Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Grand Forks Public Library tour shows needs

A public vote on a new Grand Forks Public Library will not happen this fall, contrary to previous reports, but work on a future library is still moving forward, Library Director Wendy Wendt said Wednesday.

Grand Forks Public Library Director Wendy Wendt shows the challenges of outdated bookshelves that are too tall for some patrons. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

A public vote on a new Grand Forks Public Library will not happen this fall, contrary to previous reports, but work on a future library is still moving forward, Library Director Wendy Wendt said Wednesday.

Wendt and the Grand Forks Public Library Board had been hoping for a vote this November, but city law states ballot language must be completed 90 days before a special election-so for a November vote, that would be by August, Wendt said.

"That just feels too rushed," she said. "Before it goes to a vote, we'd like to have a location decided, and then we need time to inform the public and gather their feedback."

The Library Board is still considering five locations for a new library-downtown, southend, 42nd Street South, South Washington Street in front of the Grand Cities Mall and remodeling the existing library-as a 2012 architect's report states the library needs to be updated or rebuilt.

But that's just one piece of the Library Board's ongoing work.


Library officials are also compiling a vision for a future library and working to inform the public on the library's needs, including giving a tour of the library to Herald staff Wednesday.

Library needs

A walk through the library's building at 2110 Library Circle shows clear needs for improvement.

From floor to ceiling, much of the library hasn't been updated since it was built in the 1970s. About 25 percent of the carpet, 80 percent of the furniture and the building's elevator are originals from 1972, and lighting near the bookshelves isn't as effective as library staff would prefer, Wendt said.

Only about 25 percent of the carpet has been updated within the past 10 years, she said, and some light fixtures were replaced in 2009 after one exploded and started a fire.

Aside from simply being old, the library building also has limited capacity for computer wiring, which means the library cannot offer as many computers as staff would like, said Wayne Sprenger, library maintenance supervisor.

Sitting in the library's information technology room, Sprenger said, "It was never made for this," because technology has advanced since the building was constructed in 1972.

The library also has an outdated heating and cooling system, and many areas of the library are not properly handicap accessible, Wendt said.


Many offices at the library are crowded by boxes, as the building is lacking storage space.

"We have the potential to have a lot more items, but we don't have a place to put them," she said.

The tour Wendt offered Herald staff mirrored tours about 80 members of the public have taken through the library's foundation, which has hosted lunches and tours to gain feedback from the public.


These public tours are a way to explain why a new library is needed and to seek feedback on how that should be accomplished, Library Board Chairman Brian Schill said.

Though the library will not be put to a public vote this fall, Wendt said, library officials are still moving forward with plans for a new library, though a timeline for the project is uncertain.

Schill said the Library Board hopes to choose a location by this fall.

While a location has not been chosen yet, Wendt and Schill both said they would strongly prefer to build a new facility rather than remodel the existing library.


A remodel and expansion of the building would cost about $13 million to $14 million, with the most expensive projects including a new heating and cooling system and a new elevator, Schill said.

And Wendt wants a new library-estimated to cost $22 million-to provide the best possible services to the community, including more computers, programming space and study rooms, which could not be done with a remodel, she said.

"Just remodeling this doesn't give the community what it deserves," she said.

Schill and Wendt envision what they call "a 21st century library," with more gathering space and several creative and technological resources.

"A 21st century library is centered around people," Wendt said. "It's information creation, as well as consumption, and it's flexible."

Any new library project would be funded through a combination of public and private sources.

Library usage remains steady

While some may doubt the popularity of libraries as technology advances beyond print media, Library Board Chairman Brian Schill said the library's usage has remained steady, with about 250,000 visits last year.


According to Schill, in 2014 there were:

• 249,122 library visits

• 629 library events

• 88,111 library computer logins

• 14,384 library program attendees

• 23,989 electronic books loaned

• 739,538 library items circulated


The Grand Forks Public Library has limited capacity for computer wiring which limits the number of computers. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

What To Read Next
Get Local