Gordon Iseminger, Grand Forks, column: Location + community + stewardship = Leevers site
By Gordon Iseminger GRAND FORKS -- For many reasons, I believe that the city's new library should be built on the Leevers site. I will comment on only three of them. ** Location: For those who frequent the library now and for the young people who...
By Gordon Iseminger
GRAND FORKS -- For many reasons, I believe that the city's new library should be built on the Leevers site. I will comment on only three of them.
** Location: For those who frequent the library now and for the young people whose support will be needed to assure the success of the new library, it is critically important that the Wellness Center site is 40 blocks south of the Leevers site.
Of the 17 public and parochial schools in the city, nine are within 15 blocks of the Leevers site -- that is, within reasonable walking or biking distance. Only two schools, Schroeder Middle School and South Middle School, are within the same distance of the Wellness Center site.
The Wellness Center site is 30 blocks south of 17th Avenue South. Thirteen of the city's schools are located north of 17th Avenue South, only four are not.
The Herald's thoughtful Nov. 27 editorial described the city's young people as the library's "most precious customers of all . . . visits to the library open their eyes -- and change their lives" ("Leevers site best suits a new library in GF," Page D1).
Library Director Wendy Wendt and board president Susan Mickelson note that story time and other library programs for children are so popular that at times, some young people have to be turned away.
Patricia Conley, director of the Washington County Library in Woodbury, Minn., advised making the new library "teen-oriented," and Wendt noted that teen programs are a focus of libraries. She cites studies showing that if young people keep going to libraries, they do better in life.
Because the success of the new library will rest in large part on its being used by the city's young people, it would be as unwise as it would be shortslighted to locate the new library at the Wellness Center site, where only those adults who have their own means of transportation would have ready access to it.
** Community: Libraries enjoy a quality that other entities do not: They engender pride, and they can revitalize blighted and decaying neighborhoods as no other entity can.
Fortunately, as the Herald editorial noted, Grand Forks does not have any blighted areas. But it does have its north end, an area that has been slighted as interest and development have been directed to 32nd Avenue South and beyond.
At some considerable expense and by using Community Development Block Grants and Knight Foundation funds, the city has taken steps to rejuvenate older neighborhoods in the north end. Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown has taken a personal interest in the Near North Side and has encouraged filling vacant lots with homes, cleaning up neighborhood parks to make them more inviting and redoing streets and walks to make them safer for motorists and pedestrians.
But the city now has the chance to do more.
When asked if she had any advice for Grand Forks on the location of its new library, Conley emphasized one point: "Make sure to build your library in a very community-centered location."
The Leevers site is just that: a very community-centered location. The Wellness Center site is not now and never will be "a very community-centered location" because the site is surrounded by commercial developments.
Because the south end will continue to grow on its own, it has no need of rejuvenation. The North End, however, has this need. Locating the new library at the Leevers site will fill this need.
** Stewardship: It is deplorable that Grand Forks, a city that for many reasons bears the responsibility of setting a good example, continues to destroy hundreds of acres of the most productive agricultural land in the world by covering it with buildings, streets and parking lots.
To locate the new library at the Wellness Center site would be the height of irresponsibility because doing so would mean needlessly covering yet more acres of productive agricultural land with concrete -- and needlessly, because at the Leevers site, no additional acres of productive land would be destroyed.
Parking lot, streets and walks already are in place.
Location, community and stewardship: Together, they support my belief that the new library should be located at the Leevers site.
Iseminger is a Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of History at UND.