Library Location Can't Recreate
By Eric Muench
August 12, 2010
Ketchikan must make a far reaching decision in the August 24
primary election. Should our needed new library be built in
a location favored by the City Council, or should it be forced
into a restricted area of downtown?
The impulse to save and revitalize Ketchikan's downtown deserves
our respect. Many of us can remember classic small town centers
from our younger years, pleasant and social places, without the
impersonal atmosphere of today s superstores and fast-food chains.
There grocery, hardware, clothing and drug stores, banks, government
and doctor s offices, a tavern, restaurant or soda fountain,
the library, the church, any or all could be visited in just
one trip downtown .
Even though Ketchikan's geography required a long strung-out
community in which no place is truly center, our downtown was
once something like that. But as a community we have steadily
(but perhaps unwittingly) made this charming model increasingly
We have gone down a different path. We have voted many times
over the years to bond ourselves for tens of millions of dollars
for new docks to park as many giant cruise ships as possible
in front (almost on top) of the downtown. We have voted with
our tax dollars to pay the visitor industry to attract as many
cruise passengers per day as possible. We have voted with our
lease and rental rates to make downtown locations unaffordable
to any but jewelry and souvenir businesses. We have decided
to devote the former sawmill property to a tourist development.
We have denied the local use of Ryus Float, originally dedicated
for use by residents and fisher folk, and turned it over to exclusive
tourism use. These and other moves have evolved the downtown
from a local retail and service center into an industrial-scale
tourist trade sector. "Tourist ghetto" may be an unflattering
term, but it has brought us the summer employment and sales taxes
we were aiming for.
As a result we have voted with our feet, shopping and preferably
working elsewhere than downtown. We have voted with backhoes
and investment dollars to develop new commercial areas away from
downtown. And we have voted with moving vans to shut down or
relocate grocery, hardware, clothing, sundries and now even the
drug store, much government and most other service providers
out of the downtown.
Now those who understandably wish for return to a more charming
past are asking us to choose a downtown location for the new
library to force us back there and hopefully to "anchor"
a change to what was. Like planting a coconut palm in Whale
Park to create warmer weather for Ketchikan, it would not work.
We have traveled a long way down the path of downtown tourist
development, often creating unmeant but real obstacles for other
users, and no one has proposed a change of direction. Even the
Downtown Neighborhood Revitalization Plan concerns itself primarily
with improvements for the tourist experience, a worthy goal,
but no change of direction.
Meanwhile we need a library location that will benefit the whole
community. Our downtown can not provide it. Advocates of a
second-rate and inconvenient downtown library location deserve
our understanding, but not our vote.
About: "A Ketchikanite
who remembers when our library was a a crowded roomfull of high
stacks and narrow aisles somewhere on the 2nd or 3rd floor of
the City Office Building"
Received August 11, 2010 -
Published August 12, 2010
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