On September 28th, I had the honor of delivering the keynote address at the new Petersburg Library Grand Opening. I’m proud of what the community has accomplished with this impressive new facility. In 2008, the Legislature passed SB 119 creating the library construction grant program which provides a 50% matching grant from the state for communities that want to build a new library or expand an existing one. Senator Donny Olson and I carried this bill through the legislative process and when it became law, Petersburg was one of the first communities to take advantage of the new program. Petersburg was in the first round of grant recipients in FY 2011, receiving a $3.25 million grant from the state. In FY 2012, Petersburg received an additional $263,000 capital appropriation from the Legislature to further the project.
Since its inception, 14 communities around the state have taken advantage of the program receiving a total of $52.5 million in library grant funding. Five of those communities are in Southeast – Petersburg, Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau and Sitka. Currently, five additional communities, including Coffman Cove, are in the process of applying for construction grants. Finally, six additional communities are in the early stages of planning, including Craig, Haines and Thorne Bay. It’s encouraging to see so much interest in our community libraries from the towns in Southeast.
Growing up in Petersburg, the library was always a focal point of the community where residents could gather and access information about the outside world. One of the fundamental pillars of a democracy resides within the literacy of its people and their ability to access information. It’s very difficult to accomplish that without public libraries. And even though we live in a more media centric age today, libraries are always adapting to keep up with the new technology.