At library, books vie against people for space
Brian Brodina remembers going to the Grand Forks Public Library as a little boy and sitting at the big tables in the children's section with the other little boys, reading, yakking and -- time plays tricks on his memories -- maybe playing board g...
Brian Brodina remembers going to the Grand Forks Public Library as a little boy and sitting at the big tables in the children's section with the other little boys, reading, yakking and -- time plays tricks on his memories -- maybe playing board games.
Well, Brodina's a father now, and his boys Shayden, 4, and Talan, 1, are building their own memories at the library. But there's less space for them than he enjoyed back in the day.
There are more book shelves for more books and less open space, he said. "It just feels kind of cluttered."
That's the kind of complaint heard from various focus groups assembled last fall by consultants the library hired to find out if it should expand and how. Library officials are expected to hear back from the consultants what an expansion would cost.
All the indicators point to a brand-new building, not a renovation, and that could cost anywhere from $11.1 million to $12.4 million fully furnished, said Jan Feye-Stukas of Library Consulting P.A. The cost of land isn't included.
The building would feature 65,000 square feet of space, which is 75 percent more than in the existing building. It'd feature a few things that should please Brodina, including a larger children's area, a separate teen area for when Shayden and Talan are older and more space overall so patrons won't have to vie with books, magazines, DVDs and computers for space.
Library Director Wendy Wendt demonstrated just how squeezed the library is for space in one of the narrow book shelves. It's too narrow for a wheelchair, she said, too tall for shorter folks to reach the top shelves and the lowest shelves are so low they'd cause back pain for seniors trying to reach down there.
The new building would feature modern features that are becoming popular in libraries, such as coffee shops and more plug-ins for laptop users. There are even plans for download stations for the day when books can be downloaded directly onto those laptops.
"I think we have a chance to create a -- 'grand library' is the term I use," said City Council member Mike McNamara, who sits on the library committee. "I think we should do something grant that befits the community."
He said runs into a lot of people around town who are super excited about the idea.
McNamara favors a referendum. If done right, the big price tag won't be an impediment anymore than it was an impediment when Fargo expanded its library, he said.
One of the eye-opening facts that consultants uncovered was the heavy usage Grand Forks Public Library sees daily compared to other libraries in the state.
On average, 827 visitors stop by the library each day, checking out 2,355 items. That's a smaller number of visitors than libraries in Fargo and Bismarck, which are larger cities, but a much larger number of items checked out. In Fargo, 1,040 visitors checked out 1,812 items a day.
When it comes to space, Grand Forks is completely outclassed. It has 45 square feet for each visitor compared to Fargo's and Bismarck's 71.
"That report tells us that the library is well used and well loved in this community, but that it's outgrown this facility," Wendt said.
As of now, the consultants said, the most favorable option is building a new library instead of adding on to the existing location. It would probably cost about as much to add on, they said, for numerous reasons, including the need for new parking, a more cost-effective mechanical system, more wiring for computers. And temporarily moving the entire library for 20 months during construction would be disruptive and expensive.
Plus, there are no redeeming architectural features worth saving.
"During the interviews with 108 people, not one single person said they loved the existing library," the consultants wrote in a report. "Such resounding apathy toward an existing facility has never been encountered by the consultants."
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