DIVE PRACTICUM – Dive student Karson Winslow hands a discarded garden hose to SCUBA instructor Haleigh Damron, standing on the dock, at Crescent Harbor this afternoon. The University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus Dive Team is clearing trash from the harbor floor under floats 5, 6 and 7 as part of their instruction. Fourteen student divers are taking part this year. This is the fifth year the dive team has volunteered to clean up Sitka harbors. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Saturday Events to Mark Library Centennial

By SHANNON HAUGLAND

Sentinel Staff Writer

Sitka on Saturday will celebrate a milestone: the opening of the first public library in Sitka 100 years ago.

The birthday party is 1 to 3 p.m. at the Sitka Public Library and Harrigan Centennial Hall. The free event will flow between the library and Centennial Hall, and will include an art exhibit, kids and family activities, food carts, photo booth, live music, cupcakes and library merchandise for sale.

“People may wear costumes as your favorite literary character or you can dress as a book or you can dress as Waldo or you can dress in a group costume of some sort,” said Kari Sagel, who is on the 100th committee for the centennial celebration. Four $50 prizes will be awarded.

Sagel said having a public library in Sitka is indeed something to celebrate.

Gayle Young exits the Sitka Public Library this afternoon. A 100-year celebration of libraries in Sitka will be held Saturday at the library and at Harrigan Centennial Hall, pictured in the background. (Sentinel Photo)

“Libraries remain an ideal, how things are supposed to be,” said Sagel, who is a librarian and is active in the nonprofit Friends of the Sitka Public Library. “Open, a good place to get information, equitable, democratic.”

“One-hundred years as a public library is a big deal,” library director Jessica Ieremia said. “There have been libraries in Sitka longer than that, but not a public library that everyone could use.”

The first public library in Sitka opened in 1923 at the Russian School House, next to the Russian Bishop’s House. That library had 939 books, says a booklet produced for the upcoming Sitka Public Library Historic Walking Tour. The booklet shows all of the different places in town where the library was located over the years.

The city library has been at its present Harbor Drive location since 1968, except for two years when the building was closed for remodeling, and operations were relocated to the vacant Stratton Library on the Sheldon Jackson campus. After remodeling and expansion the library was reopened in 2016 and renamed Sitka Public Library. The previous name was Kettleson Memorial Library, in memory of Ted Kettleson, a major donor to the first city library on the site. That building was remodeled and doubled in size in 1983.

The library today has about 57,000 items, and saw 69,000 visitors in a year.

“Libraries play a special role in communities,” Ieremia said. “From the time we open the door and until we close we provide a welcoming space for people. Libraries have moved into a role as a community center. We find people come here to have a safe space or refuge after school or work. Libraries bring people together, and it’s a place where people can explore their interests, and meet with people who have the same interests. People come from across different aspects of our community.”

She added that the Sitka Public Library has a wide range of resources and services, which are unrestricted and can help patrons make informed decisions and lead more productive lives.

Ieremia said the staff does its best to help patrons find what they’re looking for, “and in a way that’s welcoming.”

“What I like is we help people find the right book for them,” Ieremia said. She said she hopes the space feels more welcoming with the most recent floor plan redesign.

Admission to Saturday’s event is free and food trucks will be located outside during the observance, with food for sale.

The 100th celebration was two years in the works, and included several fundraisers to put on numerous events, and the Friends of the Sitka Public Library has contributed funds as well. 

Other events planned are a historical walk to former library sites at 2 p.m. April 8, and a Pub Quiz 6:30 p.m. April 20. On April 30 is the Louise Brightman Tea celebrating Sitka’s longest-serving librarian.

 

 

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20 YEARS AGO

April 2004

Photo caption: Sitka High students in the guitar music class gather in the hall before the school’s spring concert. The concert was dedicated to music instructor Brad Howey, who taught more than 1,000 Sitka High students from 1993 to 2004. From left are Kristina Bidwell, Rachel Ulrich, Mitch Rusk, Nicholas Mitchell, Eris Weis and Joey Metz.

50 YEARS AGO

April 1974

The Fair Deal Association of Sealaska shareholders selected Nelson Frank as their candidate for the Sealaska Board of Directors at the ANB Hall Thursday.

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