I recently had the good fortune to visit our US neighbors in the Far North – Alaskans! In between hiking near the Knik Glacier and snow-shoeing near Eureka Roadhouse, I visited a library in Anchorage and a library in Hope. (I don’t feel I can count the drive-by of the Wasilla Meta-Rose Public Library, part of the Matanuska-Susitna Library Network, since it was closed.)
I’m going to start backwards with the second of two libraries I visited, the Municipality of Anchorage’s main branch, the Z.J. Loussac library. The library’s namesake was the City’s mayor from 1948 to 1951 and in his retired years was the philanthropist whose Loussac Foundation underwrote the construction of the previous “new and modern” building which opened in 1955. The building I visited was constructed in 1986 and the Anchorage Library Foundation has a series of events planned this Summer and Fall to commemorate the 25th birthday of “the Lou”!
Like most libraries, Art abounded on the grounds and in the building. The extensive Alaska Collection is also universally noted as a reason to visit. However, I was headed straight for the room that was mentioned when I said I wanted to peruse the stacks…the Ann Stevens Reading Room. Floor to ceiling wood paneling and bookshelves line one wall while the opposite is filled with windows. A fireplace on an adjacent wall and old-style upholstered sitting chairs throughout the space round out the cozy ambiance. It was a cloudy and drizzly day when I visited and I wanted nothing more than to plop into a chair and read for a while!
Speaking of cold and drizzly, my first library visit in Alaska, the Hope Library, was also on a rainy, overcast day (reminded me of home…) Hope, Alaska, population near 200, is off the beaten track of the Seward Highway on the gorgeous Kenai Peninsula. I had the good fortune to arrive a few minutes before their Saturday afternoon Board meeting and was able to chat with one of the members about their future plans. On the agenda for the day – discussing the start of a Friends organization!
The volunteer-run library is currently housed in the former 1938 “one room”, (but with a second story for the teacher’s quarters), schoolhouse. Alas, their gift shop, located next door, wasn’t open during our short visit, so I wasn’t able to potentially contribute to their operating funds! We were also able to spend a little bit of time in the historic downtown area among the former Gold Rush buildings. If you can’t make your way to Alaska soon, you can visit them online!