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Grand Forks Library Action Committee shares short-term, long-term solutions

A patron reads a magazine on the main floor of the Grand Forks Public Library on Tuesday, July 17, 2018. The orange carpet found throughout the library's main floor will have to be replaced due to excessive wear, a task which will cost significant resources not only for the carpet but also to have the library stacks on top of the carpet professionally moved. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald1 / 5
Council president Dana Sande (center) listens with Library Action Committee members as Grand Forks Public Library director Wendy Wendt (not pictured) speaks during a meeting at the library Tuesday night. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald2 / 5
Grand Forks Public Library Director Wendy Wendt gives a tour of renovated facilities at the library, including this family bathroom, on Tuesday evening. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald3 / 5
Members of the Grand Forks Library Board convene early Tuesday night at the Public Library. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald4 / 5
Grand Forks Library Board member Justin Berry speaks as member Sandi Marshall (left) listens during a meeting at the Public Library Tuesday night. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald5 / 5

The City of Grand Forks is still looking into a new library, although its library action committee said during a meeting Tuesday it could be another five years before the city finds a new location.

It’s common knowledge the current library, past the Kmart on South Washington Street, is in poor health. The building isn’t fully ADA compliant, parking is inadequate and there’s not a lot of recreational and meeting space. Beyond that, Library Director Wendy Wendt pointed out the building is just plain old -- built in the 1970s, there’s still a large patch of yellow carpet from the building’s grand opening that disintegrates when vacuumed, and because electrical outlets are sparse, computers occupy seemingly random spots across the main floor.

“People just probably think we’re bad decorators,” Wendt said.

The library continues spending its budget on its most overdue repairs, including $30,000 for two accessible family restrooms, $22,660 on more secure storage in the children’s area and $210,000 on new carpet. Wendt said that last cost is so high because the library also needs to hire a group to relocate bookshelves.

Councilmember Sandi Marshall, who was at the committee meeting, reiterated building improvements, while necessary and expensive, are just bandaids until the city determines what a modern library needs and how to build that.

Another short-term amenity the board mentioned was offering library services from a community room in the Grand Forks Herald building. “That would provide a great space,” Marshall said in an interview before the meeting. “And we think that, in part, could fill a need for the growing number of people who are going to be living downtown with all the construction underway, or being proposed.”

However, City Administrator Todd Feland pointed out there’s no guarantees the city will take the space.

The library also hired a consulting firm to help rebrand and increase public interest and community engagement.

“A lot of people think the library is just a building of old books,” library board chair Justin Berry said. “If we can start getting the community to understand more about the library, that helps.” Berry added the consulting firm is not involved with the relocation effort.

Wendt told the board she hopes to release all the information the library has obtained by the end of the year, including a new website.

The city has yet to spend any money on finding a new library building since the library board recommended the council make the issue a high priority in summer 2016, Marshall said.

“What we’re kind of going around in circles on is this cart before the horse,” she said. “Do you start fundraising before you have the picture of what the library will look like?”

The committee ultimately moved to recommend the board submit a Request for Quotation after its next meeting, which will allow the committee to start fundraising for a future library building project. The board has not yet determined the date of the next meeting.

Update: A previous version of this story said the Library Board met Tuesday. It was actually a library action committee that met. 

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