Soldotna Library

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Some Kenai and Soldotna buildings are closing to the public following Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s emergency message.

That message was publicized a day before the Kenai Peninsula Borough reported 90 new cases of COVID-19, a record. The borough has one of the highest coronavirus case rates in the state.

Kenai City Hall will close to the public for the remainder of the month. The Kenai Community Library will also be closed then, though curbside pickup and book drops will remain open in the interim.

Overdue fines are being assessed into history at the Soldotna Public Library. The Soldotna City Council voted Wednesday to approve an action item allowing the library to waive fees as long as an item is returned.

Library director Rachel Nash said this is a trend sweeping libraries across the nation.

“Over the last couple decades, public libraries in America have really been moving toward going fine-free. It’s become more and more apparent that they do not serve the purpose that they were originally used for, which is to encourage people to return items on time. Rather, they’re actually discouraging people from returning items or coming back at all because they’re afraid of these fines,” Nash said.

Kenai Community Library

It’s been a long time since libraries were only about providing reading material, so when they shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic, it wasn’t just books that patrons were missing. As the weeks have passed, the Kenai and Soldotna libraries have figured out ways to still offer much of what they did before.

“You know, I was looking at our calendar and I was really surprised and impressed. I was kind of comparing it to where we were a year ago and we have the same number of programs every week as we just normally would, maybe even more,” said Rachel Nash, director of the Soldotna Library.

Programming at the Kenai and Soldotna libraries has moved online. Storytime for kids, Lego building challenges, DIY projects for all ages, art classes, science lessons and more learning experiences are offered on the libraries’ Facebook pages and websites. Creating that content has been a learning experience for librarians.  

“I think the major adjustment has just been getting to learn each of the different technologies we’re using and kind of figuring out what works better for people,” Nash said. “… And, of course, there’s always technical issues — did you push the right button, what does that button do? I think what everybody’s going through right now.”

NASA astronaut Rex Walheim to visit Peninsula

Jul 30, 2019


Libraries across the state are using the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing as a springboard for a space-based summer reading program, called the Universe of Stories. As a part of that, retired NASA astronaut Rex Walheim will be touring south central Alaska this week.

Courtesy Jenny Neyman/Redoubt Reporter

Anybody who grew up 30, 20, even 10 years ago, would know a library as a place for quiet reading and study, whispered conversations and stern looks for causing any sort of disturbance, no food or drink, no music outside of headphones, no video games or messy art activities. And certainly no running.

Those libraries are a thing of the past.

“This last Friday we had live-action Pac Man tag, which is exactly what it sounds like — they pretend to be characters from the videogame Pac Man and they chase each other throughout the library after hours. Which is a lot of fun to be in a space that usually you need to be very quiet, and they get to really be themselves,” said Rachel Nash, director of the Soldotna Library.

The library celebrates five years since its building expansion with a party from 4 to 5 p.m. Friday in the community room. The original facility, built in the early 1970s, was a constrained, and, yes, pretty quiet place. The expanding role of community libraries got too big for the cramped space.