Volunteers box up Willow Library’s 35,000 book collection

The library will be demolished next week to make way for a new, $5.6 million building
Volunteers are packing up 35,000 books at the Willow Library in preparation for the building to...
Volunteers are packing up 35,000 books at the Willow Library in preparation for the building to be demolished.(Heather Hintze)
Published: Sep. 29, 2020 at 10:14 AM AKDT
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WILLOW, Alaska (KTUU) -After years of fundraising, the Willow community will soon have a new library as a $5.6 million construction project gets underway.

But first, library staff and volunteers have to pack up the entire collection into boxes.

“A lot of books,” said librarian Julie Mitchell. “About 35,000.”

Mitchell said the library has outgrown its current building, constructed in 1992.

The new facility will be twice the size, which means more reading materials for patrons.

Funding for the project was no easy feat, Mitchell said. In addition to contributions from individuals and businesses, money also came from the State of Alaska, Matanuska-Susitna Borough and the Mat-Su Health Foundation.

“It’s just unbelievable. I was never sure we were going to make it to this point,” Mitchell said. “It’s so exciting to see it happen and to know that soon we’re going to have double the space and lots of neat resources for the community of Willow.”

Nearly everything on the shelves will be put into storage for the next year during the construction phase. The new building should be completed by October 2021.

Mitchell said about 10% of the collection will be kept out during the transition period. The materials will be set up in a temporary library in the hallway of the community center.

“We did new and special collections like with our Willow Reads, and then we worked really hard on pulling books that were not available anywhere else in Alaska so that way those were still available,” Mitchell said.

The library will be demolished next week. The temporary set-up should be open by mid-October.

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