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‘Like a little mini library’: Unalaska library staff prepares for renovation

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Theo Greenly
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KUCB
The temporary location won’t open for at least two weeks, so there will be a gap when people won’t be able to access the library’s physical collections or services. But they can use Wi-Fi from the Unalaska Community Center parking lot, or outside of the Burma Road Chapel. Library cardholders will also be able to use the library's digital resources, like audiobooks and ebooks.

Unalaska is making progress on a long-awaited library renovation and expansion — plans are confirmed to close the library’s current building and move to a temporary location in the Burma Road Chapel.

The city originally approved the library expansion in Jan. 2020, but hit the brakes at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Restoration efforts were on hold until Dec. 2021 when city council approved moving forward with the $6.5 million renovation.

Librarian Karen Kresh confirmed plans and dates with the contractor Tuesday. She said the library will close its current location on March 14 to begin moving.

Kresh said the Burma Road Chapel will function “like a little mini library.”

“We'll have computers and we'll have a couple of desks where people can set up with their laptop, or read a book, and sit and spend time,” Kresh said. “But it'll be pretty limited compared to what people are used to in our [current] building.”

The temporary location won’t open for at least two weeks, so there will be a gap when people won’t be able to access the library’s physical collections or services. But they can use Wi-Fi from the Unalaska Community Center parking lot, or outside of the Burma Road Chapel. Library cardholders will also be able to use the library's digital resources, like audiobooks and ebooks.

Kresh said people won’t have to return items during that period, and can keep whichever materials they have until the library opens again in the chapel in early April.

The pared-down library selection will offer the most popular items currently available, and they will continue to order new releases. If people have a favorite book they don’t want to see put in storage, Kresh said patrons can call the library to request it remain available during the transition.

“If you, for example, are looking forward to checking out Suzi Golodoff’s wildflower book, and you want to make sure that it's going to be available in the next nine months…we can try to fit it into our limited shelf space over there,” she said.

Kresh said the large downstairs area of the chapel will have the most popular items, like bestsellers, DVDs, and children’s picture books, while the main adult section will be upstairs.

The temporary setup may be familiar to some Unalaskans.

“Before we moved into this building, the library was housed in Burma Road Chapel. And so this is a little walk down memory lane for some of our patrons who've been on the island for a long time. So I think that's kind of a nice touch,” Kresh said.

The library is expected to reopen in the expanded location right around the start of 2023.

Theo Greenly reports from the Aleutians as a Report for America corps member. He got his start in public radio at KCRW in Santa Monica, California, and has produced radio stories and podcasts for stations around the country.
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