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Unalaskans Voice Opinions On Library Improvements

Zoë Sobel/KUCB

What do you want from Unalaska’s library? What does the library do well? What could it do better?

Those were a few of the questions posed to 30 Unalaskans at the first public meeting assessing what users think could make the library better meet the needs of the community.

Overall, community members were vocal about their support for the library staff and services. But there was one overwhelming concern.

“We just need to expand. It’s outgrown the community and the use level," said Shawn Dickson. "I do inspections on almost all the vessels that come into town and they’ll say, 'Is the library open?' I'm like, yes, the library is open. And they'll say, 'I've got to go get books at the library and change out our paperback selection.'”

She wasn’t alone in voicing concerns that the library’s user base has outgrown the building.  In America’s busiest fishing port, the 18-year-old library sees more traffic than just the island's 4,000 residents.

City Manager Dave Martinson said he’s heard people want expanded services.

“There’s nothing cosmetic that needs to stay the same," said Martinson. "There are capabilities that exist today -- like the Alaskana room, meeting room -- that everyone wants to keep and improve, but it doesn’t necessarily have to look like it does today.”

Community members also voiced interest in places to watch movies or study for college classes.

In the next two months, there will be a second community meeting where users can give more feedback on library services. The suggestions will help guide planning for renovations and possible expansion of the library.

These meetings are a part of a pre-development phase that is necessary to apply for external funding from groups like the Rasmuson Foundation. Cost estimates for the renovations and possible expansion are expected to be completed by January.

Zoë Sobel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2019. She returned to KUCB after a year living in Nepal and Malaysia as a Luce Scholar. She then returned to KUCB as a ProPublica reporter August of 2020 through August of 2021.
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