Patrons and employees celebrated Kahului Public Library's 50th anniversary Saturday with a traditional Hawaiian blessing, Taiko drumming and martial arts demonstrations, Hawaiian music by slack key guitarist Jeff Peterson, face painting and a storytelling variety show.
All the activity was a bit out of character for the library's normally quiet, contemplative, serene surroundings. But it was, after all, a birthday party for what Kahului Library Manager Sana Daliva calls "Maui's little pride and joy for literacy and lifelong learning."
Indeed, the library's anniversary celebration was a chance to take another look at a community resource with Maui's largest collection of library materials, including newspaper archives with newspaper and microfilm copies of The Maui News dating back to the newspaper's beginning in 1900.
Maui Taiko’s Kelsie Kagoshima plays the flute Saturday.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Dorothy Tolliver, president of the Maui Friends of the Library and former director of the Kahului Public Library, said the Kahului library is known for its excellent collection of children's books and for being the only library in Maui County with a separate, temperature-controlled archival room for Hawaiiana materials.
The library has found its place in the modern, online world, with 20 public-access computers and free Wi-Fi access during library hours, Daliva said.
In addition to hard-bound books, the library offers e-books for patrons. Visitors may access the library's many databases, obtain federal (including tax) documents, or take online courses with Microsoft Academy, which teaches programming language, Web page design and software like the Excel spreadsheet program.
KAHULUI PUBLIC LIBRARY
90 School St.
Hours of operation:
Sundays and Mondays: Closed
Tuesdays: Noon to 8 p.m.
Wednesdays to Saturdays: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Friends of the Library has purchased books, DVDs and other materials for the library, Tolliver said.
Now retired from the state library system, John Clark, the Kahului library branch manager from 2003 to 2005, said the future of libraries is controversial in today's digital world.
"People wonder all over the country what's going to happen to libraries," he said. "You can find almost anything online. You can Google anything, but you don't really know whether you can trust what you get. The stuff that's on the Internet is unjuried. No one is judging whether or not this is accurate."
Clark said it's troubling that many people "automatically believe what they read on the Internet, which is kind of a danger."
"So library people are concerned that we'd better continue to exist because we're really a place where you can have a little higher range of trust of what you're getting," he said.
The library has not been without its share of problems, including becoming a magnet for homeless people.
"I think that's a problem for every public library in the nation," Tolliver said, adding that it's understandable why homeless people would be attracted to a library. "It's a safe place. It's air conditioned. They have bathrooms. They can read the newspaper."
Some homeless people are mentally disabled, and they can be disruptive in the library, she said.
"Others use the bathroom to wash, to take a bath, and they're not very clean about it," Tolliver said.
For a while, homeless people would congregate around the library's book drop, and patrons would be afraid to return books there after the library was closed, she said. "That was a problem; I think a lot of that has been cleaned up."
People are no longer allowed to sleep in the vacant lot across the street from the library, and library officials have worked with the community to establish a Neighborhood Watch program, Daliva said.
And "it's helpful to have a security guard at the library," Tolliver said.
The library cost $253,000 to build and furnish and was formally dedicated and opened Feb. 9, 1963. At that time, the library had 13,000 books, 5,000 of them new, according to an account in The Maui News. The library was "judged one of the finest on the outside islands."
The library's architect was Noboru Kobayashi, and its contractor was F&M Contractors.
The original library's area was 11,862 square feet, but after an expansion on the Kamehameha Avenue side of the building in 1988, the library is now 16,070 square feet, making it the second-largest in Maui County. (The largest is the Kihei Public Library, with 18,700 square feet.)
Now, the library's collection amounts to 109,963 items, including books, DVDs, compact discs, magazines and other materials. According to the library's 2011-12 annual report, 176,124 library materials were checked out by patrons in the year covered by the report. The facility has more than 30,000 library card holders, and librarians answered more than 18,300 reference questions.
The library also has weekly keiki story times on Fridays and Saturdays. A free monthly, child-oriented Tuesday Movie Night began in September and is expected to continue until this spring.
Recent library renovations include reroofing from cedar to fireproof asphalt shingles in 2005-06, retrofitting of light fixtures in 2009, the renovation of air conditioning and cleaning of air ducts in 2010 and the installation of a rooftop photovoltaic system in 2011. Last year, the library had its electrical system upgraded with more electric outlets added to accommodate more computers and other technology.
The library's staff of 10 is the largest of any single library in Maui County.
Kahului library is the fourth oldest in Maui County. The oldest is the Wailuku library, which opened in August 1928; followed by the Molokai library, dedicated in May 1937; and the Lahaina library, March 1957. The fifth-oldest library is the Makawao library, which opened its doors in February 1969; followed by the Lanai library, October 1975; the Hana library, January 1984; and the Kihei library in May 1988.
* Brian Perry can be reached at email@example.com.