By Heidi Zemach for Seward City News.
Seward’s grand new library museum building on Sixth Avenue will open its doors to the public Saturday, Jan 12, at 1:30 p.m. for a dedication ceremony. The beautiful new building has been accomplished, and has an inviting finished look to it. It is surprisingly spacious inside, and stands up to its fundraising, public relations campaign name, “Something for Us.” It’s many rooms and spaces, comfortable new furniture, and window coverings featuring old photographs from Seward’s past will be a treat for locals and visitors alike.
This Friday night it filled with its major financial backers and supporters from across the state, for an invitation-only sneak preview prior to Saturday’s opening, and for the building committee to thank them for bringing the building to completion. Building committee board members, Seward museum and library backers, politicians including former city mayors, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, and head contractors who worked on the building, were amazed and some were moved to tears by its beauty, and the realization that what had begun as a dream for the community more than nine years ago was a reality and would become “the heart of Seward” for decades to come.
The Seward High School Forensics and Debate Club, dressed to the nines in smart black suits, skirts and ties, welcomed the senator and visitors, and gave an enthusiastic “hip hip horray” for each contributor named and thanked in a ceremony in the spacious first floor meeting room. Meanwhile AVTEC culinary arts students, just returned from winter vacation, and dressed in pressed whites, graciously offered up the amazing finger foods they had prepared including filet mignon sliders, au jus, duck and mushroom pates, quinoa salad. Even they couldn’t contain their enthusiasm for the new Seward building: It just makes you want to read in my opinion,” said AVTEC student Alexandra Prabuki.
Keith Campbell gave Senator Murkowski and other public dignitaries a tour of some of the museum exhibits, such as the permanent wave hair curling machine, used in the 1920s. “It smelled of burnt hair,” said Beverly Dunham. Head Librarian Patty Linville illustrated the work put into planning the project by telling the audience of backers how the library has some 1,900 files contained in 308 folders dating back to 2004. That’s about the time when the idea was first conceived as a Seward Centennial project that could be enjoyed by all Seward residents. She also has three fat subfolders titled “Mary’s Stuff”, “Keith’s Stuff” and “Kerry’s Stuff.” Mary Tougas, Keith Campbell and Kerry Martin were some of the most instrumental volunteers in seeing the project through, Linville said, fighting back tears of gratitude and perhaps relief. “I’m continually humbled by their dedication. It’s been a pleasure working with you,” she said. Kent Crandall, the project manager, from RISE Alaska, stood in the crowd, watching the speakers, with a broad grin filling his face.
“I am delighted to be with you this evening,” said Murkowski. “To be here with this community, to celebrate a community event is really quite special. I don’t know if you feel what is present in this room but this is the heart of a community, it’s your history in a beautiful little museum, the opportunity to share discussion and thought.” In many Alaska communities that she visits, the library is the focus and pride of that community and it defines them, she said. The state helped fund the Seward Library Museum along with six other community library projects, some yet to be built. Their support for a library demonstrates the love they have for their town, she said. A representative for State Senator Gary Stevens, who now represents a new district, echoed her sentiments. Stevens was a strong supporter of the library museum building effort. Stevens was very sorry not to be able to make it to the opening ceremony, and gave his loving regards to a town he has come to know and love, he said. “We will never forget all the help he gave to us, and to this project,” said Assistant City Manager Ron Long.
Building Committee member Vanta Shafer thanked Former Mayor Edgar Blatchford who created the “Something for Us” committee, and promoted the idea of the new building project early on. “When I drive by I’m proud of it, I love it, and can’t wait to seeing it here for years to come,” Shafer said. “I’m so proud of this I can hardly stand it, and it’s all here because of you,” gushed former Seward Mayor Willard Dunham, another longtime project supporter.
Drop by and visit the new building and see for yourself Saturday for the opening ceremony, or come see it Monday, when it officially opens to the public for business. The ceremony begins at 1:30 p.m. with the Seward Singers and Seward Seahawks choir performing the Alaska Flag Song, and a ribbon cutting. Nancy White Carlstrom the noted author of the popular “Jesse Bear” children’s book series will be there and give presentations on her books to the young children.