Noel Wien Library prepares for 10-month renovation project

Published: Apr. 12, 2023 at 5:10 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Noel Wien Library in Fairbanks will be largely closed to the public for approximately 10 months starting May 1.

During that time, the building will undergo a renovation project which includes the installation of new carpet, new paint, and new lit shelving.

According to Library Director Melissa Harter, “It impacts, really, every corner of this building, and that’s the reason why we just can’t remain open. It would be dangerous.”

A project this size hasn’t been seen at the library since it was built in 1977. “This is really going to result in a brand-new interior facility for all the public spaces,” said Harter.

She explained the planning for the renovation began in 2018, “knowing that the building was aging, as it was built in 1977, and that it needed to be updated to be able to provide modern library service for our community.”

The renovation will expand programming for families, including kids, and teens.

The size of the Berry Room for children is expected to expand, and a space made available for nursing mothers.

At the same time, Noel Wien is adding a teen center. According to Harter, “We didn’t have a teen program at all, and now we do, and now we’re going to have a space for it, and they’ll have a space of their own so they can come in after school or whenever they want, and utilize it.”

Near these facilities will be an active learning lab. “Community members will be able to rent it like they do the auditorium to hold classes of any sort. Imagine quilting or art or lectures or films,” Harter said.

The expanded library is also expected to feature a cafe and used book store, said Harter. “It’ll give everybody a place to meet or get a snack or have a beverage or anything like that.”

However, these added features are designed not to interfere with the quiet spaces. “There’s space for everyone who wants a different environment for their reading pleasure,” the director explained.

This project will involve the building being mostly cleared out.

Employees are now busily preparing the building for the renovation. Among other actions, this involves removing art from the walls and boxing up every single book still on the shelves.

“We’re going to put them in a safe place, and they’ll be ready for us on the other side,” said the director.

While the library is closed, some of the material will remain available to the public.

According to Harter, about 10 percent of the location’s items will be separated from the rest and held in compact storage for easy access by library staff. This 10 percent will include new purchases, specialized items like Graphic Novels and DVDs, and materials that are already checked out. “At any given time, we have 30 thousand items that are checked out, so those are going to continue to come and go.”

Other items will go to the North Pole Branch, whose hours will be expanded during the closure.

Community members will be able to put items on hold from the limited collection, as well as from libraries across the state.

Locations will be available for these holds to be picked up, which a member will choose when placing the hold. “Joy Elementary School, you can pick up, Noel Wien Library you can pick up, you can pick up from the Bookmobile as well, and you can pick up from North Pole Branch, which will become our main branch during this period,” Harter explained.

Children’s and teen programming over the summer will happen at Joy Community Center, formerly Joy Elementary School. “So we’re going to take a subset of collection over there for browsing so the children have something to look for when they come during this time,” she said.

Computer services are expected to be available there as well. “We’re coming up with some way that there will be some computer service time, maybe some printing on a small printer over there at Joy, probably for some limited times adult services can do that.”

However, during the interim Noel Wien will not be able to serve as a place to simply hang out or escape from the cold.

The library will continue to acquire items during the closure, explained Harter. “All of our shipments come in here, and we have the loading bay.”

All library staff is being retained, and some operations will remain at Noel Wien, including administration and collections.

The library is looking for volunteers from the community to help assemble boxes. If you are interested in helping out or would like more information about the renovation process visit the FNSB Libraries SignUPGenius website.

More information about the renovation can be found here.