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North Pole Library Staff Begins Moving Into Spacious, Fully ‘Wired’ New Facility

Tim Ellis/KUAC

North Pole Branch Library staff closed their cramped 40-year-old building Tuesday and prepared to move the collection into a spacious new facility a few blocks away. The staff is hustling to get the job done in time to open the new facility on Nov. 1st.

The new 18,000-square-foot libraryis three times as big as the old one. Big enough for Librarian Ingrid Clauson to finally shelve some 1,200 books and materials that’ve long been in storage at the old lilbrary.

“We’ve had a storage unit for the past year,” she said, “and we’ve just moved over all the books that we’ve owned, that we haven’t had room for.”

And there’s room for more. Georgine Olson is the Fairbanks North Star Borough Library System’s outreach coordinator, and she says about 25 percent of the new library’s shelf space will be empty when it opens next month, because it was designed to accommodate growth.

“The building was designed to hold 20 years’ worth of growth, so there is no way in the world we want the place to look packed on day opening,” Olson said.

You get a sense of that additional space as soon as you set foot in the $13.6 million library’s cavernous entryway. Sunlight streams through walls made mostly of glass, illuminating an interactive piece of metal art that looks like an open book, It’s by Fairbanks artist Mark Fejes.

Credit Tim Ellis/KUAC
The 18,000-square-foot facility is three times bigger than the old library. It features several rooms off to the side for study groups, and a young adult reading room/cyber bar.

A adjoining multipurpose room off to one side of the lobby seats 80. Clauson says she’s already hearing from local groups that want to hold meetings and other events in the big room, which is equipped with videoteleconferencing equipment.

“They are totally going to be happy,” she said. “They’ve been calling – it’s been ringing off the hook.”

Just inside the entryway, there’s work center with copier and fax and automated self check-in and check-out kiosks.

To accommodate our increasingly wired world, Clauson says the library offers wi-fi connectivity throughout. For those without their own devices, new computers and loaner laptops also will be available.

And, there’s a “cyber bar” in the young adult reading room that looks a bit like something you’d see at your corner Starbucks.

Credit Tim Ellis/KUAC
Librarian Ingrid Clauson is looking forward to finally getting all the library's collection onto the new facility's shelves – and filling remaining shelf space with more materials in the years ahead.

“There’ll be stools, so the kids can set up their laptops or do whatever they want up there,” she said.

Clauson expects those features will bring in a lot more young patrons – a demographic that many libraries struggle to attract.

“We’ve got room for young adults, and we’re right across from the high school,” she said. “So we’re going to get a whole new group of patrons.”

The library also features space dedicated for pre-teens and younger children. Outside, there’s family friendly space for garden plots and other activities like dog-obedience classes, and a half-mile walking course around the 9-acre complex.

The public will get a chance to see it all when the new library opens on or about Nov. 1.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.