Paul Holje, Grand Forks, column: Do we or don't we want a library in Grand Forks?
By Paul Holje GRAND FORKS -- In 1892, a group of Grand Forks women started the first public collection of books for the community. By 1900, the City Council had appointed the first Library Board. Over the years, the library has been housed in man...
By Paul Holje
GRAND FORKS -- In 1892, a group of Grand Forks women started the first public collection of books for the community. By 1900, the City Council had appointed the first Library Board.
Over the years, the library has been housed in many locations, all the while helping the people of Grand Forks enrich their lives with knowledge.
Each generation is called upon to be stewards. We are asked to think not only of the people who have come before us, but also those who'll be here many generations after us. Our actions will ripple through the community long after we have left this Earth.
Personally, I choose to make Grand Forks better than I found it. That's what stewardship is all about.
I don't want our great-grandchildren asking why their great-grandparents abandoned the Grand Forks library. I don't want them asking why we gave up on the more than 100 years of library legacy.
I've been involved with designing and remodeling many buildings during my architectural career. I've learned that buildings -- just like cars or your favorite pair of jeans -- wear out. Sometimes, you can put new tires on your car or sew a patch on your jeans, but eventually, you have to decide if you will get a new pair of jeans or simply walk around in your underwear.
The current library building began construction in 1971 and opened May 22, 1972. The goal at the time was to create a 40-year building. Most of the key systems, such as the heating and cooling system, are original to the building.
The electrical system has been at full capacity for many years and cannot accommodate new electrical equipment such as computers or space heaters for the cold closets that were converted into work rooms. The original lights in the facility also are outdated and not efficient or safe.
All combined, the building needs much more than a new coat of paint. Most of these systems have a typical lifespan of 35 years before they need to be replaced. Thanks to the dedicated care of the library's custodians over the years, they have managed to keep things functional longer than anticipated.
If you own a car, you understand that you will need to do oil changes and put new tires on it. If you own a home, you understand that you have to take care of it or it will fall apart.
The furnace in your home lasts about 15 years on average. The dishwasher will last for 10 years.
And just as there have been many improvements in energy and water-efficient appliances for your home, there also have been many advances in construction and operation of public buildings.
For example, a new building will take less water and energy to operate.
As our generation takes stewardship of the Grand Forks Public Library, we have a simple decision to make: Do we want a library, or don't we?
If a new and efficient building is not built soon, the existing building will be forced to undergo a multi-million dollar remodeling. Where do you think that money will come from?
A serious remodel will mean drastically cutting the collection as the stacks get spread out to be ADA-compliant. It will mean shutting down the library for many months, perhaps a year or two, during the remodeling.
All that money and effort just so we can cut back on the collection and services.
So I ask again, are we going to let the library die? Or are we going to embrace the library legacy and create a gift the future citizens of Grand Forks can be proud of?
In other words, will we be stewards or executioners? The choice is yours.
Vote yes May 3 to save the library.
Holje is an architect and the co-owner of Dakota Harvest Bakers. He has been a volunteer on the Library Task Force and the Library Building Committee for the past three years.