Frequently Asked Questions about the Ester library

Note: These questions and answers are being posted as we complete them; if you have a question that is not answered here, please contact us!

Library services and information
History of the library
Programs and Events
Fundraisers & Community Events
About the new building
Operating the library
Donating to the library

Library Services & Information (top)

Hours & Location

Frank’s Place – 3618 Main Street, Ester

One of the two buildings housing books of the John Trigg Ester Library (JTEL) is located just to the right of the Golden Eagle Saloon, in downtown Ester.  It is open from 9 am to 9 pm, seven days a week. It is an unmanned, all-volunteer community membership library run on the honor system and owned and operated by JTEL, Inc.

Ansgar & Ida Clausen Cabin – 3629 Main Street

The Clausen Cabin, across from Frank’s Place at 3629 Main Street, is currently open to the public on Saturday afternoons, from 2-5. Collections include children’s, young adults, Alaskana, cookbooks and hobbies, and a women’s section.  The library’s business office is also housed in the Clausen Cabin, and the Board of Directors meets here.

Ida Laine Clausen Gazebo – 504 Village Road

The Ida Laine Clausen Gazebo is opposite the Ester Post Office on Village Road in Ester. It is an open, eight-sided structure with a community bulletin board and a concrete floor, and benches nearby. It has stained glass windows and inlays in the post uprights that reflect different pastimes in Ester, such as gardening, birdwatching, writing, and playing music.

Where is the library’s catalog?

The JTEL has an online catalog with www.librarything.com that shows the books and other items in the collections. The catalog does not yet show whether an item has been checked out, merely whether the JTEL posesses the item in question. The JTEL shares its catalog with Calypso Farm & Ecology Center’s Resource Library, so it may also be used to see if Calypso has a particular book. To use the catalog, go to the JTEL’s circulation page, or visit LibraryThing directly.

How do I check out an item?

First, you must be a member of the library. For right now, the library uses a manual card system rather than automated electronic checkout. Please remove the card from the pocket (usually on the inside front or back cover of the book or CD), write the date and print your name on the line provided, and leave the card in the box by the door. See our Membership page for more information.

How long may I keep an item?

We ask that you return items within a month. If you need to keep it longer, that’s okay, but please do not hold it for longer than six months so that other people may use it and so that you don’t forget where you got the book from. This is important.

Are there late fees?

No. Items are checked out and returned on the honor system, as we have no staff. The library and its collections are owned by its members; each member has the responsibility to consider the needs of other members when borrowing items.

What if I lose an item or my dog eats it?

Accidents happen! If an item in your care is lost or damaged, please replace it with a new copy of the same title, or contact a board member for assistance (board@esterlibrary.org).

How do I become a member?

Membership dues are $10 per year. To become a member, fill out a membership form and provide your dues to the Secretary or the Treasurer (checks should be made to JTEL) or come to our annual meeting and pay in person then. Please also see our Membership page.

What is a membership library?

membership or subscription library is one where each member pays a fee, usually annual, to use the library. Such a library is supported by private funds, and access is often restricted to those who are members. The JTEL limits checkout of materials to members, but the public may use the library and has free access to materials on-site. A few membership libraries do not allow their materials to circulate outside the premises. Some membership libraries are owned by their members, others are institutional and library use is a privilege. Membership libraries are now very rare, although they were the forerunners of the current public library system in the United States. For more information, see the Wikipedia entry on Subscription library, or any of the Membership Libraries Group websites.

Is the Ester library a public library like the Noel Wien Library?

Yes and no. The JTEL is open to the public, in that any person can become a library member or use the library premises. However, to check out items, vote at the annual meeting, or run for the board, a person must become a member of the library. The JTEL is not supported by tax dollars. It is a community library in Ester, so it focuses on service to the Ester area, but because its membership mostly lives in the west end of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, its services are supportive of residents of Goldstream Valley, Standard Creek, Cripple Creek, Old Nenana, Gold Hill Road, the Parks Highway, and Ester Dome areas as well. The JTEL is a privately owned semi-public institution.

The Noel Wien Library, on the other hand, is available to any resident of or owner of land in the Fairbanks North Star Borough and is supported by taxes. Staff at the borough library are public employees, paid by the borough, and the library is a branch of the borough government. Public libraries such as Noel Wien serve the general public but focus on serving the area governed by their parent branch of government. The Noel Wien is a publicly held public institution.

History of the library (top)

How was the library started?

The Ester library was founded in early 1999 by Frank Therrell and Deirdre Helfferich as a reading room. It quickly became a lending library, operated by Peggy Dunwoodie and Helfferich, and was renamed in honor of John Trigg in August 2000.

Who is John Trigg?

John Trigg was a local resident and retired Coast Guardsman who was fond of telling stories and skilled at knot-tying and model boat building, among other pursuits. He started a book exchange at the Golden Eagle Saloon, and was friends with many residents of the village. After he passed away in 2000, Peggy Dunwoodie, who was a bartender at the saloon and friends with John, suggested that the library be named after him. Many of John’s books are now on the shelves of the library, and his family are strong supporters. For more on his life, please see About John Trigg.

Wasn’t the library part of the Ester Community Association?

Yes. The library operated independently until 2004, when it joined the Ester Community Association, which is a state-recognized nonprofit organization. The library was so successful that it began to outgrow its quarters, and the ECA and the JTEL committee decided to buy land for a building. The JTEL separated from the ECA in 2009 to form a federally recognized charitable nonprofit (a 501(c)(3) organization), and held its first annual membership meeting in October 2009.

For more details on the history of the library and on recent events, please see our History page.

Library Programs and Events (top)

For more information on the library’s programs, visit our Programs page.

The Ester Library Lecture Series

This program is currently on hiatus.


Growing Ester’s Biodiversity: a seed library

The Growing Ester’s Biodiversity program, or GEB, is a lending and educational seed program: participants “check out” seeds, grow them, and then selected growers “return” or donate seeds each fall. In addition to “loaning” seeds, GEB offers lectures, seed swaps, and workshops focusing on biodiversity, seed saving, food sovereignty, botany, cultural traditions, the history of food, and more.

For more information on GEB, please see the original proposal.

Fundraisers & Community Events(top)

The Tape & Tarp Ball

This costume ball and fundraiser celebrates the sartorial splendors possible with duct tape, tarp, and visqueen.  Although it is a fundraiser and a test of sewing skills, this is first and foremost a dance with a live band.

The LiBerry Music Festival

This music festival raises money for the library and features local music in a wide range of genres, from klezmer to country to jazz to folk to world. A pie contest is part of the fun and features prizes and celebrity judges, with one judge’s position available for auction.

Workshops & Special Events

The library hosts free workshops and special events from time to time. For example, a grantwriting workshop was held in April 2011. Announcements are posted on Facebook and on the library blog.

What is JTEL, Inc.?

The John Trigg Ester Library, Inc., is a nonprofit organization incorporated in November 2009 and dedicated to the operation of the library for the good of the Ester area. It is run by a seven-member board of directors elected by and responsible to the membership of the library.

Who is on the board of directors?

Current board members are: Syrilyn Tong (President), Monique Musick (Vice-President), Carrie Correia (Secretary), Jeanne Laurencelle (Treasurer), Gary Pohl, Melinda Gallagher, and Sherri Schleiter, with Eli Sonafrank and Greg Selid as alternates.

To contact a board member, please email us at board@esterlibrary.org.

See also JTEL bylaws, our Board Roles, Conduct, & Responsibilities Policy, and, if you are interested in running for a seat on the board, Serving on the Board of Directors. Any library member in good standing may serve on the board of directors.

What is the JTEL’s mission?

The John Trigg Ester Library is a home-grown community library that provides a welcoming and intellectually stimulating environment where community members can meet and share ideas and information. The library strives to instill a love of reading and learning, to showcase Ester-area history and culture, and to provide resources that will enrich the whole community.

How do I reserve the gazebo?

The gazebo may be used by the public for impromptu get-togethers, but for planned events (such as birthday parties, weddings, potlucks, etc.) it is best to reserve the building and grounds to be certain of the space. Please contact the board by calling 374-8080.

Who is Ida Laine Clausen?

Eleanor Loback Clausen, familiarly known by her stage name of Ida Lane, was a longtime local resident famous for her honky-tonk piano playing, painting, cooking, and gardening. She was one of the original writers and performers in the Malemute Saloon’s variety musical show, “Service with a Smile.” The gazebo was dedicated in her honor on August 1, 2010. For more on Ida Lane, please see “Ida Lane’s New Gazebo,” by D. Helfferich, published in The Ester Republic August 2010. For photos of the dedication and party, please see our blog.

About the New Building (top)
Where will it be?

The new library building will be situated on the JTEL’s land in Ester, at 488 Village Road.

What will it look like?

The library design was completed in 2013, and the latest plans are available on line. It will incorporate superinsulation and passive solar design elements, and house a children’s area, a lounge, a conference/meeting room, archives and map storage, a masonry heater, wifi, a circulation desk, and more. The basic shape is a rectangular building situated with a large southern exposure, having a shed roof, and large south-facing windows. Some details, such as septic system, siding particulars, and north entrance appearance, are not yet fixed.

How much will it cost?

The current estimate is around $997,000. We have available in grant and donation monies reserved approximately $107,000, of which about $89,000 will be used for Phase 1, which was completed in 2016.

How will the JTEL pay for its construction?

The board has established a capital campaign to raise funds for the new library’s construction. The library sought and gained two legislative appropriations and a grant from the borough, is looking for federal and private foundation and other grants, has sought and qualified for Community Revenue Sharing program funds, and is developing an individual donation campaign. For more on the capital campaign, please see the Capital Campaign Committee page.

How will we fund its operation?

The JTEL board is establishing an endowment for the long-term operation of the library. The library will continue to host its three main community fundraiser events, and will also raise funds through item sales, membershipssupport, and sponsorships. The design of the building will reduce our operating costs as much as is feasible by incorporating green elements for healthy, low-energy use operation. The library has qualified for Community Revenue Sharing, which will offset maintenance, upgrade, and repairs costs.

Why do we need a library in Ester?

There are several other libraries in the Fairbanks North Star Borough; sometimes people question why we need a library in Ester when there are other resources available.

The short answer to this is that the Ester library is here, in Ester, while the other libraries in the borough are several miles away.

  • Nearby location is not merely a matter of convenience—it can be the difference between using a library and not using one at all. There is no public transportation between Fairbanks and Ester, and children and others who cannot drive need a local resource within walking or bicycling distance.
  • Neighborhood libraries are cornerstones of local civic life, serving as centers of wider community learning and development, and acting as guardians of local history and culture. The JTEL focuses on Ester history and culture. Other libraries in the Tanana Valley do not.
  • Community and neighborhood libraries serve as local gathering and meeting places. Our survey indicates that a local gathering spot is very important to community residents. Saloons and rental halls can only fulfill this function in part.
  • Ester has no school or other place for study or research, other than the JTEL.
  • Libraries offer public computing and internet access; in Ester, where internet access may be slow, unreliable, or unavailable, this will be a very important service that the JTEL will provide.
  • Community libraries provide support for local businesses and job seekers.

A library is far more than a bunch of books and movies on shelves. A library is a place. It builds community, creates a safe space for children and adults, and provides a civic center. A bookmobile, or a library several miles away, cannot do this. For fuller treatment of this question, please see the essay, “Why we need a library in Ester,” and JTEL Goals & Objectives.

Operating the Library (top)

Will the library be staffed?

Yes. The board is developing a budget and business plan that includes paid staff. These professionals will be phased in as the library develops its funding sources, moving from an all-volunteer to a combination volunteer and paid staff arrangement.

How do I volunteer to help?

We can always use volunteers! If you would like to help with fundraisers, grantwriting, cataloguing, cleaning the library, shelving returned books, designing posters, weeding, sitting the library’s Ester Community Market booth, proctoring lectures, posting flyers, or any other task, please contact the board. There are many things that we need help with, and your participation is always very much appreciated. For more information on tasks for volunteers, please see our Volunteering page. Or, join the Friends of the Ester Library.

Donating to the Library (top)

General information

The JTEL is a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization and depends on donations to continue operating. (Donations to the library are tax-deductible under Internal Revenue Code section 170.) Even a small donation can make a big difference. Donations can be financial, material, or of labor. Although membership is only $10 per year, many members renew with a donation added, giving the library $15, $25, or even $100. All types are gratefully received and appreciated, and help the library buy heating fuel and supplies, pay the rent, and save for our new building.To make a cash donation to the library, send a check to JTEL at PO Box 468, Ester AK, 99725. For in-kind donations or to volunteer, please contact the JTEL board.

Book donations

The library is not accepting books or other items for its collections at this time. However, books may be donated to Gulliver’s Books in the library’s name for used book credit. If you have books that you think would best be held for the library’s shelves, please keep them in storage until we have our new building and have room for them. Thank you!

Donations to the capital campaign

All donations to the capital campaign are very much appreciated. Donations provide us with the essential means to construct our building and provide the community gathering space and civic and cultural center that a good library offers. The JTEL hopes to make the Ester library truly great, and your donations will help make this possible.

For more information on how libraries can fulfil their potential as neighborhood and community institutions, please see the article at the Project for Public Spaces, “How to Make Your Library Great.”

Cash donations

Cash donations provide the JTEL with unrestricted funds, meaning that they may be used toward any aspect of the operations, construction, or design. These are an essential part of our fundraising, and help us leverage grants from foundations by demonstrating community support for the building project and the library as a whole. To donate to the library, please send a check to JTEL at PO Box 468, Ester, AK 99725. Please note on or with your check that it is for the capital campaign.

In-kind donations

Another important means of helping the capital campaign is through in-kind donations. These may be in the form of materials (lumber, insulation, paint, concrete, etc.), furniture or fixtures, supplies, or services or labor. Their cash value can also help the JTEL to leverage grants by demonstrating support for the building. Because they are not needed until construction begins or is complete, depending on what is donated, we request that donors fill out an in-kind donation form, or contact the board to discuss the details of your donation.


The JTEL board has established an endowment for the long-term financial stability of the Ester library. The interest from the endowment will help to operate the library and provide a basic level of support once it is established. Endowments are an element of good stewardship over the life of an institution, helping it to whether the vicissitudes of the future. Building an endowment is a long-term project, but allows for planned giving and for donors to leave a legacy to the community. If you are interested in donating to our endowment, please contact the board.

Sponsorships (top)

Bookshelf dedications

As part of our capital campaign, you can help the library by dedicating a bookshelf to someone you love and/or admire. For $50, a name plate will be engraved and placed on a bookshelf in the area of your choice, and a notification slip sent to the recipient, if you wish (please include their address). Checks should be made to JTEL. For more information and to see a list of dedicated shelves to date, please go to Bookshelf Dedications.