Editor’s note: This story is part of a series looking at some of the people and events in the news in 2014.
More than a year has passed since the expansion of Soldotna’s Joyce K. Carver Memorial Library ended, and the $4.8 million addition has proven to be a hit with the community.
“It’s been going amazing,” said Soldotna librarian Rachel Nash. “We’ve had an amazing response from the community.”
The renovation saw the addition of a community room, conference room, fireplace and an expansion of the children’s room. According to an e-mail from Soldotna City Engineer Kyle Kornelis, construction on the library began on June 4, 2012, and was completed on November 11, 2013. The project renovated an existing 7,438 square feet and added another 9,843 square feet. The official ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebration was Jan. 18.
The increased space has allowed the library to offer the community a wide range of new programs for people of all ages. The library started by increasing its core service of story times to now include story time for babies, toddlers, and school-age children.
Nash said that a teen program is held once a week, and the library is also trying to increase the number of programs for adults. Her goal is to have at least one program each week for every age group, including children, teens and adults.
“We’ve got programs going on every week,” Nash said. “There was one day in November that I looked at our calendar and I realized we had more than 12 programs just in one week.
We only have four full-time staff, plus three part-time staff, so that’s pretty impressive to have more programs than we have staff.”
Nash said that on one particular day, more than 100 people come in to participate in library programs, and participation in the library’s Summer Reading Program was also up 365 percent.
“The community is definitely showing us their support,” she said. “We really appreciate that and all of our wonderful volunteers, too.”
Nash said that without the community room, the library would not be able to do most of the programs currently offered.
Aside from new opportunities that the expansion has provided, library staff and library users alike have been impressed with the building’s aesthetics.
“Everyone is really impressed,” said librarian KJ Hillgren. “It’s new. It’s gorgeous. This is the most beautiful library I’ve ever worked in.”
Kenai Peninsula resident Tina Woodworth said that she tries to use the library as much as possible. “I think it’s more user-friendly and more open,” she said. “I like the fireplace — you can just come and sit and relax, pick out a book if you want, use the computers if you need them, but this is the coziest spot in the whole library.”
Despite the new improvements, Nash said that the Soldotna Library isn’t trying to be competitive with other libraries in the area.
Instead, she said she enjoys collaborating with other communities in order for each facility to improve.
While the library is enjoying success, Nash hopes to continue improving the facility in order to make it a key focal point of Soldotna and the region.
“(The Library Board) foresee the library becoming a community hub, which I think it’s getting there,” she said. “What I mean by community hub is when you have a question, the first thing you think of is, ‘I should go to the library. I bet I can find the answer there.’
If there’s a program or a skill you would like to learn, same thing, you think of the library first. If you’re applying for a job, you of course want to go to job services, but maybe you also want to go to the library and use some of our resources on resumes and things like that.”
For now, Nash is pleased with the direction of the library. “It allows us to bring the community together for (various types) of learning events,” she said.
“To have a fun time and really connect people-to-people,” she said.
Reach Ian Foley at email@example.com.