Grand Forks needs a state-of-the-art libraryMaybe it’ll be like the new James Hunt Library on the campus of North Carolina State University. When you ask for a book there, an electronic “bookBot” whirrs off down the stacks and retrieves the volume, then shelves it when you’re done.
By: Grand Forks Herald, The Jamestown Sun
Maybe it’ll be like the new James Hunt Library on the campus of North Carolina State University. When you ask for a book there, an electronic “bookBot” whirrs off down the stacks and retrieves the volume, then shelves it when you’re done.
Maybe it’ll be like Drexel University’s Library Learning Terrace, which has no books at all. That’s right: “There is nary a bound volume, just rows of computers and plenty of seating offering access to the Philadelphia university’s 170 million electronic items,” Time magazine reported.
Maybe it’ll be like the new Madison Central Library, a showpiece set to open in downtown Madison, Wis., next year. Taxpayers and philanthropists are picking up the tab; when the library foundation finishes its campaign, donations will cover about a third of the project’s costs.
Or, maybe it’ll be like the DOK Library Concept Center in Delft, Netherlands. When you step into the DOK — and you won’t be alone; the place is a tourist attraction — your cellphone beeps and you get a text message saying, “Welcome to the most modern library in the world.”
But whatever the Grand Forks Public Library’s future holds, this much is clear:
Grand Forks needs a state-of-the-art, 21st century library, a center of lifetime learning in a knowledge-intensive world.
And the library board should commit to it.
The current library is 40 years old, and renovation would cost an estimated $13.9 million, Herald staff writer Brandi Jewett reported.
In contrast, building a new library was priced at $20.8 million last year, but Grand Forks voters rejected the library board’s proposal.
The board should try again. Actually, make that: the city should try again. Because if last year’s campaign made anything clear, it’s the fact that Grand Forks’ elected and business leaders must be involved from the start. Their support can then serve as a launching pad for a newly energized library board.
What will the library look like? Where would it be built, and what features would it contain?
We have no idea, because those questions aren’t yet the point.
Right now, the point is this: what should Grand Forks do about its obsolete and deteriorating library? Should the city renovate or build new?
The answer is that the city shouldn’t spend a nickel on the current building, because that building no longer suits Grand Forks’ needs. Its days are numbered. And residents know it. Last year’s campaign fell apart toward the end, but it generated tremendous excitement and support at the beginning, as polling confirmed.
A new campaign with a three-to-five year timeline, strong support from residents and leaders, a commitment to raising a big percentage of the cost through donations, and (especially) a dynamic library board and administration determined to learn from last year’s mistakes could get the job done.
It happened in Madison, St. Cloud, Minn., and elsewhere. It can happen in Grand Forks, too.
How to begin? Two ideas: First, the Knight Foundation’s Library Initiative is meant “to strengthen the role of libraries in Knight communities” and to help those libraries “become true digital community centers that help foster informed and engaged communities.”
Grand Forks is a Knight community, one of only 26 nationwide. So, Knight specialists stand ready to help a Grand Forks library project succeed.
Second, the Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Region, The Chamber and the city of Grand Forks have set up EngageTheForks.com, a website to encourage residents to talk about community issues. It’s a great site that’s tailor-made to be the place where this conversation can begin.
David Maraniss, a Madison native and Pulitzer-prize winning author, is chairman of the Madison library foundation’s capital campaign.
“I’ve always believed the saying that a community is defined by its devotion to libraries,” Maraniss told WisBusiness.com
“Madison, of all places — a thriving center of intellectual life — should be at the top of that list.”
Grand Forks can and should be, too.