ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan's proposed budget for 2011 will shut down the Samson-Dimond branch library in the Dimond Center mall -- a move which library managers say will leave South Anchorage residents without a neighborhood library.
Sullivan proposed shutting down the library because he says patrons are willing to drive to other libraries in town, like the Loussac Library. But Samson-Dimond’s users say they frequently visit the branch library for more reasons than its location.
After one visit, Samson-Dimond is already a favorite spot for Sonja Gonzales and her kids. Gonzales recently moved to Anchorage and first visited the library Saturday, but says it makes her feel at home.
“The other libraries were a little more intimidating, like really big,” Gonzales said.
Anchorage Municipal Libraries says Samson-Dimond serves about 40,000 people in South Anchorage. During tough economic times, many residents cut costs by frequenting the library.
“This place is very convenient for us -- we check our e-mail, to check the Facebook, and especially getting a movie for free,” said library patron Miraha Mallari. “It's very, very important to us, especiallly because we are still struggling, because we've only been here for a year.”
The branch may be shutting its doors soon, if the mayor's proposed budget is approved. In a Friday interview with Channel 2, Sullivan said library customers are already driving to the Dimond Center. He says studies show they would be willing to drive to other libraries.
“Their study shows that people are willing to drive to the Loussac Library for their library needs, and so that necessitated when we needed to find savings in that department, that the Dimond-Samson library was probably a necessary choice,” Sullivan said.
Library managers, however, say branch libraries help strengthen neighborhoods’ sense of community.
“A sense of, it's a more unique ownership from the community for their branch library, and there is a lot of one-on-one relationships with the people that come to use the library,” said Anchorage Municipal Libraries Director Karen Keller.
At Samson-Dimond, clerks know their customers by name.
“It's a good feeling, this is my favorite library: it's close by, people here are really nice and helpful,” said library patron Tiphanie Jones.
Gonzales says she's not ready to close the chapter on Samson-Dimond -- and neither are her kids.
“Because I would miss stuff I used to do, yeah -- and I kind of get used to it,” said Josias Gonzales.
In August, Samson-Dimond checked out 30,000 books. If the Anchorage Assembly votes to shut down the branch, Keller says it will likely close its doors in early December.
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