Category Archives: library

Spellbound, bookbound — Potter mania spans generations

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Christian Edmunds, of Sterling, poses as Harry Potter while his mother, Donna, takes a photo. She said all three of her kids are Harry Potter fans.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Christian Edmunds, of Sterling, poses as Harry Potter while his mother, Donna, takes a photo. She said all three of her kids are Harry Potter fans.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

For anyone whose owl didn’t bring them word, last week there was an event exciting enough to Harry Potter fans to rival the Quidditch World Cup. The second annual Harry Potter Book Night took place around the world to share the magic of J.K. Rowling’s novels with current fans and up-and-coming readers.

According to the event’s website, http://www.harrypotter.bloombury.com, there were 12,600 parties held around the world, including on the Kenai Peninsula.

“It’s a worldwide thing that started last year and happens at libraries, schools and bookstores. Last year, we found out about it a little too late, but jumped on it this year,” said KJ Hillgren, youth services director at the Joyce K. Carver Memorial Library in Soldotna.

Potter fans were encouraged to come in costume, and library staff set a good example, as the hippylike Sybill Trelawney, the picture of pink Dolores Umbridge and gray-bearded headmaster Professor Dumbledore, just to name a few. There was a photo booth set up in the entry hall of the library where kids could dress up as a Harry Potter characters and pose for “Wanted” pictures.

“A lot of the events (around the world) have activities geared toward older kids, but we wanted to focus it on fun and educational activities for all ages, since we have a lot of families come through,” Hillgren said.

Some of the activities included “aparecium.” In Potter parlance, this means making invisible ink appear, but in Soldotna it meant coloring for kids and adults. Participants could attempt “muggle” studies — otherwise known as trivia. And there was a Defense Against the Dark Arts session, which included word searches and ways for kids to find their “patronus” — a spirit animal or guardian.

Donna Edmunds, of Sterling, said she was a teenager when the Potter books and films began.

“My brothers and sisters, we would all go together when they’d come out,” she said.

Now with three children of her own, she said she was excited to see her family fall under the same spell.

“I couldn’t wait until my kids were old enough to get into it. We’re a reading family, so my 9-year-old has to read them before he is allowed to see the movies, my 5-year-old is just starting them, and even my 2-year-old will say he wants to do ‘Totter,’” she said.

Laura Wertanen was also excited about introducing her toddler son, Carter, to the spellbinding series.

“This will be his first time watching the movie. He’ll eventually read them, but right now we’re still doing picture books,” she said.

Samantha Romig, 38, was proof that Potter mania isn’t just for the young, but also those young at heart.

“I love the movies, and Harry Potter, and all the magical things he does,” she said.

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Color me calm — Kids’ pastime crosses line into adult activity

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Briley Morton of Soldotna completes her butterfly during an adult coloring program at the Soldotna Public Library last week. Adult coloring is becoming popular at libraries across the country.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Briley Morton of Soldotna completes her butterfly during an adult coloring program at the Soldotna Public Library last week. Adult coloring is becoming popular at libraries across the country.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Coloring, once considered a fond pastime from childhood, is no longer viewed as a frivolous venture restricted to the youngest members of society.

“Adult coloring is becoming popular nationwide and at libraries across the country, so we thought we’d try adding it to our programming and seeing what the community’s response was,” said Reilly Selmser, a clerk at the Soldotna Public Library.

The library’s first adult coloring class was in November, and there has been half a dozen people coming each week since.

The designs are also not the simple outlines of cartoon characters, as is common with children’s coloring books. There are elaborate nature depictions, complex fantasy scenes and circular mandalas, just to name a few. And rather than crayons, colored pencils or narrow-tipped markers tend to be the medium of choice.

“They work better on the fine lines and intricate details,” Selmser said.

Jamie Morton, of Soldotna, was one of the participants in last week’s coloring class. She said that after a long day dealing with the responsibilities of adult life, it is therapeutic to come color for an hour.

“I like coloring for the anti-stressing part of it. It’s very relaxing,” she said.

Morton said that she was not an avid colorer as a kid, but has been making up for the lost time now that the library has been offering the program weekly.

“My 12-year-old daughter and I frequent the library and I brought her to one and we really enjoyed it,” she said.

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Book it indoors to keep cabin fever at bay — Libraries expand programming

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Dan Pascucci, dressed as a sea star, plays the guitar during a family concert put on by the Kenai Community Library on Saturday. Community interest and new buildings affording more space have led the Kenai and Soldotna libraries to increase their programming.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Dan Pascucci, dressed as a sea star, plays the guitar during a family concert put on by the Kenai Community Library on Saturday. Community interest and new buildings affording more space have led the Kenai and Soldotna libraries to increase their programming.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

With sheets of ice dominating the landscape in place of the usual snow for winter recreation, some outdoors enthusiasts are spending more time indoors, and local libraries have stepped up to fill the activity void.

“Our programming has definitely increased this winter,” said Veronica Croteau, adult program coordinator at the Kenai Community Library.

While there are year-round staples, such as author lectures and genealogy meetings, Croteau said that some of the new and more popular events at the library have been the ones focusing on things people can make or do at home.

“We started doing DIY, do it yourself programs a few months ago and a lot of people have been really interested in attending, to learn and try new things,” she said.

Simple cheese-making and cooking sourdough pancakes were popular events, and Croteau said that an upcoming activity Jan. 22 is expected to be well attended, too.

“It will be a natural oils/natural makeup workshop. People can come and learn how to make lip balm, hand lotion and body lotion with natural oil, and like all these programs they’ll take home the recipe and samples they make,” she said.

The other well-attended DIY programs have been those related to sewing and knitting, she said.

“The sewing workshops have been really, really popular. We are surprised by the numbers we have been getting. We have 15 people for each class and usually five to six on a waiting list,” she said.

Hosting these programs is about more than giving people something to do for an hour. Croteau said it also ties into having people use the library to further their knowledge and interests in learning.

“People aren’t just learning new things, they’re also able to check out books or use online resources to learn more about these interests, so it makes sense to use the library as a hub for all of this, she said.

And it’s not just adults they are trying to draw in. Several of the library’s programs also appeal to children.

“I think it is important to draw in families to spend time together. Our family concert series lets people come hear music, and we have a family game time each month where we put out a ton of games and families can come in and play together,” she said.

The Soldotna Public Library has also been experiencing an uptick in users, according to librarian Rachel Nash. Part of that is attributed to the library’s youth programming.

“Since we moved in the new building, we’ve been a happening place,” she said. “Especially our Toddler Story Time. It’s very well attended. The earlier you start them on books, the better they do in life. Wanting them to learn to love books, we have board books, picture books and chapter books.”

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Pro context — Libraries band together against banning books

Redoubt Reporter file photos. Above, a patron cozies up with a book at the Soldotna Public Library. Below, a visitor searches the shelves for something to read at the Kenai Community Library.

Redoubt Reporter file photos. Above, a patron cozies up with a book at the Soldotna Public Library. Below, a visitor searches the shelves for something to read at the Kenai Community Library.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The list reads like the syllabus of a class on great works of 20th-centruy literature: “The Great Gatsby,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger, “The Grapes of Wrath,” by John Steinbeck, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee, and “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker.

But it’s not. Along with being universally acclaimed masterworks of English writing, these books also are the top-five most banned and challenged classic books, as tracked by the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom.

library tease copyThey’re in good company. At least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course top 100 novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts, at either public or school libraries.

And it’s not just classics that have ruffled puritanical feathers. Every year the OIF compiles reports from libraries across the country on further attempts at censorship, and releases an annual list of the top 10 ban-requested books. The 2013 list comes from 307 challenges reported to the OIF, though it’s estimated that many ban requests don’t get reported. The list includes the “Captain Underpants” series of young-adult books, by Dav Pilkey, and “The Hunger Games,” by Suzanne Collins. In 2012, out of 464 reported challenges, the list included “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini, and in 2011, out of 326 reported challenges, “My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy,” by Dori Hillestad Butler, made the top-10 list.

That’s not to say the books were banned, only that they were requested to be removed from circulation. It takes more than a complaint about a book being “sexually explicit” or “unsuited to age group,” or containing “offensive language,” “violence” or “homosexuality” — as are the most-frequently cited complaints in ban requests — to change a public library’s stance on intellectual freedom.

As the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights stipulates, “Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. … Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. … (And) libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.”

“Public libraries do not censor. We try to provide something for everybody, from all walks of life,” said Rachel Nash, director of the Soldotna Public Library. “We live in a society where we have voters. It’s really important that they’re able to go somewhere and learn about information for free, somewhere where the collection won’t be biased and the people won’t be biased. So that’s really what we try to do, and that’s good for all levels, from kids all the way up to adults.”

Not only do they not censor, they celebrate the lack of censorship, as the Kenai Community Library is doing this week in participating in National Banned Books Week, observed Sept. 21 through 27. Monday through Friday this week the library will hold a free movie screening, complete with popcorn and drinks, of a movie made from a banned book.

“To celebrate our freedom to read whatever we want we’re showing movies that are based on books that have been banned in the past,” said Ryanna Thurman, library assistant for information technology.

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Buy the book — Kenai library fundraiser is annual mark of support

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Kathy Heus, chair of the Friends of the Kenai Community Library’s annual book sale, sorts books at the Home Gallery in Kenai in preparation for the event.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Kathy Heus, chair of the Friends of the Kenai Community Library’s annual book sale, sorts books at the Home Gallery in Kenai in preparation for the event.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

“Game of Thrones, “50 Shades of Gray,” Harry Potter. These and many, many, many more are among the books that may be available during the Friends of the Kenai Community Library’s annual book sale, Sept. 18 to 20 at the Home Gallery furniture and flooring store in the Kenai Mall (old Carrs Mall).

“We unpacked six pallets of books today and we still have many more to do,” said Kathy Heus, who chairs the book sale, last week while working to organize books by subject or genre.

Unlike the minisale at the library itself last month, this book sale will be five times that size and is too large to hold at the library, which is how it came to be held at the furniture store, in the former Sears location, at the Kenai Spur Highway location.

“We had to find a large-enough area and they were kind enough to give us space for a week,” Heus said.

With a planned 5,000 to 10,000 books for sale, space is dearly needed.

“We didn’t have one last year, so we knew we had to have one this year due to the volume of books we have now,” Heus said.

Lee Cassel, owner of Home Gallery, said he has helped with the book sale in years past by helping move boxes of books, and so he didn’t hesitate to offer up his store when the book sale needed a location.

“I wanted to help. It didn’t seem like a problem and I thought it could bring some foot traffic though the store,” he said.

Volunteers Carolyn Ostrander and Kathy Heus unload boxes from the trunk of Heus’ car. The boxes will be filled with books to make them easier to lift on to tables for the sale.

Volunteers Carolyn Ostrander and Kathy Heus unload boxes from the trunk of Heus’ car. The boxes will be filled with books to make them easier to lift on to tables for the sale.

The books being sold are titles being phased out of the library’s main collection, as well as books donated by the community in order to raise funds for the facility and its programs.

“Typically, hardbacks and large paperbacks are sold for $1, and trade paperbacks are sold for 50 cents, which is very reasonable pricing for what is available, which includes all types of fiction, thrillers and nonfiction, cookbooks — a little bit of everything,” Heus said.

From time to time a few literary gems or valuable books will show up in sale piles. This year volunteers have found several first-edition books dating back to 1882, 1895 and 1912.

“Some of them could be valuable,” said volunteer Jean Taylor. “And they’re all in good shape.”

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Opening booked — Soldotna library ready for return of its readers

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The Soldotna Public Library reopened to the public Dec. 16 after the completion of a renovation and expansion project, and will hold a reopening ceremony and ribbon cutting from 2 to 4 p.m. Jan. 18.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The Soldotna Public Library reopened to the public Dec. 16 after the completion of a renovation and expansion project, and will hold a reopening ceremony and ribbon cutting from 2 to 4 p.m. Jan. 18.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

What could be better than cracking the spine of a new hardback, feeling the grain of the stiff, thick paper as you flip those first few pages, anticipation building to delve into the new world that awaits. Perhaps only when a whole new library feels that way.

That’s been the case since Dec. 16, when the Soldotna Public Library on Binkley Street reopened to the public after moving out of the Peninsula Center Mall, its temporary home while a renovation and expansion project was completed. From 2 to 4 p.m. Jan. 18 the library will host a grand reopening and ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially welcome the public back to its library, although Rachel Nash, library director, said that many patrons have already made themselves at home.

The library not only has more space for patrons and its book collection, but new features, including a lounge area for reading, a huge new community/conference room, teen area and study and tutoring nooks. Here, Nancy Nelson, of Soldotna, snuggles with a book by the fire.

The library not only has more space for patrons and its book collection, but new features, including a lounge area for reading, a huge new community/conference room, teen area and study and tutoring nooks. Here, Nancy Nelson, of Soldotna, snuggles with a book by the fire.

In the two weeks of December that the library on Binkley was reopened, it averaged 500 people a day — and that’s even with closures for the holidays. When the library was at the mall, it saw a little under 200 patrons a day, Nash said. The old library before renovation was struggling to meet the needs of the 80,000 or so people it saw a year. With the new space, Nash says her goal is to see 100,000 people in the library in 2014, and for them to enjoy the additional space, books, programs and services the expansion now allows.

“I think we are going to meet that goal,” she said.

The expansion not only allows for more of the library’s book collection to be put on the shelves, accessible to the public, but for a 50 percent increase in the book budget to update and expand the collection. But a library these days is about much more than just books. Updating and expanding technology was a big goal of the project, and the library now will have new and more computers for the public’s use, including a mobile laptop and iPad station, as well as a giant flat-screen TV that can be used in presentations and participation in the Online with Alaska Libraries videoconferencing program. And there’s a new conference/community room that holds 144 people opening to community use.

Nash said she has a hard time picking her favorite new feature, whether it’s the reading area by the gas fireplace, the community room or the expanded kids and teen sections.

Amara and Mark Ransom browse through books in the vastly expanded kids section at the newly remodeled Soldotna Public Library in December. The expansion has allowed the library to stock more books and to offer more programs for the community.

Amara and Mark Ransom browse through books in the vastly expanded kids section at the newly remodeled Soldotna Public Library in December. The expansion has allowed the library to stock more books and to offer more programs for the community.

“Teens haven’t had a place in the old library. They’re tomorrow’s adults and libraries won’t have the support they will need in the future without teens today,” she said.

But, really, it doesn’t matter what Nash and the other librarians like about the new space so much as what the community thinks, Nash says, as she is adamant that it’s their facility, not the staff’s nor the city’s. As such, the public is invited to bring their own scissors and participate in the ribbon-cutting at the openings, as well as to come take a tour or explore on their own.

“The people of Soldotna are the ones who voted and said they want to have a new library, that’s why I emphasize it’s not our library, it’s theirs, it’s yours, it’s for the community. Our job is to provide what they need and want. I hope everybody feels welcome.”

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28-year library career shelved — Supporters chastise Soldotna city manager, council for dismissal

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Sarah Hondel, daughter of fired Soldotna librarian Terri Burdick, addresses the Soldotna Council Meeting on April 10, including City Manager Mark Dixson and acting Mayor Brenda Hartman.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Sarah Hondel, daughter of fired Soldotna librarian Terri Burdick, addresses the Soldotna Council Meeting on April 10, including City Manager Mark Dixson and acting Mayor Brenda Hartman.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The proceedings at the Soldotna City Council meeting April 10 would have been enough to warrant a “Ssshhhhing” from the city librarian — what with bursts of applause, strongly worded admonitions, occasionally raised voices, teary testimonials, desk thumps for emphasis and unhappy grumbles from the packed crowd — had the librarian, a 28-year employee of the city, not been unexpectedly fired first thing the preceding Monday morning, which is what drew the crowd and its outrage to the council meeting.

Terri Burdick, director of the Joyce K. Carver Soldotna Public Library, said that she was dismissed with no warning and no explanation by City Manager Mark Dixson the morning of April 8, before she had a chance to bring in the large, stuffed dinosaur and other accoutrements for the library’s upcoming summer reading program she had picked up — on her dime — in Anchorage over the weekend.

“I haven’t a clue, I really don’t,” she said of what might have caused her dismissal.

Neither did her crowd of supporters.

“Tonight when we started this meeting we started with the Pledge of Allegiance and the last part of the Pledge of Allegiance says, ‘With liberty and justice for all.’ And that word justice has been on my mind a lot the last few days, because it seems so unjust,” said Jeanette Pedginski, who worked with Burdick for two years at the library. “From what I read everything was legal. From what I’ve heard everything was legal. … Even if it’s legal to fire with no cause, it’s morally wrong.”

Soldotna’s municipal code states that staff members in positions exempt from the city’s collective bargaining agreement with employees — including department heads, such as the library director — are not protected by the section of code dictating how dismissals be carried out. Regular employees must receive at least one written notice prior to discharge, and if discharge occurs, an employee must be given a copy of the discharge notice and the reasons for discharge.

But Section 2.30.060 states that, “… An exempt employee may be terminated without cause at any time unless a term, in writing, of the employee’s contract of employment specifically provides otherwise.”

Council chambers were filled with 50 or so supporters of Burdick. The supporters came to express displeasure over Burdick’s dismissal, particularly over the way in which it was carried out.

“Everywhere I see her she is an excellent example of kindness, of caring, of compassion, of love for life, for books, for reading, for children, for culture. I don’t understand why someone who shows that type of effort, drive, love for her community, would be treated in such a way. Every other sort of job that you or I could ever hope to attain all come with certain benefits associated with lifetime dedication. And this is not that,” said Justin Ruffridge, of Soldotna. “… None of you would be expected to be treated like that. It’s a shame, it’s a real shame. I really thought that our town was better than that.”

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