February marks Library Appreciation Month, an appropriate designation given that this project is based out of the Alaska State Library!
Although it’s easy to take public libraries for granted, several news items from the Cordova Daily Times point to the general public’s desire for not only books, but music and art and “a Fine Exhibit of Minerals and Curios” to establish a municipal art museum.
Even today with a steadfast Interlibrary Loan system to connect libraries within the state of Alaska, materials can take several weeks to arrive based on the sheer distance needed to travel. Imagine not even having an established collection of books to browse through on cold, dark, winter nights- or having any means of obtaining books.
For many citizens of Cordova, a library represented a cultural outlet missing from their town. A library also represented the comforts of home and a gathering place for friends. The Cordova public school library was the only library in town, and its borrowing privileges were reserved for school children only.
This lack of a larger institution is laid bare in this article for an upcoming “tag sale” to benefit the Cordova public school library:
By 1920, however, the Cordova public school library opened its doors to the general public:
Newspapers all throughout Alaska picked up on the public outcry for a library in Cordova and spread the word to readers near and far.
In June of 1925, women’s guild of St. George’s Episcopal Church opened the reading room of the Red Dragon, a historical building, as the very first location of the Cordova Public Library. Books donated by Episcopalian churches throughout the Lower 48 formed the collection- which formed an eclectic mix of titles!
Today, the Cordova Public Library has found a permanent home at the Cordova Center, after having its collection housed in the Adams Building and the Windsor Hotel. We are fortunate to have had this journey toward a free public library documented in the Cordova Daily Times.