SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


New library construction
By David Dossett


September 10, 2007
Monday PM

To the Editor, Sitnews

In response to recent letters addressing the actions of the City Council in seeking land for a new library building, I would like to present some information regarding the need for a new building.

This country has long recognized that a well educated populous is essential to a successful democracy. That was certainly true in the early 1900's when Andrew Carnegie's enlightened philanthropy was providing funding for free libraries across the country. That era coincides with the formation of the Library Society in Ketchikan in 1903. From those 104 year old roots, our present day library, in a community of just over 13,000 residents, has a registered user base of 10,000 people. In addition, this past year there were 150,000 individual visits to the library, not counting telephone and internet contact and use. 170,000 items were checked out, in addition to in-house use of the internet, housed media and research materials. Due to evening and weekend hours, the library is a major place for students to do school research at times when school libraries are closed. Demand for highly popular library programs have outstripped the available space to the point that staff have gone to a ticket admission system that limits the number who can attend. The current limited space means that as new books and media are acquired, other books and media that are still relevant must be removed to make room for the new. There are no available meeting rooms for groups using the library. There are many safety and federal compliance questions with the current building.

The Centennial Building is 50 years old, was not originally built for modern library uses and houses both the library and the museum. A previous study for the library indicates that a modern library capable of handling all meetings, activities and relevant media for present needs as well as projected long term growth (30-50 years) would need to be larger than the current building even if the museum were moved. For that reason alone, remodeling is not a viable option. In addition, the problems of disruption to services and unanticipated problems and costs are strong negatives to remodel. (need I say Schoenbar or White Cliff?). We don't need a patched library for another 20 years. It's time for a library for the next 50 years.

The Friends of the Library applaud the City Manager, the Mayor, and the Council for their initiative in seeking a site for a new library building. We thank the staff for their dedication and determination in providing a successful library program in spite of limiting surroundings. We thank the community for their continued use of the library and their already generous support for funding a new library. Already, almost 1.5 million dollars have been given for library construction through a significant bequest by Marjorie Voss, a $50,000 gift by the Ream Foundation, and several small fundraisers by the Friends of the Library. The Friends stand ready to launch a major fundraiser for another $1.5 million as soon as land is secured and dedicated as a library site. We encourage the 10,000 registered users of the library to lend their support to this worthy project to make Ketchikan a better place for all of us to live.

David Dossett
Capital Development Committee
Friends of the Library
Ketchikan, AK
Received September 08, 2007 - Published September 10, 2007

About: "A 30 year resident of Ketchikan and a retired school administrator, I am currently a member of the Capital Development Committee for the Friends of the Library."


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Ketchikan, Alaska