OUR OPINION: Board should make most of library delay

Count the Herald's editorial board among those who--had we been there--would have groaned audibly during Wednesday night's meeting of the Grand Forks Library Board.


Count the Herald's editorial board among those who-had we been there-would have groaned audibly during Wednesday night's meeting of the Grand Forks Library Board.

The panel had been expected to announce the location of a proposed new library. But when the meeting convened, members decided they didn't have enough information to commit to a site, prompting at least one audible groan from those in attendance.

That reaction probably was repeated throughout the community Thursday as word of the decision-or lack thereof-made the rounds. The Herald, for instance, placed it on Thursday's front page, and the meeting also was covered by local television station WDAZ-TV.

Frustrating? Sure.

Smart? Probably.


The consensus among those who chose to delay the decision is that too many questions remain and more research is necessary. Whereas the library itself-still just a proposal-is controversial, the location of the still-hypothetical building is equally so. Should it remain centrally located, or should it move to a downtown location? If downtown, where?

We tend to think building a new library downtown is where this is headed, although we have not yet declared an editorial stance on that question. By most accounts, the most popular downtown location is on the corner of DeMers Avenue and North Fifth Street, roughly between the Central High parking ramp and Alerus Financial's Express branch.

Evidently, that location isn't the only one downtown that's being considered, a fact acknowledged Wednesday by Library Board Chairman Brian Schill.

That acknowledgement might be muddying the water, and it's best for the library backers to be certain the issue is clear if it has any chance of moving forward.

Other issues also remain.

▇ As we learned Wednesday evening, indecision about location continues.

▇ Full funding for the roughly $22 million building does not exist. Fundraising likely will be a big part of financing the project, but there is too much mystery behind potential donors and donations.

We can't help but recall that Carnegie Libraries sprung up across the nation in the 20th century, thanks to the philanthropic efforts of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, for instance.


A new Grand Forks library would be less controversial and more likely to gain public favor if the fog would clear, and true donors and real dollars would appear sooner rather than later.

Also, there was talk Wednesday of trying to attach at least a portion of the building's price tag to a proposed 0.75 percent sales-tax increase. Doing so will require a lot of convincing-presumably of the City Council and, eventually, city voters. City leaders have told the Herald in the past that the proposed tax would not go toward a new library, so that remains a sticking point.

▇ Many people just do not want a new library. For example, a recent letter-writer told the Herald that other projects are more pressing.

We simply hope that library backers understand that skeptics remain, and that those skeptics still must be convinced.

Wednesday's delay probably doesn't portray the library board as a decisive, confident committee. Those traits have merit in times like these, and especially if private fundraising is going to be involved.

Considering all of the questions and concerns swirling around the proposed library, perhaps a delay is best.

If the building does become reality, it will stand for decades. A few months' hesitation is just a blip in history, and the information that can be gathered-by those in favor as well as those opposed-should prove useful.

-- Korrie Wenzel for the Herald

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