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 library is 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.
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.
“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.