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Library board looks ahead

The Grand Forks Public Library doesn't just have an old building in serious need of renovation; it probably needs to overhaul the way it provides some services, too.

The Grand Forks Public Library doesn't just have an old building in serious need of renovation; it probably needs to overhaul the way it provides some services, too.

That's what members of the library board on Wednesday told consultants hired to help it figure out how to update the library, which has been in its present building for about 37 years.

Questioned by consultants from Library Consulting PA of Minneapolis, the board listed a host of issues, from the shortage of parking to lack of programs, such as book clubs, to a user-unfriendly Web site.

Mickelson said that, in the end, it comes down to budgeting.

Community members have talked about where a new building should go, if one is needed. Board members agreed that, though the south end is growing, the current location near the Grand Cities Mall is about as far south as they want to be; a majority of library patrons come out of the poorer north end neighborhoods.

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The board also discussed ways to fund the project. A big challenge is the library's main advocacy group, Friends of the Library, has essentially unraveled, hampering future efforts to build support.

With the expense of today's libraries, consultant Melissa Brechon said, they're typically public-private partnerships, combining private donations with tax dollars, not just one or the other. "You want people to feel a sense of ownership."

Wednesday's discussion indicated that the library is doing well in many core services. Its collection of books, CDs and DVDs has won praise from patrons, as has customer service. Children's programs have proven so popular that there is frequently no parking available when programs are scheduled.

But the library ran on a shoestring budget.

Kristin "Kay" Powell, a board member and the sole officer of Friends of the Library, said that staff used to come to her group asking for funding. The previous library director kept a very tight budget, she said, so it fell to Friends to help out, which may have burned out its membership.

Some City Council members have said the library should've asked for more funding.

Some things, though, were beyond the Friends' capability: Consultant Jan Feye-Stukas expressed amazement that the library's heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, which has a listed life of 20 years, is now on its 38th year. "The time is right to move forward."

Reach Tran at (701) 780-1248; (800) 477-6572, ext. 248; or send e-mail to ttran@gfherald.com .

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