Historic Cordova Public Library remains a community staple

From Knit Lit Book Club to Sunday afternoon movies, programs provided for all ages

Museum and Library Director Cathy Sherman stands in her favorite section of the Cordova Public Library with a book from one of her favorite authors, Chuck Palahniuk, in the Cordova Center on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times)

A crackling fire danced in the Cordova Public Library’s copper-accented fireplace as wind and rain battered the walls outside.

The community library has been a staple in Cordova since its start as a reading room at the Red Dragon in 1909, when a fireplace similarly warmed folks gathered there to read.

According to collections from the Cordova Historical Society, Rev. Eustace Ziegler thought it was important to offer the men working on the Copper River and Northwest Railway proper recreational opportunities. That led to the creation of an informal lending library in the clubhouse.

The Cordova Public Library, once located inside the Windsor Hotel. (Photo courtesy of the Cordova Historical Society)

“A fireplace in the center of the room was kept burning for cheer,” Ziegler said.

In June 1925, the women’s guild of St. George’s Episcopal Church opened the book collection to the public, creating Cordova’s first public library. The library occupied the Adams building and then the Windsor Hotel before moving to the Centennial Building in 1971.

In November 2015, Cordovans formed a book brigade from the Centennial Building to the library’s new location within the Cordova Center, passing books by hand across the street and into the facility.

Museum and library director Cathy Sherman recalled children helping to bring wagons of books into new library as well.

Tea cups and snacks sit on a cart during the library program, “Mug-Up”, at the Cordova Public Library in the Cordova Center on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times)

Today, wood-carved salmon accent the walls throughout the library. A children’s room features games, books and playful orcas decorating the ceiling. Rows upon rows of books, magazines and newspapers line the main section of the library. Coffee and refreshments rest on a cart for the library’s Mug-Up program.

“It’s just the perfect place to sit or read,” Sherman said.

Mug-Up, formerly Seniors & Books, takes place from 10:30-11:30 a.m. on the last Tuesday of every month, and is geared toward adults. The winter program runs through April.

Adults come to chat, do brain games and receive help downloading audio books to devices, as well as other technology needs, explained Sherman.

Mug-Up provides a relaxing and quiet time at the library.

A welcome sign for the library program, “Mug-Up”, rests on a table with brain teaser worksheets at the Cordova Public Library in the Cordova Center on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times)

Mug-Up is just one program of many that the library offers. Others include Teen Art, After School Art, Sunday Afternoon Movies, Little Ones at Storytime and the Knit Lit Book Club.

On Oct. 31, the Friends of the Library will sponsor and buy books to give away to children during Trick-or-Treat for Books on Halloween in lieu of candy.

Friends of the Library, a group created to support the library, is open to all.

The library also features a “for sale” section where people can purchase books for 25 cents or fill a grocery bag for one dollar. Proceeds go to the Friends of the Library.

The library also offers the Alaska Digital Library, for downloading the application to load electronic books and music.

On Sunday’s librarian Alec Christopher makes free popcorn for “Sunday Afternoon Movies” from noon to 5 p.m. The event is open to all and people are free to pick a movie of their choice from the library’s collection to be shown. The program is first come, first serve.

On Sept. 25, people gathered around the fireplace for the Knit Lit Cordova Public Library Book Club. Tea and refreshments were offered, while book club members knit and crocheted.

Anna Hernandez, left, Terri Stavig, center, and Angela Butler, right, knit during the Knit Lit Book Club at the Cordova Public Library in the Cordova Center on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times)

The library’s book club was formed on April 25, 2017 by youth services librarian Anna Hernandez and Terri Stavig who wanted to incorporate knitting into library programs.

“I really wanted to have a book club for the library,” Hernandez said.

The book club meets on the last Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. by the fireplace. The back door will be open for those who arrive after 8 p.m., when the library closes. People are welcome to join the club at any time and don’t have to have read or finished the book. Hernandez and Stavig emphasized the importance of keeping the book club “low key and relaxing”.

Diane Ujioka crochet’s during the Knit Lit Book Club at the Cordova Public Library in the Cordova Center on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times)

Books are chosen at random or based off of suggestions from members.

On the second Tuesday of every month, the group decides on a movie and will watch it with lights on to allow light for knitting.

Stavig made an authentic potato peel pie for the group, withholding from using any modern appliances, for the night they watched “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.”

“I was excited because I love books, I love knitting, I love the fireplace at the library and I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the book club,” said Angela Butler, who began attending this summer. “We tend to be an audio book club and that is how I’ve consumed literature for the last 10 years and that way I can knit or clean … so it’s perfect for me.”

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Emily Mesner is a staff reporter and photographer for The Cordova Times. Reach her at emesner@thecordovatimes.com. Emily graduated from Central Michigan University, earning a degree in photojournalism with a cultural competency certificate. She first visited Alaska in 2016, working as a media intern for the National Park Service in Kotzebue and Denali National Park and Preserve, and has been coming back ever since. To see more photos, follow @thecordovatimes and @emilymesnerphoto on Instagram.