Library Visit: Juneau, Alaska

Downtown branch: 292 Marine Way, Juneau, Alaska, 99801


Built: 1988
Cost: $3.8 million
Size: 18,000 square feet
Holdings: 70,000 volumes
Users: 300,000

I’m just home from vacation–went on my first cruise and it was to Alaska, a state I’ve wanted to visit since I was a little kid.  Being the book nerd that I am, my goal was to visit the library and one bookstore in each port.  Although I didn’t have much time to explore the libraries or bookstores that I visited, it was fun to find them and have at least a few minutes to look around.

First stop was Juneau.  Here’s a picture from the deck of the ship as we’re docking.  I didn’t realize at the time that we were docking right next to the library!  I had read online about the library’s beautiful stained glass windows, so I was assuming the library was some quaint old building.  Well, we all know what can happen when we assume.

Painting on the sea side of library’s wall by Dan DeRoux is taken from a historic photograph from 1887 when the steamship Ancon arrived in Juneau.  The faces in the painting are those of Juneau pioneers.
When I got off the ship I asked the guide on the dock if she could point me to the library.  She raised her arm and pointed to the top of the parking garage next to us.  The guide explained that when it was time to build the new library, the locals insisted on a parking garage because parking space is so hard to find in Juneau.  The town itself has a huge land mass, but the actual town area is squeezed in-between the shoreline and the steep mountains. There are actually three public libraries in Juneau.  The one I visited is the downtown branch.
As you walk into the entrance of the parking garage/library there are two elevators inside.  The one on the right is the express to the library, which I thought was pretty cool.  A young woman waiting for the elevator explained that although both elevators go to the top floor–to the library–at night you want to be sure to take the express because the other elevator can be creepy when it opens onto the parking floors at night.

I didn’t know what to expect from a library that’s on top of a parking garage.  My first thought, I admit, was on the skeptical side.  However, when the elevator doors opened I was greeted by an inviting, curvy path that drew me into the heart of the library.  As you can see from the picture to the left, the gentle curve of the path and walls create a feeling of tranquility.  After the hustle and bustle of getting off the ship and walking through the crowd of fellow tourists, a feeling of calmness came over me when I stepped off the elevator.


To the right when you walk off the elevator is the stunning stained glass window that I had read about. The glass was created by Bruce Elliot.  The library’s pamphlet describes it as expressing “the metamorphosis of migrating salmon into a totemic salmon design.”  It’s a huge window that looks beautiful whether the sun is out or not (that saying about the weather in Alaska changing from minute to minute is really true. I’ve heard many states claim that concept–they say it here in Chicago–but it is completely true in Alaska).  Below are two details of the stained glass:


totemic salmon design


Juneau through the Library's Stained Glass (

Juneau through the stained glass


Inside the library

The heart of the library was very calm and quiet with a number of people using the resources as you can see from the picture to the left.  The backside of the library, the side that faces the sea, is all window.  There’s a large outdoor balcony that you can walk out onto.  As our ship was docking there were some family members on the balcony waving to a Holland America employee that was returning home to Juneau.

Below is a picture of our ship that I took from the balcony.  I imagine it would be wonderful to sit on one of the benches on the balcony and read a book when there’s not a big cruise ship blocking your view of the sea.

ms Rotterdam, Holland America Line

The last picture is of the metal sculpture on the wall of the library that faces the street (opposite from the side with the painting/the sea side).  It was created by Ray Peck, Jr.

The Juneau library was wonderful and I was so thrilled to be able to visit it.  I only wish that I’d had more time to look around at their holdings.


Categories: Library

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2 replies

  1. Amazing creative use of space.

  2. Of course, you visited libraries and bookstores! Thanks for sharing this — what a beautiful place. I love the stained glass window. Looking forward to hearing more about your Alaskan adventure.

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