The new Ketchikan Public Library building opened this month. A community celebration was Saturday, Jan. 19.

On a hill overlooking Ketchikan, the city’s people gather to celebrate. Poets, politicians and other dedicated members of the community chat over cake and coffee as children happily explore the brand-new space that abounds with books for all ages.  Light piano music floats through the air, and a roaring fireplace makes this cavernous space feel as intimate as a living room.

Speeches by public figures, music from local bands and a variety of activities for children marked the celebration of the brand new Ketchikan Public Library. People streamed in and out of the new building on Copper Ridge Lane all day, getting to know the library, which formerly shared the downtown Centennial Building with the Tongass Historical Museum.

Linda Gens, the library’s director, said she is honored to have been given the chance to oversee the new public space. But she also noted a far more gratifying benefit in seeing community support for the library at its grand opening:

“This community really, really cares about their library, and they use it, and I’m so happy in this place that people are coming in, they’re sitting, they’re reading books, they’re using their computers, they’re just enjoying the space,” she said.

Before a formal ribbon cutting ceremony in front of the new building, a number of Ketchikan notables gave speeches celebrating the new space. Mayor Lew Williams III kept

The Ketchikan Children’s Library is seen on opening day, Jan. 2nd. The library had its grand opening celebration on Jan. 19.

the crowd in stiches, saying his role in the project was mostly symbolic, while praising the efforts of Linda Gens and former library director Judith McQuerry, who retired recently.

State Sen. Bert Stedman detailed how the plan navigated through Alaska’s legislature. But he also used the podium to make a broader appeal to a library’s contribution to society:

“50 years from now, 75 years from now when the next generation looks back they’re gonna thank the people in this room – the future of democracy is in literacy, and if you can’t read, we don’t have a democracy,” he said.

Speeches and ceremony aside, the day held plenty of entertainment for some of Ketchikan’s most important citizens: its children.

Ketchikan native Kathy Stanton played kid-friendly music and told stories, while other activities throughout the day kept the children in attendance pretty busy.

A scavenger hunt and “cupcake walk” had kids and teens laughing and exploring all day in different parts of the library. In the children’s portion of the library, young ones of all ages got acquainted with some new toys in a large play area. And, of course like any good kid, they got some reading done, too.

One of them said, “My name is Emily Ramsey, I go to Houghtaling Elementary, and I’m 9 years old. I usually just read Garfield and wolf books.”

Emily had only one complaint about the new library, which wasn’t much of a complaint at all.

“I’m really excited about the new library, it’s just so big though,” she said.

A view from one of the Ketchikan Public Library windows shows Deer Mountain on a sunny fall day.

For those who just wanted to kick back and relax by the fire, there was ample opportunity. Many attendees at the grand opening of the new Ketchikan Public Library chose to sit in the big, comfortable chairs by the window, marvel at Ketchikan’s natural beauty and eat some seriously good cake.

The new library is located at 1110 Copper Ridge Lane and is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. The library is closed Sundays.