903. It was where the Wells Fargo Bank Building parking lot is currently located. From there, the library was moved into what is now the City Council Chambers and Conference Room. By the 60s, that space was woefully inadequate. Luckily, or not, Ketchikan's Centennial Building was built to celebrate the Alaska Purchase in 1967. After the Centennial exhibit was over, the Tongass Historical Museum moved in and then it was decided that the Library could go in the same building. The Centennial Building was not designed to be a library. We've done pretty well here for 40 years, adding the Children's Library in 1976. However, we ve reached the limits of effectively using this building.

Due to the original design, retrofitting the Centennial Building into an efficient, handicapped-accessible library will not work. Among other things, in 1967 an electric typewriter was state of the art technology. Anyone who has visited the library in the last 15 years knows technology continues to grow, and all the traditional services of the library continue to be in demand. We don't have space to add more computers or more books. People are not happy to wait an hour to use a computer, and they are not happy when we only have the latest novel by an author instead of the complete series. When 300 people show up for a program and we only have room for 80, they are not happy to be turned away. Most importantly, people who are unable to climb stairs are not happy to be told they cannot access the Children' s library from inside the building.

The Space Needs Study that was done in 2003-2004 was not a wasted effort. Ketchikan still needs a library with a lot more space. National standards say Ketchikan ought to already have twice the space that the public library currently occupies. Since the library has been in the Centennial Building for 40 years, wouldn't it be foolish to not plan ahead for the population growth that is expected? Yes, we lost population when the KPC closed, but our population has been growing again for the last 3 years. We now have about 50 people a month sign up for new library cards. We believe Ketchikan will continue to grow and prosper, and that we should plan accordingly. The State Dept. of Labor, Research & Analysis Section projects a population in Ketchikan of between 18,365 - 22,045 by the year 2018. We want to plan for 32 years past that, or about 50 years from now.

Everyone's input is encouraged while we find the best location for a new library. There is not a lot of open land available, and a lot of different factors need to be considered, including development costs. There are a lot of different ideas about what is "best". This decision will shape Ketchikan's future for a long time. Please be part of the process and help do something positive for all of Ketchikan.

Judith L. Anglin
Ketchikan, AK

Received April 20, 2007 - Published April 21, 2007

About: "Ketchikan Public Library Director since 1990. Ketchikan resident since 1979."



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Ketchikan, Alaska