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To build or not to build?

A consultant has recommended the Grand Forks Public Library remodel its current location, move to a 65,000- to 70,000-square foot building that includes parking for 123 vehicles or build at that location.

GF Public Library
A patron of the Grand Forks Public Library reads a magazine Tuesday.Herald photo by Eric Hylden.

A consultant has recommended the Grand Forks Public Library remodel its current location, move to a 65,000- to 70,000-square foot building that includes parking for 123 vehicles or build at that location.

The library has been at 2122 Library Circle since 1972. The report from Library Consulting of Minneapolis, released last week, said the building is aesthetically more like a gym with a few windows.

There are issues with heating, lighting and space for the circulation department.

"We'd have to do a total remodel here if we stayed in this location," said David Haney, technical director for the library.

Staff members Tuesday recalled having to move summer events outdoors and turn people away because of the lack of indoor space and cool air.

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"There were 650 people, with 200 or 300 kids, and we as a staff were bumping into each other, walking on top of each other," Terri David, children's library assistant, said about one event.

The report shows an average 850 people visit the library daily. In the report, patrons said they'd like more of a meeting place for groups, including book clubs.

Opinions on whether to build a new library varied among Tuesday's visitors.

"A new building could get more computer stations," said Shane Willis, Grand Forks. "It could be more a focal point of the community to have a real modern one."

"They're in a good position," said Nichole Buss, also of Grand Forks. "They could expand it right here. It's a rare occasion that I can't get on a computer."

Erin Phillips and her 3-year-old daughter, Della, come to the library once a week for storytime.

"It seems everything is moving south," Erin said. "I wish there was more room and that it was more centrally located."

Location, location, location

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"You really have to ask where it is and where Library Circle is," said Lila Christensen, a member of the Grand Forks Library Board.

She and fellow board member Mike McNamara, a Grand Forks City Council member, said if the costs of remodeling or building new are about the same, they'd prefer to move, gaining better visibility and access.

"I ran across a quote from Winston Churchill that said 'We shape our buildings and thereafter they shape us,'" Christensen said. "From a marketing standpoint, I'd like to see the library be an important part of a growing community."

McNamara said a new library could include interactive video, wildlife presentations and living theater. He said the library could build partnerships with local organizations, such as the Summer Performing Arts. He said libraries across the United States are becoming hybrids with museums.

"It would be a place where culture explodes," McNamara said. "Given what we've done since the flood, it would be another spoke in the community. It would be my desire to build a grand library that would host events."

Katie Musgrove just moved to Grand Forks from southern Utah with six children. She said there's a need to update the library, but likes much of the current one.

"Where will the money come from to build it?" Musgrove said. "What will happen to the old building?"

"Fargo passed a sales tax for 18 months to fund their new library," McNamara said. "It was a ballot initiative supported by voters. That doesn't mean we have to do it the same way, but I think taxpayers would support it."

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Christensen said there would need to be fundraising and donations. McNamara said the vacated Leever's building could be expanded into a new library. Christensen's concerned traffic on South Washington Street would make that location risky for children on bikes.

Library Consulting next will offer its suggestions for a location to the board. The library planning task force meets Dec. 10, but Christensen said it will likely be spring before the library board decides what direction to take.

David has been with the library for 24 years.

"We just need a new facility, wherever it ends up," she said.

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1262; (800) 477-6572, ext. 262; or send e-mail to jjohnson2@gfherald.com .

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