Library is a vital community and personal asset

In August 2023, I was listening to my kitchen radio one morning as usual, when the Wasilla Mayor's weekly information blurb came on. Near the end, she said people who had a library card could read the Frontiersman, as well as other newspapers, for free, to check out additional local activities. My ears perked up. Read the Frontiersman for free!

Several years ago, when the yearly subscription came due (with notice of a rate increase) my husband Gary decided the Frontiersman would no longer be delivered to our house. I had greatly enjoyed reading it since our move back to Palmer in 2011, and was disappointed. In the ensuing years, I wondered what interesting stories and information I'd been missing. Now the Wasilla Mayor reminded me I could read it for free. Of course. A library always keeps the local paper on hand. Why hadn't I thought of that before? I was driving to Palmer every other day to visit Gary at the Pioneer Home. Perhaps I could coordinate my trips with library hours.

But, it would have to be at the interim library, because the Palmer Library building suffered a partial roof collapse in mid-February 2023, caused by drifting snow on top of an already heavy snow load. Thankfully a family of four and the three library staff were able to escape without injuries. A broken pipe flooded the floor, weakening the support beams throughout the building and causing the entire structure to destabilize-a sad situation for the whole town, as the Palmer Library was much loved by many. Even the parking lot was used for numerous community events, especially during the summer months.

Gary and I and our two children moved to Palmer from Cooper Landing in 1984. We visited the little public library in the back part of the City Hall building, but it was miniscule and so crowded. So, we were just as excited as everyone else during the grand opening in 1986 of the beautiful new library building on S. Valley Way. However, we didn't check out many books. The kids had their school libraries, my parents had given us a set of encyclopedias for any necessary school research projects, and I was too busy in those years to do much reading.

It wasn't until Gary's and my return to Palmer in 2011, that I frequented the Palmer Library more often, but without the need of trying to use my outdated library card. For years I attended the monthly Palmer Historical Society meetings in the community room, until they outgrew the space and had to move to the Palmer Moose Lodge. I also stopped by the library sometimes just to use the wonderful restrooms during a busy day of errands around town. Other times, I would drop off used magazines from my house to the designated area on shelves to the left of the entry doors, check to see if there were any magazines I was interested in, and pick up an extra copy of the Senior Voice, if I needed one. And, I'd come across some great "finds" during the annual used book sale.

When in high school one year, daughter Erin created a variety of stuffed dolls and animal toys. At that time, she and I made a huge soft doll of fabric. She didn't want it and I was tired of storing it. One day while in the library, I noticed above the cupboards in the children's section, a decorative arrangement of toys. I could imagine Erin's doll fitting right in. My next trip to Palmer, I took the doll into the library, offered it to the staff, and it was happily accepted. At a later date, I was thrilled to see the doll in place, took photos, and sent them to Erin.

About 2014, I helped orchestrate a donation to the library of a complete collection of Ron Wendt's books about gold panning and mining. After the collection was sent to me by previous bed and breakfast guests of ours (from Spain), I took it to the library (as prearranged) and was given a tour of the fabulous "Alaska Collection," housed in a separate room in the library.

Finally, in September 2023 I had time to visit the interim library. While the lady at the front desk processed my application for a new card, I browsed the temporary facilities. It didn't take long. All the rooms were small and the upstairs computer lab was temporarily closed. As I wandered back to the front desk, another lady asked if I was being helped. I told her yes, but reading the Frontiersman was really what brought me in. When she told me that I could do that in my own home, I was flabbergasted. It seems I'm pretty ignorant about the digital world. I even asked how the Frontiersman felt about that, since it would cut down on subscriptions. She said they were fine with it.

She took me to a nearby computer at the front desk and showed me the process to go through to read it at home. Then the first clerk had questions for me about my application. The three of us had a delightful conversation. I even mentioned Erin's doll, saying that the photos I'd seen in the newspaper looked like the cupboard it sat on would have been at the edge of the damaged area and I wondered about its survival. I was told that unfortunately, even the items not damaged by the collapse were damaged by water spray. I thanked them for my new card, the lesson about how to access the Frontiersman, and the tour of the interim library.

It wasn't until January 2024 that I finally attempted to read the Frontiersman, using my new library card number. Not surprisingly after all that time, I didn't understand a simple note I'd written about the prearranged passcode, and was not successful. But after a quick call to the library, a patient clerk walked me through the process again, discovering my error. Then I sat at my own desk and browsed several recent issues to my heart's content.

P.S. A December 2023 radio news blurb stated that it has been decided to build a completely new building rather than repair the damaged one. The cost of the project is estimated to be $15 million, with a grand opening date of 2026.

Maraley McMichael is a lifelong Alaskan currently residing in Palmer. Email her at

Author Bio

Maraley McMichael is a lifelong Alaskan now residing in Palmer.

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