The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Heidi Zemach
For The LOG 

Linville reflects on her years with local library


Heidi Zemach | For The LOG

Seward Library Director Patty Linville, at work, looks forward to retirement after 16 years.

Patty Linville, Seward's head librarian for almost 16 years, is retiring May 23. She stayed on an extra year and a half after the new library/museum building opened to help it get established, and because she wasn't quite ready to let go. But now she's looking forward to getting back to some of the things she enjoyed before having children and full time job, like playing music, knitting and weaving.

"It's a good time for me to leave here. We've finished the building and it's time for somebody to take this to a whole new level," Linville said.

She leaves behind the new Seward Community Library Museum, a crowning community-wide achievement that took many years of work, and decades of planning and private fundraising. It's a friendly, much-used "community living room," central to the lives of many residents and visitors with its scenic widow views, flashy tiles, colorful wall mural, garden and handcrafted wooden benches. Linville feels it truly is reflective of the Seward community and its dedicated group of founders. It's personally gratifying to see how greatly its use has increased since the building opened 16 months ago, and how many groups have booked its rooms to hold meetings, classes and even birthday parties, she said.

More than 77,000 people visited the building last year; 31,000 checked out books; 15,000 checked out movies; 13,000 used computers; 7,300 used the wireless. About 2,200 downloaded E-books and audio books, and more than 500 took out inter-library loans. Almost 2,600 attended the special children's programs.

Linville became Seward's library director in October 1998, returning to the work force after an 8-year teaching career, raising her children, and helping with the family commercial fishing business. Her husband Bob and two sons still are commercial fishermen, and their daughter Annie recently returned to Seward, and is working a temporary part-time job at the library.

Linville originally planned to become a school librarian, but after getting the required qualifications, learned that there was a job opening available at the Seward Community Library, and she was soon pleased to discover that it was perfect for her, giving her greater autonomy in planning, budgeting and hiring than being a school librarian would have. Plus, it was a position that wouldn't disappear – as many have over the years, and one that allowed her to take time off to travel on her own schedule.

American libraries, she believes, have a bright, relevant future in communities like Seward, despite the trend of turning away from printed books toward greater emphasis on digital media forms. In fact, libraries are as important as ever; as a bridge to the public's learning and accessing the latest information and technology, regardless of their economic class or education. She has seen their bright future when attending library conferences packed with young, idealistic, technology-savvy librarians. One of the Seward librarians even brought an iPad to the children's story time last week, she noted.

"I enjoy books but don't see it as a loss," Linville said. "It's just a different format. It's not like people are not writing. Look at how people are communicating!" Or, as one librarian recently pointed out; We could still be reading rocks.

"The library will look different, but our model has not changed," she said. Unfortunately librarians have to continue the struggle to defend the original library model on behalf of the public's privacy rights, and their rights to equal access to information within the context of large corporations that own, and want to control the Internet and other digital sources of public information. "Net Neutrality," in which internet providers want people to pay for access to information, is one example of the battle ahead. And libraries that formerly bought only books or periodicals, and lent them out for free for years, now must negotiate to purchase restrictive contracts with large E-book providers who charge $80 per book, and allow them only 50 uses before expiring. Because the cost is so prohibitive, a library in Colorado is printing its own E-books, Linville said. Meanwhile another American library boasts no books at all – only E-books and computers.

Linville has greatly appreciated the regular interaction she had with the statewide library community, a very close knit community of people who have been her professional support network, and helped her greatly throughout the years. She has applied to become the executive officer of the Alaska Library Association, a part-time home-based position with a small stipend that would allow her to retain that connection.

Patty and Bob Linville have no plans to move away from Seward, although they are busy completing a boat they are building in Homer with one of their sons, and hoping to be ready in time for seine season.


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