New building for Talkeetna Library on the horizon

By Whitney Wolff–The Talkeetna Public Library has made its way up the Mat Su Boroughʼs Capital Improvement Project list and is slated to be the boroughʼs next upgraded library facility. Over ten years ago, the borough prioritized libraries in need of improvements – Big Lake was first with itʼs new library completed in 2000, followed by Trapper Creek, and Sutton, whose new library is under construction this year. Talkeetna librarian, Ann Yadon has been updating the community on the approaching possibility of a new library. She explains that the current library is simply “bursting at the seams” attempting to deliver wide variety of services from its present home. The current library building is a 1950ʼs-era FAA housing unit joined with an addition from 1985. Recently completed maintenance has spruced up the facility, but structural issues remain and the retrofitting that would be required for future expansion is not feasible. Pre-development studies have identified a new library as the best alternative for investing in the future of the library.

To clarify the history of the proposed project, Yadon cites several community documents which have recognized that the current library facility was undersized, including the Talkeetna Comprehensive Plan published in 1999, the Mat Su Borough Public Facilities Plan, and the Talkeetna Public Facilities Plan. She also notes the libraryʼs ever increasing service population which includes the Sunshine/Y area and Chase. Limited seating for adults and wifi users, inadequate parking, and lack of meeting space are all areas needing improvement, according to surveys of local library patrons.

In a time when so much of our information is digital, Yadon says libraries still serve an important role that goes beyond books. She stresses that a public library is a community resource center providing early literacy, communication,  job searches, programming, homeschooling support, access to reference materials, and summer reading programs. Most recently the state enacted a new initiative to supply all libraries with videoconferencing equipment which will help residents participate in meetings, and gain access to distant education programs.

The state of Alaska partners with local communities to fund potential new libraries through itʼs Library Construction and Major Expansion Matching Grant Program. The state requires the facility to be built for 20 years of projected service to qualify for the program. Future service projections are also recommended by the American Library Association . A “space needs analysis” was conducted by consultants from the Foraker Group where formulas were used to calculate square footage requirements for specific library services. After analyzing the data and applying the libraryʼs current and future service population, a proposed size of 7, 840 square feet was determined. For reference, the Big Lake library is approximately 7,000 square feet and Suttonʼs new library under construction will be approximately 6300 square feet.

The location of the proposed new Talkeetna library is under consideration but was initially designated on the lot north of the playground in the Talkeetna Public Facilities Plan. The cost of the new library is estimated at $623 per square foot or $4.9 million dollars. The State Matching Grant would cover 50 % of the cost with the remainder coming from grants and donations. Following three to four years of final planning and fundraising, the build date would be 2013 or 2014.

To learn more about the proposed new library, the community is encouraged to attend an informational meeting this Thursday, September 22nd at the Talkeetna Elementary School Gym, from 6:30-8:30 pm.

Talkeetna Librarian Ann Yadon will also be in the KTNA studio for a call-in, question and answer program Wednesday September 21st at 11:00 a.m.

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