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State Funds Evaporate For Planned Unalaska Library Expansion

Greta Mart

For the past few years, the city has been planning an expansion of the Unalaska Public Library. Built in 1999, an expansion project was scheduled to get underway in 2018, says Librarian Karen Kresh.

"There have been plans to expand the library by about 7500 square feet," Kresh said, adding that the expansion project that was started by the previous librarian, Dan Masoni.

"Part of the reason for the expansion is because there were state funds that were available to help cities with new library buildings and major library expansions," Kresh said.

Those state funds have now dried up.

Janet Davis is the grants administration manager for the state of Alaska's division of community and regional affairs. Davis says the grant program specifically provided matching funds to Alaskan municipalities and native village councils to build and expand public libraries.

"This year with anticipation of the budget concerns, we did not accept's a lengthy process  for community to prepare applications and so we didn't accept applications through this program this year," Davis said this week. She says whether the state's matching grant program for library construction and expansion is resurrected in the future all depends on the state budget in the coming years.

While the state matching grant program was a key driver behind recent plans to expand the Unalaska Public Library, when architects designed the library in 1996, it was a given that 20 years or so down the line, the facility would need to grow. 

The City of Unalaska's capital and major maintenance plan for fiscal years 2016-2020 has earmarked $5,450,000 for the project.  

Kresh says city staff are now looking at other options.

"It doesn't look very rosy for the future - immediate future -  of library capital projects, as far as state funds go," Kresh said.

"Without those funds being certain, we are sort of reevaluating the project. We just want to find out if there's community need and community support for a project like this or if we should really focus on another area for our services," Kresh said.

Library and city staff are asking the public to fill out a survey on library services available on the city's website. There is a link to the survey under the news and announcement section on the city's home page.

In other local library news, for the seventh year in a row, the Unalaska Public Library has been given a top rating by an industry publication called the Library Journal.

"They look at statistics from libraries all over the nation. And they look at per capita visits and circulation and a few other markers for library use. They assign several libraries in each state a star rating - they give the libraries either 3, 4 or 5 stars based on those statistics," Kresh explained. "Unalaska has received a 5-star rating, which basically means we get a lot of use for the size of library and size of community that we are, we are a really well used and supported library. So that's something that's very exciting for us."

Greta Mart worked for KUCB in 2015 and 2016.