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Group seeks support for library campus

With the future of the Grand Forks Public Library still undecided, local activists hope a petition will help tip the scales.

The Community Campus Library Supporters, a group of nearly 30, are circulating a petition in favor of building a new library near the current building at 2110 Library Circle, using land across the street and at the location of the Grand Forks Travelodge motel. Their vision is a new library building that sits next to plenty of green space and could include art, a children's museum and more. The old library, they say, is just another building on campus that could house amenities.

"We just started this morning," C.T. Marhula, one of the co-chairmen of the group, said Monday. "Our goal—we'd like over 300 (signatures). I'll be disappointed if we don't get 300."

The signatures will be delivered to the Grand Forks City Council, which is weighing a new library's future. A vote on a funding mechanism for a new building, wherever that might be, could come before voters sometime next year.

Marhula said the group is planning an ice cream social from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Travelodge, 2100 S. Washington St., to collect signatures. A donation to the group will be accepted, he said, but not required. A statement circulated by the group also notes that petitions will be collected at the library this week.

There are two properties that would need to be purchased to make the vision work: the Travelodge, which the owner has said he would sell for $1.8 million, and the adjacent green space owned by the North Dakota Association for the Disabled. Marhula said the group's vision does not include the land at 2015 Library Circle, which includes a strip mall near the edge of the Kmart parking lot.

But those purchases would only happen if the Grand Forks City Council decides to make them. Right now, research on the future of the library is being handled by a committee of City Council members that is evaluating the recommendation from the Grand Forks Library Board to build a new location downtown—though plenty of vetting is still expected before the group returns to the council with its own recommendation.

In the meantime, advocates are making their pitch. Marhula said he plans to present a library "campus" vision to the Grand Forks County Commission, which funds about 15 percent of the library's budget, at its meeting today. That same meeting will see a presentation from Library Board Chairman Brian Schill, who said he'll be discussing his board's decision to recommend a downtown location.

"It's essentially the presentation I gave to the City Council back in late June, after we'd made our recommendation," Schill said. "We just want to keep the commission in the loop."

Sam Easter

Sam Easter is a City Government reporter for the Grand Forks Herald. You can reach him with story tips, comments and ideas at 701-330-3441.

(701) 780-1108