Kenai eyes library expansion

Funds on the table to design new look for old city building

Posted: Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Kenai Community Library patron survey 10 years ago indicated a need for expanding the library, and this evening, the Kenai City Council is poised to OK a $20,000 appropriation to pay for engineering and design of an addition to the facility.

Introduced and approved on first reading Dec. 21, an ordinance transferring the money to the library improvements capital project fund is expected to sail through the council when it meets at 7 p.m.

“The goal is to improve service to all library patrons,” said acting City Manager Chuck Kopp.

He said the library could expand upward, adding a second story to the existing building on Main Street Loop, or outward.

“They have plenty of room to grow out,” Kopp said.

According to the library’s Web site, patrons in 1996 said they would like to see more children’s and young adult materials, more fiction, more audiovisual tapes, special programs for children and an expanded area for quiet study and research.

On Tuesday, Kopp said the kinds of people who use the library have changed over the years, as have the types of materials they would like to see there.

An expansion also would aim to bring the library into compliance with federal Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, Health Department regulations and with Privacy of Information Act mandates.

Longtime library director and current Library Commission chair Emily DeForest said ADA rules call for library materials to be more accessible to disabled patrons.

“Books need to be higher or lower on the shelves,” DeForest said.

Library director from 1972 to 1999, DeForest said the Kenai library originally was in a small building across from the Peninsula Oilers building in Old Town Kenai, and the current building was built around 1976.

In 1986, it was doubled in size to 10,000 square feet, she said.

“I think there’s a need for an addition,” DeForest said.

“Ewa (Jankowska) did study sessions to help children with their homework. There needs to be more room for that,” DeForest said of a program initiated by Jankowska, who was library director from 1999 to 2005.

DeForest also said a monthly program conducted at the library by members of the Kenai Performers has been drawing audiences of 60 people or more and space is tight.

During a recent city council meeting, Kopp named a new director who recently accepted the city’s employment offer. Mary Jo Joiner is traveling to Alaska from Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., and is expected to be on board by the end of January.

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