Sullivan Honors Alaskan of the Week: Joyce McCombs

WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) this week spoke on the Senate floor in recognition of Joyce McCombs, director of the community library in Delta Junction, and recent winner of the Alaska Library Association’s Audrey P. Kolb Public Library Service Award for her “significant, innovative activities” to improve the library and serve the community. McCombs was recognized as part of Senator Sullivan’s series, “Alaskan of the Week.”

The following is the statement submitted to the Congressional Record:


Mr. President, I’ve been coming down to the floor over the past several weeks to highlight my state and the great people who live in it.

As you, and everybody in this room, and those watching on TV probably know, Alaska is a breathtaking place. In fact, there’s no place in the world like it. Mountain ranges that seem to go on for eternity. Salmon-filled waters and rivers. Massive glaciers. People save up their whole lives to come and visit my state. And we welcome them. We want them all to come.

But, as I’ve also been saying, Mr. President, it’s the people that make Alaska truly special; the Alaskans. People throughout my vast state, banding together to form warm communities in cold climates.

In Alaska—where the conditions are often extreme—we depend on each other, sometimes even for survival.

Mr. President, today I would like to recognize Joyce McCombs, the director of the community library in Delta Junction, Alaska as the Alaskan of the Week. On March 9, Joyce will be celebrating 30 years as the library director. She was also recently named by the Alaska Library Association the Audrey P. Kolb Public Library Service Award Winner and Public Library Roundtable Certificate of Appreciation for her “significant, innovative activities” to improve her library. That award is named after Audrey Kolb, who is a legend in the library world in Alaska. Joyce has that award, as well as our award.

Delta Junction, where she lives, is a beautiful community of about 1,000 residents, surrounded by three spectacular mountain ranges. The community is about 100 miles from Fairbanks, in Alaska’s Interior. It gets cold there in the winter. As a matter of fact, this morning in Delta Junction, it was 26 degrees below zero. And it’s home to Fort Greely, which is the cornerstone of our nation’s entire missile defense, protected by 300 brave soldiers—part of the Alaska National Guard there.

For many in Delta Junction, the library—recognized by the Library Journal as one of the best in the state—is the place where people converge and find warmth and community. It’s open six days a week, and it only closes when it gets below 40 below zero. Tough people in Delta Junction.

Joyce, with the support of so many in Delta Junction—including Fort Greely, which supports the library—has made sure that this library stays one of the best in the state and in the country. In her words, Delta’s library is “the community living room.” In a small town like Delta Junction, such spaces are rare and, indeed, precious.

Joyce brings all sorts of services and learning to the library, including bands, authors, cooking classes—“what the community wants and needs,” she said.

Sometimes those needs entail sitting someplace warm and reading a book. Sometimes it means Skyping a spouse who might be serving overseas in Afghanistan or Iraq. Or applying for a job, or getting the right form to file your tax returns with.

Joyce said, “We’re open six days a week serving everybody from nursery schools to nursing homes.”

One Delta resident told Joyce on Facebook: “(Your) assistance to the literary education of now two generations of children has been an invaluable contribution to our community that will be paying dividends for years to come. This statewide honor is only a larger recognition of what we already know here in Delta: that you are a great librarian.”

After 30 years as the director of the library, Joyce still loves her job, saying she learns something every day from her patrons. Thankfully for all of us, she has no plans to leave.

Congratulations on your award, Joyce. Happy birthday to your grandson, Trek.

Thank you, and to the many librarians across our state, and across our nation—for your efforts to provide a warm learning space for all Alaskans.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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