This Sequel is Better: The New Mendenhall Valley Public Library

BY JONAS LAMB
For the UAS Whalesong
Rarely are sequels better, but in the case of the Valley Public Library take 2, it’s a no-brainer. Having escaped the confines, burnt-pizza-and-pull-tabs ambiance of the Mendenhall Mall, the Valley Library has a new home and, for UAS students, this new venue for studying and hanging out is not to be missed.  It’s the long awaited, recently completed new Mendenhall Valley Library at Dimond Park. That’s right, you can get your swim, soak, sauna on at the Dimond Park pool and then walk next door to the second most beautiful library in Juneau (ok I’m biased because I get to work at Egan Library every day).  Before heading inside, on the walls flanking the entrance be sure to check out the engraved donor bricks.  There are over 800 bricks featuring the names of community members, favorite literary characters and quotations including the bittersweet, “Here lies Dobby, a free elf”.  You’ll also find the names of many UAS alumni and likely those of future UAS students considering the convenient proximity of the facility to Riverbend Elementary and Thunder Mountain High School.
I made my first visit on a Sunday afternoon during opening week (after a good swim and sauna with my family), spent the first of what will certainly be many inspiring hours under the warm wood paneled ceiling.  My three year old son stormed in, eager to give me the tour (he’d visited twice earlier in the week with his pre-school) and show me the “nooks” and “bookswans”.  A friend and library staff member simply smiled and laughed, “Now whose rowdy children are these?”  Once through the glass doors of the children’s room I was show the colorful, recessed nooks full of children, climbing, reading, and dreaming.  I followed Oscar’s pointing finger up to the ceiling, where clear-story windows revealed the top of Thunder Mountain and a flock of giant swans with books for wings, flying in formation from the children’s room across the library.  The “Biblioswans” are one of two sculpture installations by Juneau artist Dan Deroux selected as part of the One Percent for the Arts program.  Additional art and design elements featuring southeast Alaska wildlife include a mural of salmon, bears and whale silhouettes by the Aurora Projekt and children’s’ wooden chair-backs carved into beavers, foxes, seals.
Whether you’re looking for a place to study, use a computer (20+ workstations, 2 hour daily limit with 1 hour sessions, laptops also available for in-library use + WIFI, fee based printing and copying), attend (or host) a community event or just check out a good book for Thanksgiving break, the Valley Library has you covered.  There’s a modern, well-equipped community room in the foyer that seats 70, has a giant projection screen, video conferencing equipment and glass partition that can open to allow bigger events to spill into the lobby area. Teens have a room of their own featuring a video gaming area, booth seating, colorful furnishings and a laptop bar.  Sorry UAS students, the sign at the door reads “Must be accompanied by a teen going into 6th – 12th grade”.  But don’t sweat it, there are 4 study rooms with seating for 4-6, powered-tables and video input to screen.  Study rooms can be reserve for up to 2 hours/day for users 14+ and (like the Egan Library Study rooms) can be reserved up to 1 week in advance (call to reserve: 789-0125).
The furniture throughout is cozy and colorful, particularly in the reading area where visitors can curl up by a fireplace to study under focused lighting thanks to a series of floor and table lamps.  An abundance of natural light from big windows, combined with an innovative, sustainable ground source heat system create a space that feels more like a living room in a modern home than a library.  A great place to spend the entire day!
There will be a Grand Opening Celebration and ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, November 7 from 11:30-4.  The opening will feature food (including ice cream for sale from Coppa), guided tours, music and dance performances by Stroller White Pipes, Harborview Tlingit Cultural & Language student dancers, HeartStrings, TMHS Strings and UAS Alaskapella.
The Mendenhall Valley Public Library is open 7 days week, M-TH 10-8, F 10-7, SA 10-6, SU 12-5.
Additional photos and an audio tour produced by KTOO’s Matt Miller is available online at http://bit.ly/libraryTOUR

Full disclosure:  Jonas Lamb is Vice President of the Friends of the Juneau Public Libraries and a former Juneau Public Libraries staff member. It is also rumored that he is a bibliophile, library advocate and a poet.  His family has a brick on the wall at the new library declaring “A Home for Poems- The Lamb Family.”

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