Soldotna library basement reopens

After a year and a half, the nonprofit Soldotna Library Friends are gearing up to reopen their book sale space in the Joyce K. Carver Memorial Library’s basement.

 

The whole basement got a long-awaited facelift this spring, complete with drywall, paint and flooring. Desks occupy the main room, and closets spring off to provide more organized storage for the library. The book sale room occupies its own separate, permanent space, with bookshelves installed and already packed with books.

The city had long planned to finish the basement. However, the project sped up after the Iniskin Earthquake in January 2016 caused damage to the room and robbed the Soldotna Library Friends of a regular space to hold their monthly book sales. The group hosts book sales to support library activities, but without a space to do it, they had to put that fundraising on hold. The sales were popular, said Maria Dixson, secretary for the Soldotna Library Friends.

“We were bringing in between $300 and $400 per sale,” she said.

On July 22, the nonprofit will celebrate the reopening of the renovated space with a ribbon cutting ceremony and sale that afternoon, featuring a grab bag fundraiser and membership drive.

The city renovated the room using funds left over from the original library expansion grant, funds which had always been intended for finishing the basement, said City LibrarianRachel Nash. The city put the work out to bid and it came in a little over budget, but the Soldotna Library Friends pitched in the remaining $7,000 to cover the cost.

Nash said the project went relatively quickly — it began in February and was complete by mid-April.

“It was a pretty quick project, and they did a great job,” she said. “Obviously, construction in a library while the library is still open is challenging, but they were really good about (working around it) … even during storytimes, they would make sure they weren’t over in the area that they were in the way.”

Soldotna’s library is a common place for community activities and meetings as well as library-hosted activities. State agencies sometimes book the community room for public hearings, and community organizations regularly book the room for meetings and events.

The conference rooms within the library itself are usually booked solid, Nash said.

That’s part of the benefit to finishing the basement — it will allow the library staff more space for meetings and events when the other rooms are booked, she said. Some of the space will still be used for storage, but if the community continues to grow in the future, it will also provide another place for library staff to work, Nash said.

“We are a community hub where people can come and meet their needs and improve their lives,” she said. “The library can be a perfect meeting space. Traditionally, that’s one of the roles that public libraries have served, supporting people’s rights to free speech, to meet and discuss openly and educate themselves. I think the other part of it is we have made our spaces freely available.”

Nash credited the Soldotna Library Friends for their work as well as the city’s maintenance and public works departments for the improvement.

Dixson said members of the Soldotna Library Friends are excited to start up the book sales again and are planning a grab bag sale to promote the event and membership in the future.

The event is planned to run between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on July 22, just after the end of the Soldotna Progress Days parade. Soldotna Mayor Pete Sprague will cut a ceremonial ribbon to open the space, Dixson said.

The funds raised will go to support library activities in the future, she said.

“We really are working hard to make this a permanent place for the Soldotna Library Friends, ongoing income-generating so that we can support all those added things (at the library) that the community really likes,” Dixson said.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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