New Building

We are in the process of fundraising for a new library building. (See the PDF copy of our project snapshot that was sent to the Alaska Legislature with our appropriation request this session.) The design process took about six years but is finally complete. The new library was designed using Passive House and LEED principles to create a building that is extremely energy-efficient, will last for a few centuries, and will incorporate local and green materials to create a healthy, pleasant, and low-impact environment that has minimal maintenance and operation costs. For more on Passive House design in the Subarctic, see the case study conducted by the Cold Climate Housing Research Center.

Construction schedule (NOTE: extremely tentative, dependent upon funds, procurement, etc.)
  • 2015: site prep, foundation, construction
  • 2016: finish work, transfer of materials
  • 2017: grand opening

Design and site

Drawing of the proposed Ester Library

Design features

  • masonry heater: There will be no need for a boiler or furnace; the building will be kept warm using renewable fuels (solar, wood) and superinsulation. We estimate that between two and three cords of wood should be sufficient to heat the library during the winter.
  • superinsulation: A combination of dense-packed cellulose and foam will insulate the building to R-115 in the ceiling, R-75 in the walls, and R-65 in the floor.
  • heat storage: A large water cistern and thermal mass in the floors, masonry stove, and other elements will store heat for when it is needed.
  • passive solar heat gain: The building is being designed to take advantage of the copious sunshine available during the summer and shoulder seasons. Underfloor radiant heating coils will be switchable between solar collectors and the masonry heater as required.
  • preheated intake air & heat exchangers: Proper air exchange and pre-heating is very important for aoiding CO2 buildup and the resultant problem of stuffiness and sleepiness in a superinsulated building. The library will make use of highly efficient, state-of-the-art heat exchangers and air systems.
  • local materials: To keep costs and environmental impact lower and maintain an Ester-like feeling, the building is being designed to take advantage of local materials, Alaska-made products, and finishing materials that are relevant to Ester’s history and landscape as well as its values (like thriftiness!).
  • gathering spaces: There will be comfortable interior lounge areas around the masonry heater, window benches, and at a coffee bar near the entrance. Outside, the reading porch on the south side, the Ida Lane Clausen Gazebo, the car garden and storytelling area, and benches by the entrance will provide many opportunities for a “community porch” feeling for events, informal get-togethers, and reading.
  • quiet study area: This area will have sliding walls/pocket doors to enable a corner of the library to be closed off for test-taking, quiet study, or conferences. The room will normally be open to enable better heat and air flow, but will still provide a sheltered area for study.
  • children’s area: An important feature of the library, the Ruth Jasper Children’s Area will house the Young Readers’ collection and provide open space for children to play and read or participate in learning activities. Furniture will be sized for younger library patrons. It will be dedicated in honor of Ruth Jasper, longtime Ester postmaster, originator of the Ester book exchange shelf at the post office, and mentor to many of the village children.
  • beverage corner/coffee bar: A table and stool seating near the entrance will provide some income for the library and a place for conversation, drinking tea, coffee, or other beverages, and reading periodicals or books.
  • state-of-the-art computers & communications: Dedicated in memory of Patricia Davis, an artist and former library volunteer, our Internet Technology system will help fill an important void in Ester’s often-cranky or nonexistent internet access.
A Construction Committee was formed in October 2010 to prepare for construction. (See the complete timeline of tasks and goals.)