The library is not a shrine for the worship of books. It is not a temple where literary incense must be burned or where one’s devotion to the bound book is expressed in ritual. A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas – a place where history comes to life.
The John Trigg Ester library is a community membership library. It functions as a do-it-yourself library, meaning that there is no staff and that library members are responsible for the library’s upkeep, for checking out and returning books, and for maintaining shelves. It functions on an honor system. The “librarians” are actually library members who have taken it on themselves to help organize fundraisers, maintain the library, catalog books, or who have been elected to serve on the board of directors. They are not professional librarians (although some have library experience) and are not paid by the JTEL.
The mission of the JTEL is to provide a welcoming and intellectually stimulating environment where community members can meet, learn, and share ideas; and that will showcase Ester-area history and culture and provide resources that will encourage literacy and promote lifelong learning, thereby enriching the whole community.
Where to Find the Library
The library is located off the village square in downtown Ester, Alaska, at 3618 Main Street in the lower level next to Frank’s house, in a red-and-white barnish building next to the log castle (you’ll see what we mean when you get to the village square). The library is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., every day of the week. The library has two other facilities, with a third under construction: The Clausen Cabin, at 3629 Main Street (under renovation); the Ida Laine Gazebo and associated outhouse at 504 Village Road, across from the Ester Post Office; and the Passive House library, under construction at 488 Village Road. Please contact the librarians if you have questions.
The library is a 501(c)(3) public charity incorporated in the state of Alaska and governed by a nine-member board and its bylaws; regular meetings are held to discuss library business. See also the board’s policies, plans, and objectives. And for more information, see our Frequently Asked Questions page.
Land & building planning (top)
The library was given a historic cabin in the heart of the village which is being currently remodeled to provide expanded space. The new library building will be built along Village Road. It was designed using Passive House and LEED principles to create a building that is extremely energy-efficient, will last for a few centuries, and will incorporate local and green materials to create a healthy, pleasant, and low-carbon-footprint environment that has minimal maintenance and operations costs.
Goals & Objectives (top)
Broad goal: to enrich and strengthen the social, cultural, and economic life of the people of Ester.
Specific goal: to construct a library building at 488 Village Road (the new building) that will provide a welcoming and intellectually stimulating environment where community members can meet, learn, and share ideas; and that will showcase Ester-area history and culture and provide resources that will encourage literacy and promote lifelong learning, thereby enriching the whole community.
- to structure the JTEL organization to enable JTEL to achieve the library’s mission most effectively.
- to construct a modern, environmentally sustainable and site-sensitive library building on the library’s land in Ester that will house the JTEL’s collections and provide a community learning and gathering space.
- to modify the house and grounds at 3629 Main Street (the Clausen Cabin) as an interim space for the collections while the new building is under construction, and to provide a cozy and welcoming home for the Ruth Jasper Children’s Room and the seed library while maintaining respect for the Clausen Cabin’s historic value and character and honoring the longtime Ester residents who built it.
- to celebrate and showcase Ester’s artistic diversity and innovation by incorporating local artwork on an ongoing basis into the building and on the library grounds beginning with finish work during building construction.
- to celebrate and showcase Ester’s unique character and history through pertinent library materials and programs, lectures, in displays, and by incorporating historically important items into the building and on the library grounds.
- to celebrate and showcase Ester’s musical, literary, and theatrical talent by maintaining a local music collection and a local authors section, by including music and performance in library fundraisers and other community events, and by featuring local performers in library programs, including poets, musicians, thespians, storytellers, and others.
- to provide broadband internet access and state of the art computing facilities for public use.
- to transfer the library’s full collection to the new building, catalog the collections such that they are compatible with state and borough library systems, and enable the library to offer its collection to use by the public.
- to expand or begin establishing educational, cultural, and community-building library programs and archives.
- to encourage healthy lifestyles and an understanding of the natural world by using the grounds as a component of the educational purpose of the library.
first draft 4/17/11 JTEL board meeting; revised per 6/12/2011 JTEL board meeting; approved at the 7/13/2011 JTEL board meeting; revised 1/23/2014, approved at the 2/17/2014 JTEL board meeting
Philosophy of the Ester Library (top)
The Ester library has historically been a do-it-yourself membership library, whose members—generally from the Ester area—are those interested enough to join. Almost its entire collections have been donated by local residents, with some coming from the state library in Juneau and only a very few books purchased, with used book credit from Gulliver’s Books. There is no staff at the library; library members are responsible for the library’s upkeep, for checking out and returning books, and for maintaining its shelves. It truly is the patrons’ library, and functions on an honor system.
The JTEL is very much a community library, with items specific to Ester and Alaska history, and, because of the way the collections have developed, reflective of the reading interests of the Ester area. Local control of the library has always been important to the membership. So, too, is local investment in its construction and design.
For reference, below are some basic principles of library science:
S.R. Ranganathan‘s Five Laws:
1. Books are for use.
2. Every reader his [or her] book.
3. Every book its reader.
4. Save the time of the user.
5. The library is a growing organism.
The John Trigg Ester Library is a member of the Alaska Library Association.
The Ester library features many books that have been banned or have suffered attempts at banning in libraries and schools. Ideas are revolutionary things and upset the status quo, expand the minds of their thinkers, and generally cause a ruckus. The librarians feel that this is a good thing.