A little over three months after a partial roof collapse of the Palmer Public Library shut the facility down, the Palmer Public Library staff and Friends of the Palmer Library celebrated the opening of a new, temporary facility on Tuesday with a ribbon cutting.
The temporary library is now on Arctic Avenue, across from the Napa Auto Parts store, not even a mile from the original library site.
While the roof collapse in February immediately affected the Children’s section, damage to the structural integrity forced the closure of the old site while city officials have been hard at work to find a temporary solution that will allow residents access to valued and treasured books for children, adults, fans of fiction and non-fiction, and everyone in between.
Palmer City Manager John Moosey went to work, helping secure the temporary library location in March. And if the site of the temporary library looks familiar, it is because it the old Great Northern Engineering building.
“The morning after the collapse, the mayor, city manager, Community Development Director Brad Hansen, and I went driving. They knew which buildings were empty. This came open, and we’re making it work,” said Library Director Beth Skow
“We looked at hangers at the airport, we we’re looking at everything,” added City of Palmer Mayor Steve Carrington, who was on hand to cut the red ribbon. who may be a little biased as he got his political start while serving on the Mat-Su Borough Library Board.
“To me, the library has always been important, so having some place to stay open and have access to books is vital,”
“It’s been a long haul,” Skow told the audience during the ribbon cutting. “I have to thank the library staff that have worked nonstop through a horrible situations, in the dark, in the cold, gathering the books so we can have them. We are so excited to be here!”
Indeed, at a time when there are people who complain that libraries throughout the Borough are peddling materials that are “grooming” minds, and would like to see so many books removed from the shelves, community support for the library remains strong.
“We support libraries. Palmer Library has always been a home for us. It’s a place to go, it’s what living in a small hometown feels like,” said Susan Pougher.
“For us, the Palmer Library has always been at the heart of our community. It’s been really painful for so many of us to not have it,” said Rachel House, who serves as President of the Friends of the Palmer Public Library.
House said that she has heard from so many in the community who have missed the library, having a shared public, welcoming space and are excited to have the interim facility.
“Now that we have this opportunity to come into this building, with no expectations, and all are welcome here and we can once again connect over the love of knowledge and books, bringing our kids to explore and learn, that is a thing that not only means a lot to me, but means a lot to our community.”
“It is so good to have a physical book to hold and not an e-reader,” said Pougher after the ceremony.
The ribbon cutting coincides with the state giving Palmer $5 million for rebuilding the public library.
The money comes as a late addition to the state budget and as part of the state budget that was approved by the Legislature following a one-day special session last week, a result through the efforts of Representative DeLena Johnson.
“I can’t say that I’m surprised. When this happened, we heard from so many of our representatives, saying ‘we support libraries, we support you.’ So I am absolutely thrilled,” said House.
Mayor Carrington is cautiously optimistic and says that while thankful for the state money, more might be needed later, but that this is a great start. He also said that they city is looking at options to help with the rebuild.
“People ask ‘how will you afford a new library,’ worried that Palmer could raise the sales tax, and I’m not going to do that,” said Mayor Carrington, who is proud that Palmer has had the same sales tax “for decades” and remains stable.
“We might look at a bond, put it before the voters, to help with the difference. And we’re still dealing with insurance, so theoretically there could be a little coming from that as well.”
Palmer city officials issued a Request for Proposals for design and engineering for a new building, which closed last Friday. Skow said they are poring over the proposals now
“We’re looking at replacing what was there, replace and make a little bit bigger, or demolish and start over,” she said, saying that all options are on the table.
The size and interior configuration of the new building will be determined by the architect but the hope is that it will include a spaces for meetings, Moosey has said, something Skow would also like to see.
“One thing people want is places to meet. Have meeting rooms because there is so much need for that. Small meeting groups, rooms for students to study, parents who need somebody to meet with their children, so many happy things.”
While there remains work to be done and shelves continue to be filled, book clubs and reading groups, readers young and old all have a secure building to house the words of all types of writers and share the worlds and knowledge found in the pages.
For more information on the status of the Palmer Library, or for those wanting to donate, please visit www.palmerak.org/library
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