The building that once housed a well-loved institution is about to be demolished. The former A. Holmes Johnson Memorial Library was constructed in 1968 and is named in memory of the first doctor to settle in Kodiak and live here for his entire life.
With the demolition just days away, KMXT invited the son of the library’s namesake down to the location.
It’s mid-morning and Kodiak drivers are commuting to work along the busy Mill Bay road.
Dr. Bob Johnson and his wife, Marian, have agreed to meet me. We go over to stand by the main entrance of the old library building, where yellow letters on the glass still advertise the library hours.
Bags set up for asbestos removal now cover the windows and doors. The building has long been cleared of its shelves, art, and books, many of which are now in the Kodiak Public Library by the high school. That library opened 2013.
Marian, who previously served as the Baranov Museum Director, is an authority on Kodiak history, and she points to an extension that sticks out from the main building, which she says was the children’s section. I want to know more about what once filled the space.
“What was on the middle part over there?” I ask.
“That’s where your computers went and your books,” says Marian. “The books just kept going as they were added to… there was a meeting room and I remember going to the meeting room and having meetings, but that was soon filled with books.”
A. Holmes Johnson, who became the president of the library association in the 1950s, was also instrumental in the years leading up to the library’s construction on Mill Bay Rd.
He passed away in 1964, soon after the earthquake and tsunami, and it would be four years before federal and state funds allowed the City of Kodiak to complete the A Holmes Johnson Memorial Library.
Dr. Bob’s mother, Frostie, also has a deep history with the library, and he says he would be bragging if he were to describe her.
“I only know her as a mother, I don’t know her as a citizen or a member of the community, but she was involved. She was involved in everything. But the main thing that she was involved in was the library, and she was involved with the library from way back in World War II.”
Frostie had become the librarian in 1956, and Marian says the library was then in the home economics building near the old school downtown.
“I remember going there late at night when the wind was blowing and whistling through, and she worked her dedicated hours and loaned out books and cataloged books and mother was fierce about keeping everything clean.”
While the current library on Egan Way is now just called the Kodiak Public Library, there is a plaque inside that honors the Johnsons and their role in the city’s literary history.