Kenai library starting to draw from $15,000 fundraiser
When the Kenai City Council held off on accepting a grant for the Kenai library last fall, spurring cries of censorship, residents opened their wallets and donated over $15,000.
Now, the Kenai Community Library is starting to divvy up those funds. Librarian Katja Wolfe said she and the library’s fundraising arm, the Friends of the Kenai Community Library, decided they'll request funds from that $15,000 pool periodically when there’s a part of the library’s collection that needs some extra love.
She said that chance doesn’t come along often.
“This is kind of a once-in-a-career opportunity," she said.
The GoFundMe campaign for the library was a response to a decision by the Kenai City Council to hold off on receiving a grant from the National Library of Medicine last fall.
The funding was geared toward revamping library collections across the country that focused on health equity. Some members of the council said they worried about what strings would be attached to money from the feds and asked Wolfe to send them a list of the materials she planned to buy before she did so.
That request garnered a lot of pushback from members of the community who alleged censorship. And eventually, the council backed down on that request and accepted the federal funds, totaling $1,500.
The fundraiser Kenai’s Todd Smith and Sovala Kisena started in response raised more than 10 times that amount.
Wolfe said the library is in the process of withdrawing its first request of about $3,000.
“And with that money, we were hoping to refresh our easy readers and our easy chapters sections in the children’s area," she said. "They are very well-loved. We have a lot of books in there that have been in there for quite a few years that get checked out a lot. So they need to be replaced.”
She said they’re also hoping to put money into the library’s digital collections, including e-books and audiobooks. And they’d like to expand their Discovery Kits, which are hands-on STEM kits geared toward kids and available for checkout.
“It’s really exciting to have those funds available to work on projects that we might not otherwise be able to work on," she said. "So I am so grateful to the community that they gave us this money. And we’ll make sure we spend it wisely.”
Once the library decides how it’s going to spend the funds, it still needs to go back to the Kenai City Council for approval.