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Story Last modified at 10:56 a.m. on Thursday, March 10, 2011

Loussac Public Library celebrates 25 years

The boy, walking up the stairs with his mom, looked to be about 7. Like an explorer examining new territory, he gazed up at the glass atrium overhead down to the entrance of Loussac Public Library. Caught up by his obvious awe, I asked him a question as I neared: "Do you know who this building belongs to?" Before his expression of confusion had set, I told him, "It belongs to you. It belongs to you and me and all the people in Anchorage." At his mother's confirming nod, a look of pride settled on his face and I have found myself grinning over the encounter ever since.

You don't have to be a little kid to be impressed by Loussac. Set on 17 acres in midtown Anchorage, the library, at 140,000 square feet, is the largest public library in the state. Part of the local public-facility building boom funded by the opening of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, Loussac opened in September of 1986, the headquarters for the municipal library system with eight branches.

Few people, even among those who come to the facility regularly, realize the scope of Loussac's features. Anchored by three towers, the main building's first level features a 220-seat theater, the Assembly chambers and a public conference room. Channel 10, the municipal TV station, is located on the fourth level. The elegantly designed Alaska Collection tower features a ceiling that replicates the Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

A cultural hub for the city, Loussac has seen literally millions of visitors over the last 25 years. And, now, with the closing of the Samson-Dimond Branch in south Anchorage, another 40,000 users have been added to its user base. Unlike the other facilities built during the pipeline boom – the Performing Arts Center, the Sullivan Arena and the Egan Convention Center – there is never an admission fee to get into the library or see a library program or check out a book or use a library computer. Inclusive in a way that no other public or private institution is, the library is open to all for free.

As Loussac celebrates its 25th anniversary, a once-in-a-generation renewal for the facility is being launched. The large, multi-year project will be completed in multiple phases. The renewal of Loussac is the leading recommendation of the Library Community Plan, created with the help of 6,000 people throughout Anchorage.

Recognizing that Loussac is a transformational force and has played a significant role in the city, it is critical that we maintain and grow this great resource for our future. Improvements will include a redesigned entrance that creates a public commons and a south-facing gathering area for community events, an indoor book drop, upgraded children's area and a high-tech theater. For more information about the Loussac renewal project, go to

This article published in The Alaska Star on Thursday, March 10, 2011.