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From 91 books to 93,000: New Wasilla public library opens this week

  • Author: Zaz Hollander
  • Updated: September 21, 2016
  • Published September 21, 2016

User services librarian Aly Brown sets up self-checkout stations in the new Wasilla Public Library on Wednesday. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)

WASILLA — The first public library in this Mat-Su city began in 1938 with 91 books.

This week, Wasilla unveils a new 24,000-square-foot library to hold more than 1,000 times that number — and boasts 93 parking spaces along with an amphitheater. A ribbon-cutting at 2 p.m. Thursday will be followed by a public open house until 6:30 p.m.

The library — three times the size of the existing one — will have 93,000 books when fully stocked, according to Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle. It will also have a community-center atmosphere and enough space for meetings or trainings of nearly 200 people.

"It's very, very impressive," Cottle said.

Construction workers put the finishing touches on the new Wasilla Public Library on Wednesday. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)

The modern, airy library officially opens at its new location at 10:30 a.m. Friday.

The new building, located near Wasilla Middle School on North Crusey Street, replaces a cramped 55,000-volume facility on Main Street the library has occupied since 1978.

The new library building cost $15 million, with the bulk of that money coming from a temporary, 1 percent sales tax increase approved by voters in 2013 with the express purpose of paying for the library. The increase raised the city sales tax to 3 percent. The library tax hike ran through the end of last year, after voters rejected a city bid to make the increase permanent.

The city decided to "shut down" the sales tax after it generated $12.2 million because other funding sources came in earlier than expected, Cottle said.

More than $2.7 million came from a variety of sources, including nearly $1.9 million from the state and smaller grants and donations from the Rasmuson Foundation, Friends of Wasilla Public Library, the Foraker Group, Mat-Su Health Foundation and 400 business and individual supporters, according to a city statement.

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