On the move: Volunteers, librarians ready addition at Kenai library

Posted: Monday, March 14, 2011

The massive movement of nearly 60,000 books from the old Kenai Community Library to the new addition has kept the facility on track for its reopening on March 28.

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Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
Phil Smith moves books onto shelving in the new addition at the Kenai Community Library on Saturday. Library staff and volunteers are working to get the facility ready for readers.

About two dozen volunteers from Lowe's and Home Depot as well as two kids from Kenai Central High School came together Saturday for a collective seven hours of hauling materials into the stylishly decorated product of the library's expansion project.

"I believe in supporting the library and actually suggested to Home Depot that we come over here and help," said Ben Smith, a Home Depot employee who specializes in flooring. "We're always looking for projects that we can be involved with in the community."

Hockey players from the Kenai River Brown Bears also pitched in last week by moving book shelves, and they will be back next week to do more of the heavy lifting.

Modern teardrop light fixtures, dynamic color schemes, and sky windows artfully designed with mirrors to augment incoming light all come together in the addition to highlight the star of the show: thousands upon thousands of books on almost every subject imaginable.

"We're really looking forward to reopening and seeing everybody again," said Library Director Mary Jo Joiner. "And I know everybody's anxious to come in here."

The old portion of the library will still be closed to the public until the grand opening some time this summer, as construction has effectively shifted from building the addition to remodeling the original library. As a result, features that will be permanently stationed in the old part - staff offices, the children's area - are temporarily crammed into the new addition.

"So right now what people are going to see when they come in on the 28th is the staff taking up a bunch of areas that will eventually be public space," said Joiner. "We're hogging it now because there's nowhere else for us to be."

The vicinity that will ultimately act as an open-area lounge for adults has been walled-in with large bookcases culled from the old building to basically act as a makeshift kid corral - complete with books and furniture - until the new enclosed children's room is finished this summer.

The new section that will be revealed in two weeks represents two-thirds of the library's collection, meaning that a third of the books will not be immediately available to the public. However, staff will be able to go into the old building and retrieve books for people that are not housed in the new addition.

"We're doing the best we can to at least try to keep them available to people," Joiner said, "so if they find it in the catalog, we can go get it.

"We've separated out books that we think have high appeal to people," she added. "So when you come in you'll see that there is a travel section, a cooking section, a health section, gardening, pets, sports."

Besides the children's area and staff offices, the old section will include another exit, meeting rooms, and an entire area devoted to Alaska literature by the time the grand opening occurs in what Joiner hopes will be July.

"We are thrilled," said library assistant Cynthia Gibson of nearing the project's finish line. "So many people have worked so many years to get this to come about."

Karen Garcia can be reached at karen.garcia@peninsulaclarion.com.

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