Haines Library Director Carolyn Goolsby will say goodbye to Haines at the end of this month (March). She accepts a position as director of the Kuskokwim campus at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Bethel. Reporting by Corinne Smith of KHNS.
Carolyn Goolsby smiles and has tears in her eyes during a recent farewell rally at Haines Library. Friends, community members and library staff gathered to wish him well. There are homemade appetizers and a colorful cake made for the occasion, with slices shaped like a pile of books.
“It’s going to be terrible to leave Haines,” Goolsby said. “I will miss Haines so much.
Goolsby is heading for a new role as campus director of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Kuskokwim campus at Bethel. She has been director of the Haines Library since 2018.
“Haines is a special chemistry of people and places, and there’s no place like this,” she said. “And I’ve been honored to be the director of the best little library in America. And to be honest, in my professional opinion, the best fucking library in the world.
In Haines, Goolsby was also active in community leadership. She was chair of the board of directors of the American Bald Eagle Foundation, a member of the board of directors of this radio station – KHNS Radio – and the Chilkat Valley Orchard Project.
She’s been called a “renaissance woman” – she’s an avid reader, baker and barbecue enthusiast, and was a Jeopardy champion and competitive weightlifter.
She is also a classically trained opera singer and has been a member of the Women’s Acapella Chorus, as well as the Lynn Canal Players, including the 2019 performance of “Steel Magnolias”.
“I learned so much from the people of Haines,” Goolsby said. “Every trade, every profession, anything you want to learn, you can learn here from amazing people who are more than willing to share their knowledge.”
During Goolsby’s time as a director, Haines Library was named a finalist for the prestigious National Medal for Museum and Library Service Award three years in a row.
Haines author and Alaska Writer winner Heather Lende is a member of Friends of the Haines Library, a nonprofit organization supporting the library, and praised Goolsby’s leadership throughout the COVID pandemic and of the 2020 storm disaster.
“Personally, what I really appreciated about Carolyn was how she held the library together, and in a way that community during the slide,” Lende said. “And, that time, it was really, really difficult. She made the library available, and it was necessary. And then also during all this COVID time, keeping library services going and being very creative with the way we’ve been doing it. And it keeps the community connected.
Goolsby says she will remember the many ways the community showed support during difficult times.
“Changing our services during the pandemic, and how our staff stepped in and said, ‘Okay, we can do that,'” Goolsby said. And, you know, the way people responded to us during this time when we had to cut the hours, but then when we came back, this amazing response.
In her upcoming role as principal of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Kuskokwim Campus in Bethel, she says she looks forward to supporting students in their education.
“We have a dual mission of community education, and also to provide a bridge for Indigenous students to enter academia without having to move out of a village and into Fairbanks. And that can be very intimidating. And you know, a lot of our students just aren’t ready for that. So we provide that bridge,” Goolsby said. “We offer programs where people can get certification, for example, in social services and social work. And then they go to an associate degree, then a bachelor’s degree, and this year we have someone graduating from a master’s degree, an Indigenous person. My job there is to be the campus director. So I’m the head of the whole campus. And I report to the vice-chancellor. I couldn’t be happier about it. I think it’s a great job. And it is definitely worth doing.
Haines Library Assistant Director Rebecca Heaton has been promoted to Library Director. She served the Haines Library for 32 years. Pending confirmation by the Haines Assembly, she will begin her term as director on April 1.