Former longtime Ketchikan Public Library Director Judith McQuerry was first in line when the brand-new library on Copper Ridge opened Wednesday morning.]
“They already tried to let me in and I said no, no, no, the library opens at 10,” she said, laughing.
McQuerry got there early, to make sure she could walk through the doors first. While other
patrons waited in their warm, dry cars, there was a handful of dedicated people who joined her outside in the chilly, wind-driven rain. At 10 a.m. on the dot, the current Library Director Linda Gens opened the door and invited the cheering public inside.
Library staff members didn’t just smile, they beamed as they greeted patrons in the bright, warm space, offering a plate of cookies at the circulation desk. Most people, though, went straight for the books, arranged in tidy rows on the lighted stacks.
Ketchikan’s former library in the downtown Centennial Building closed over the Thanksgiving holiday, which means regular library users have been going through withdrawals for more than a month. Library employees have spent that time moving everything into the new space.
Children’s Librarian Charlotte Glover said she missed her daily interactions with the public.
“We are very, very excited to be able to share this building with the public. It’s just thrilling,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming and we’ve been enjoying all the beautiful spaces for weeks now, and now we get to share it with everybody.”
Gens said she didn’t sleep well the night before, worrying about details that didn’t get done. But on Wednesday, she was all smiles as she watched the first few people wander through the facility.
“I love it. It’s absolutely beautiful,” she said. “It’s such an open space, but with the fireplace and the cozy seats and everything, it makes it just a great place to sit and read. We’ll see how it is with people in it.”
The fireplace does provide a nice sense of warmth, especially with a typical Southeast Alaska storm raging outside. Artwork commissioned from local artists also adds to the atmosphere, including a whimsical, colorful, fabric tree installed in the children’s library.
George Lybrand was among the patrons visiting on opening day. He’s well known for his
pointed critiques, but he approves of the new facility, which he said will benefit the entire community. Lybrand pointed out the wider aisles and lower shelves, which were designed to meet standards for people with disabilities.
“My wife will love it. She’s in that wheelchair, and now everything’s — and it’s much more spacious,” he said.
A grand opening ceremony for the new $12- million library is set for Saturday, January 19th.