Dedicated volunteers are working desperately to keep the Nenana Public Library open for business.
A year ago, when the city of Nenana restructured its finances, the library became a totally volunteer organization. Through the efforts of these volunteers and a couple library grants, it has been able to continue to offer services.
But now it needs a new furnace. That $7,500-$8,000 project is the reason the library will hold a special Family Fun Fair fundraiser Friday at the Nenana Civic Center. The Fun Fair is at 5:30 p.m., right after a 3:30 p.m. family friendly movie.
Keeping the library open has been a year of hard work for library lovers.
“We got really innovative, and the mayor was very willing to work with us and do what he could to help the Nenana Library become independent, allowing us to govern ourselves under the board called the Friends of the Library and allowing us to rent the building back from the city of Nenana for as little as $1 per year,” volunteer Esther Smith said. “Surviving solely off of grants, donations and volunteers, this has been an exhausting job for us. It uses a lot of time and effort, but we’ve been doing it together.”
The Christmas bazaar helped fund office supplies.
“This is a small community, but we’ve got a lot of heart and a lot of talent in town,” said Adrianne Coffey, head of the library board. She moved to Nenana in 2011 and quickly embraced the library. That was natural, because she grew up in Talkeetna and worked at the Talkeetna Library when she was a kid.
Many Nenana residents still do not have internet, so the library becomes a central location for them to stay connected to the world. This is where locals fill out job applications, get Alaska Permanent Fund dividend forms, pay taxes, create resumes, use the interlibrary loan program, scan job opportunities that are posted, read the newspaper and implement summer and winter reading programs.
“I got children who come and do their homework here because they don’t have internet at home,” Coffey said. “Sometimes people sit outside at night using the internet.”
She did the same thing herself when she first moved there and was taking an online class.
“So, at 40 below zero, I’d be sitting in my car in the library parking lot,” she recalled.
The library is open Wednesday through Saturday. As a condition of a state grant the library receives, it is required to be open at least 15 hours a week.
Coffey prepares winter science programs for students at the library.
The library itself is small, about 2,147 square feet. It is a popular spot for local residents to check out movies. Coffey is always trying to upgrade the book selection. Most recently, she is working on introducing a Manga section. Manga books are Japanese comic books that tell stories through cartoons.
The library also needs new carpet, but that will have to remain on the to-do list for now.
Sometimes little things add up financially, too.
“We have to up our prices for printing and faxing this month because the toner costs quite a bit,” Coffey said. “We’re just not making it on 10 cents a copy.”
It can cost as much as $17 or more to send back interlibrary loan books. When the library shows movies, it has to pay a movie license fee that can be as high as $325. These are costs most library patrons don’t think about, she said.
Of course everyone wants the library to stay open and they assist in that effort.
“Local individuals and businesses have donated gift cards for our kids’ summer reading program, paper products, drinking water and general funds for us to be able to keep the lights on and the heating tank full,” Smith said. “Companies like Big Foot Plumbing and Nenana Heating have been very kind and generous with discounts for things like trip charges and repairs — last year from freeze-ups and sewer issues.”
The Family Fun Fair will feature bowling, a cake walk, a silent auction, bean bag toss, ring toss, popcorn, and a dessert auction. Silent auction items include a AAA-plus membership, handcrafted jewelry, pickles, snowshoes, photography, digital photo editing/restoration of old photos, cords of firewood, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner subscriptions and more.
Library patrons can also order books for the library through the UsBorne Book Program. A library wish list will be available.
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at email@example.com. Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.