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Seldovia Public Library to unveil historic collection and local archive

Stocked bookshelves on the upper floor of the Seldovia Public Library on April 10, 2024. The library is close to completing a project adding a reading room and historic collection of books.
Jamie Diep
Stocked bookshelves on the upper floor of the Seldovia Public Library on April 10, 2024. The library is close to completing a project adding a reading room and historic collection of books.

The City of Seldovia's library will display a new collection and reading room in May. Visitors will soon be able to see what kinds of books the community's residents used to check out through the decades.

The Seldovia Public Library is in the heart of the town. The small, two-story library consists of three rooms and is housed with the city’s fire and emergency medical services. It’s run entirely by volunteers and acts as more than just a place to loan books. It’s one of the few public places in town to gather – something that isn’t always guaranteed in a community located off the state’s road system.

Cindy Mom is one of the library’s board members. She found boxes of old books from the library’s early days in the 1930s and got grant funding from the Rasmuson Foundation to turn the boxes of books into a historic collection showcasing the library’s history.

“It's a time capsule of what the library was like, before the earthquake,” she said, “and so it's kind of a historic collection.”

Visitors can catch a glimpse of the past and see older books — as well as who read them.

“What's really, really neat is that a lot of the books still have their circulation card in the little pocket, and ancestors of people who live here now, you can see their signature of what they were reading back in the 1950s,” Mom said, “and it might be someone who lives here now, their great grandparents, who were reading these particular books.”

The library was founded by Susan B. English in 1936. That’s decades before Alaska even became a state. Mom said some of the books from the original collection date back to the late 1800s, and that English played an important role in putting the original collection of books together.

“Most of them are here because of Susan B. English,” she said “and so this collection that's in the, the archive Reading Room project, most of the books passed through Susan B English’s hands and she was responsible for starting this, the whole library that we have now.”

Mom also added books to the library’s extensive Alaskana section, which is housed in a dedicated room that doubles as a conference room. The section covers topics ranging from wildlife and homesteading to stories about the state. Mom even assembled a cabinet of archival materials that give a glimpse to the town’s past as a whole, including newspaper articles, brochures and more.

“That is all the things that I found that are specific to Seldovia. So things like the comprehensive plan from the 1960s that the city wrote cemetery records, books, like Susan Woodward Springer wrote a book about Seldovia. That's all history. So we have a copy of that.”

The library also remodeled one of its lower level rooms to house the collections as a reading room.

Library Board President Bobbi Sweatt oversaw the remodeling process. Sweatt said she worked with volunteers and a contractor to paint the floors, add new furniture and maintain shelving from the original library.

“We used the original shelving from the original library. We kept all those, and then they had built some new shelves. And we just painted those,” she said, “and yeah, so here we are today. It looks pretty darn good so far.”

Mom said doing all that work was fun and that wrapping up the project is bittersweet, but she’s looking forward to opening the room to the public.

“Suddenly I've been reshelving all the books, and the atmosphere of this room and the way that it looks, it's really coming together, and that's fun to see the culmination of the project,” she said, “it's been a real transformation from a storage room to this space that it will be comfortable and, and nice to go and spend some time.”

The new reading room will be available at the library’s open house on May 18 at 1:30 p.m.

Jamie Diep is a reporter/host for KBBI from Portland, Oregon. They joined KBBI right after getting a degree in music and Anthropology from the University of Oregon. They’ve built a strong passion for public radio through their work with OPB in Portland and the Here I Stand Project in Taipei, Taiwan.Jamie covers everything related to Homer and the Kenai Peninsula, and they’re particularly interested in education and environmental reporting. You can reach them at to send story ideas.