Cordova Public Library Director Geraldine de Rooy stands between the shelves of books in the library on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023. Photo by Kinsey Brown for The Cordova Times

The Cordova Public Library welcomed a new library director this month, just after the city announced it would cut back on the entity’s hours because of short staffing.  

Geraldine de Rooy arrived from Valdez on Nov. 10 and has been quickly acquainting herself with library staff and with the community of Cordova. De Rooy has a Master’s of Library and Information Science from the University of Texas Austin and has extensive experience working in rural libraries in Alaska and along the West Coast.  

This came less than two weeks after the city issued a public notice on Oct. 31 announcing that the Cordova Public Library would be temporarily limiting operating hours due to a staffing shortage primarily caused by high turnover and employee retirement. For the time being, the library will be open Tuesday through Friday from 12-7 p.m., and Saturday 12-5 p.m.  

The lack of staff at the library also comes at a time when several positions are vacant within the city, including the comptroller post and police chief position. De Rooy said she understands the limits of the city budget process and will work to add to the library staff when possible. She hopes to fill an additional position to help with operating hours shortly after the new year. 

One of the primary passions that de Rooy plans to bring as a librarian is closing the digital divide. She said that, while valuable investments have been made recently into infrastructure that supports fiber optic and broadband, technology access is always a work in progress.  

“A lot of our lives are conducted in that medium,” she said. “I have spent a good deal of my career in communities where that divide has existed.”  


De Rooy said so far she has been impressed at the quality and speed of Cordova’s Wi-Fi connections.  

De Rooy shared a personal anecdote of her arrival to Cordova she said highlights how a library can serve as the center for information and support in a rural place. She explained how when she first arrived in Cordova earlier this month, she wasn’t quite sure where to go to find her new rental house. Her cell service wasn’t available and the GPS was of no help either due to Cordova’s less than accurate street addresses. De Rooy said she realized she needed to get on Wi-Fi in order to locate her destination. (“So of course I went to the library!”)  

At the library she was able to obtain one of the Wi-Fi passcodes from the front desk and finally get to where she needed to go with the help of library staff. She said that this story drives home her thoughts on the value of libraries not just as digital access points but as systems of support for the community.  

“The library was central to my getting situated,” de Rooy said. 

The new director has worked in several smaller library branches throughout Washington state, and most recently in Valdez. While each place is unique, she said that she sees similarities between Cordova’s library and others in small towns.  

“Libraries in remote communities are considered essential,” she said. “I certainly see the library here in that light.”  

De Rooy says her new position as library director will focus on the equalization of services for all residents. For many Cordovans the library is a place not only to study or read, but also to meet with friends, escape the rain, and access basic resources.  

De Rooy says that she is happy to see how the Cordova Public Library staff is already thinking outside of the box with programs that extend well beyond books — one such example is the Library of Things where residents can check out items such as baking tools instead of books.  

“I see the library as a learning commons and I believe in intellectual freedom,” she said.  

De Rooy points to the many different spaces within the library as an opportunity for diverse experiences. She highlights the special children’s room as a major asset to the library’s inclusivity, remarking how the large glass doors make it possible to afford for the “rambunctious happiness” of younger patrons.  

“This is a public place, it’s in the name. If members of the community are interested in coming in, I would like to make them feel welcome,” she said. 

This story originally ran in the Dec. 1 issue of The Cordova Times.