As the ribbon cutters stepped aside Saturday, more than 1,500 people poured into the new Homer Public Library to ogle at the facility’s features.
The strong community turnout was indicative of the entire process of fundraising, planning and designing the building, speakers said.
“You guys are in for years and years of wonderful thinking and learning and creating in this library,” said Linda Thibodeau with the state library department. “This library is a reflection of the community.”
Homer Mayor James Hornaday recalled how excited the community was to open the former library in 1979, and said the current library was a collaborative effort of many. Hornaday presented a plaque to Norman Griffin, husband of the late Joy Griffin, who was instrumental in creating the library’s Top Drawer Collection, a selection of stories by local authors that are bound and available for reading at the library.
As well, the grandchildren of Margaret Pate, a longtime library supporter, were presented with a plaque recognizing Pate’s efforts. The library’s garden was named after the lifelong library proponent.
Nancy Lord, a Homer author with longtime involvement in the library’s capital campaign, noted that a large portion of the community participated in the effort to build the Homer library through a host of events, fundraisers, activities and hands-on volunteerism.
“This building didn’t just happen,” Lord said. “Half-a-million dollars were raised right here.”
Lord noted that the many works of art contributed to the community feeling, and the design reflects Homer’s values.
Former mayor Jack Cushing said he knew from the start that the library would come to fruition when more than 50 people showed up for a preliminary meeting for the capital campaign.
“It’s great to see this town pull this thing off,” he said. “I knew right then that nothing could stop this project.”
Then, following a serenade of “Bookworms” Arlene Rhonda, Renda Horn and Ann Keffer singing about the “Brand new, simply gorgeous public library,” the doors swung smoothly open, and an estimated 1,500 people came to inspect the new space.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” said Library Director Helen Hill. “Having that number of people that happy for a long period of time was great.”
Hill said the interest didn’t die down on the library’s first day of official opening. Some 815 people visited the library Monday, and 25 new cards were issued. The average number of visitors for the old library was 300 a day, and last September, the facility issued 70 cards all month.
“We’ve been getting a lot of compliments,” Hill said. “I think we finally have a place that a lot people will use.”
Hill said a lot of the people who visited Monday noted that they weren’t comfortable using the old library for a variety of reasons. Time will tell how many more people will use the new space, but if the early anecdotal information is any indication, there will be many.
“The old library was a good space for coming in and checking out a book and leaving,” Hill said. “It was wonderful to see people using the library just the way it was intended. That was when it started to seem real.”
Activities continue through the month at the library, which is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Today, readings will be held by local Homer authors Rich Chiappone, Nancy Lord, Eva Saulitus, Miranda Weiss, Michael Armstrong and Jim Rearden from 7 to 9 p.m. On Sept. 28, from 10 a.m. to noon, Tom Wiltsey, director of the Anchorage office of National Archives, will present “Finding your roots: Researching geneology at the National Archives.” On election day, Oct. 3, the library will present “Singing through History,” a folk music program for youth by Adam Miller, visiting musician from California. The event will be at 3:30 p.m.
Hill said while the space is larger, the number of books on the shelves at the new facility is the same as the old library, though they aren’t wedged in as tightly. Studies have shown the library needs around 50,000 books on the shelves to support a community Homer’s size, Hill said, and currently, the library is at 75 percent of that level, with top and bottom shelves open for growth. The book budget and staff to handle the books are the same as for the old building, Hill noted, but donations of both books and money have been coming in to help the library grow into its new stacks.
“I think our collection will be able to grow quite nicely,” Hill said.
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