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The work of the library

Originally published in the Ketchikan Daily News, December 2020; written by Pat Tully

In the recent Emilio Estevez movie The Public, a young woman says to a librarian, “I’d love to get paid to read all day.” That line gets a groan from anyone who has ever worked in a library—there’s never any time for reading!

What do we do at the Ketchikan Public Library?

- Select books and other materials: U.S. publishers publish 325,000 books each year, and the average price (with library discount) is $12 a book. Since we cannot afford to purchase them all, our librarians carefully select books and other materials that will be popular and useful for the community. They run the gamut from the latest best sellers, to instructional books on hobbies and crafts, to history, to self-help books, to children’s ABCs. We have books, DVDs and music for infants, children, teens, adults and seniors, in a variety of formats—print (regular and large print), CD, DVD, Playaways, and downloadable electronic and audio.

- Develop, organize and conduct programs: Many people come to the Library to engage and interact with others. Library staff develop and conduct programs for people of all ages and a variety of interests. The Library often teams up with other groups (like the Teen Advisory Group), organizations and businesses to offer programs on personal finance, using technology, local history and many other subjects. Since the pandemic we have not held in-person programs, but staff has developed a variety of virtual programs, take-away craft and maker bags—popular with adults as well as children—and a weekly radio program on KRBD.

- Provide information and assistance: The Library has over 75,000 physical items, 35,000 downloadable books, and several databases. Some people are comfortable finding what they need in our website and online catalog, but others are not. Library staff regularly help people to quickly find things either in the Library or by tapping other resources. For example, the number of homeschooling families increased this fall, and many families requested books and other resources to use in teaching. In addition to assisting families to find books, the Library also subscribed to a Teachables database that provides worksheets, activities and instructional guides.

- Reach out to those who cannot come to the Library: The Library has a vibrant Outreach program to provide books, magazines and DVDs, and now craft bags and other materials to those who are homebound, to senior centers and the Ketchikan Correctional Center. (In these pandemic times, we make sure that we select and deliver these materials safely.)

In all these and many other ways, Library staff continually strive to be helpful, friendly and approachable, and create an atmosphere in the Library where everyone feels welcome and accepted. This requires a high degree of people skills, a dedication to public service, and a love for the community, all of which Ketchikan Public Library staff have in abundance. We do not get any reading done at work, but we keep very busy serving the community.

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