Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Sutton Public Library

Heart of the Community

It’s been more than 2.5 years since the new $2.4 million Sutton Library and Community Resource Center opened its doors and became the heart of communities along the northeastern stretch of the Glenn Highway. 

“The Sutton Library continues to grow with the community,” said Sutton Librarian Nancy Bertels. “We hope we can continue to be at the heart of this community for many years to come.”

Here’s a look back at the makings of the library, the programs that grew there, and the new pathway leading to it.

"Excellent design, great construction...a true winner" John Moosey

Before the Library

“Every time we added a book in the old library we had to take out a book. So it will be nice to have some extra shelf space,” Bertels said. The community near Sutton would no longer settle for a library that only gained a new book, when an old book was cast out. They dug in their pockets, rallied for funding, and drew believers. The Friends of the Sutton Library attracted grants from Rasmuson Foundation and Mat-Su Health Foundation and private dollars from local residents.

Today, the library is a main gathering place in town and one of inspiration and possibilities. “I didn’t ever think we would get a building quite this size. But I’m so thrilled we do have this building,” Bertels said.

“There’s a long tradition of how important Sutton Library has been in this community and others, and it’s going to get even stronger. This is a very, very big deal,” said Warren Keogh, former Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly Member for district 1.

In the making of the library Architect Andrew Simaski of Architects Alaska explains how they fashioned the structure after a coal washery. “We used the general shapes of the old coal washery to kinda work around the floor plan of the library. So we’ve got this big open space that would have been where all the equipment was housed in the original building.

PlayingOpeningCeremonyGuests enjoyed music during the opening ceremony

Borough Manager John Moosey, then new to the Borough, was proud of the accomplishment. “I think the Sutton community can rally around this. I think the support shown for this library is fabulous. It’s getting off to a great start, excellent design, great construction, good location, community support. This is a true winner,” Moosey said.

Creative Space Supports a Successful Teen Program

Cool Teen Program Takes Off

This was the second summer that the Sutton Library has had a successful teen program. The success in large part is due to the dedication of an on-call employee Telsche Thiessen. With the Friends of the Sutton Library as the sponsoring agency, Telsche and Bertels wrote a variety of grants to fund last summer’s program. The Mat-Su Health Foundation, the Sutton Community Council, MEA Round-Up, Wells Fargo, Wal-Mart, Eaglecrest Ministry and Chickaloon Transit all donated funds or services to make this program a reality.  

The program was open to all middle school and high school students. The kids were able to sign up for one specific week or the whole summer ($10.00 per week or $65.00 for the summer), meeting every Tuesday and Wednesday from 11-5, Telsche and Carly Schoen, her assistant, planned active, healthy events from June 3-August 7.

From presentations on healthy cooking with the Cooperative Extension Service to Wilderness Survival and First Aid as well as field trips up Lazy Mountain, Eska Falls, rafting with NOVA, rock wall climbing and  zip-lining, the kids were busy every moment.

They also performed some community work service: planting and maintaining a garden at Sutton Elementary School, assisting with field games for our summer reading program and harvesting and cooking for the community potluck. Some 12-18 kids participated in each session.


“It was a great group of kids,” Bertels said. They had fun with each other, participated in the community and had some great summer adventures.

The Half-Mile Path Creates a Safe Space to Walk or Bike

A Safe Path Leading to it

In the fall, some 45 Sutton Elementary school kids skipped and laughed recently along a new paved pathway from their school to the Sutton Library at a ribbon cutting event for the $650,000 project. Previously kids walked the small shoulder of a road as cars traveled along Chickaloon Way and Wright Way. The half-mile path creates a safe space to walk or bike between busy student locales. The project came in under budget. Designer: Hattenburg Dilley and Linnell. Builder: Valley General Construction. Borough Project Manager Richard Antonio.

The project includes a foundation for a bus shelter at the library, and improved drainage through culvert replacements. Assembly Members Jim Sykes and Jim Colver attended. Mayor Larry DeVilbiss cut the ribbon with them. Librarian Nancy Bertels and Sutton Elementary School Principal Joshua Rockey welcomed the new path with kids. Former Assembly Member Warren Keogh attended. Keogh sponsored the path. The project is funded through state grants and a 2011 Road Bond package.

“I think this project now speaks for itself,” Bertels said. “The bike path has and will continue to create community here in Sutton. It creates a safe connection from our school and residential area to the post office, the library the store and to the bike path along the Glenn Highway.”

Sutton Elementary Principal Joshua Rockey showed exuberance on ribbon cutting day. “This is a big piece for Sutton Elementary School as our students—who I have the great honor of leading and serving—can go safely back and forth to the library and they do quite frequently. It shows the value that’s placed in Sutton on education. And the value that is placed in Sutton on information and the library as a resource,” Rockey said.

Borough Assembly Member for District 1, Jim Sykes, helped cut the ribbon. “It’s about friends, it’s about neighbors. Everybody in this community gets to use this trail, and the librarian Nancy Bertels and some of you may find friends in the books,” Sykes said before the kids and adults began walking the new path leading to the Sutton Library.

ribbonCuttingRibbon cutting for Sutton pathway

Images and text by Patty Sullivan, videos by Stefan Hinman