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Denise Halliday, Girdwood Head Librarian
By Marne Gunderson

"I believe we need oxygen, water, and reading," says Denise Halliday, Girdwood Public Library's head librarian. Denise traces her love for reading back to the first day she learned to read. Her parents were avid readers, and she was always exposed to literature. She refined and nurtured the joy she experienced through books by reading to her eight younger brothers.

Today, Denise still has a passion for encouraging literacy. She considers the crowning achievement of her career to be her positive literary influence on children. Some of the students she read to in elementary school still return to her door, now as college students on semester breaks, requesting to be read a story. She modestly confesses of her twenty-two years of work, "I am most proud of having instilled a life-long love of reading."

Denise Halliday
In 1975, Denise and two of her girlfriends -- in search of adventure -- journeyed, Thelma-and-Louise style, to Alaska. Once in Seattle, Denise spent ninety-two dollars and fifty cents of her last one hundred dollars on a plane ticket to Anchorage. Arriving in Alaska with seven dollars and fifty cents to her name, she took her first job at Splash and Dash Carwash.

After working a series of odd jobs in Anchorage, Denise moved to Girdwood -- a town about 40 miles southeast of Anchorage -- in 1980 to take a job as the Girdwood Librarian. She replaced former librarian and yoga-guru Bruce, a man known for meditating on the circulation desk while library patrons were forced to check out their own books. When Denise arrived, the library was very small, competing for space with students in the community's one-room schoolhouse.

Denise's spirited and happy demeanor can perhaps be attributed to her job. "I love my job," she says with a warm smile. Her job, as well as the library itself, have seen quite an evolution since the days in the one-room schoolhouse. In 1981, Denise helped move the library to its current location, adjacent to the Girdwood Elementary School, where it acquired its official title: The Scott and Wesley Gerrish Branch Library.

Denise has watched the library mature from its original six thousand volumes to its current capacity at roughly sixteen thousand books. The library is also an important social center and warm haven for Girdwood residents. It offers Internet access, recreational and informational reading, and coffee.

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