Library foundation seeking funds for new building
The Park Rapids Area Library is hoping to add another chapter in its evolutionary process, driven by an ever-growing "circulation" - use of books, audio books, DVDs, videos and the Internet by patrons.
Recent "growing pains," were first diagnosed in 2004, when crowding in the new library was determined to be "critical," Friend of the Library Jerry Novak reports.
Inadequate parking is a frustration. No allowance can be made for "quiet" areas. And staff areas are "below comfortable standards.
"It became obvious some new changes were imperative," Novak said.
A decision to begin planning for a new library was made after engineers determined the building could not structurally sustain a second story. Adding more ground floor rooms would only exacerbate the parking problem.
A Park Rapids Area Library Foundation is now seeking donations from individuals, organizations, businesses and corporations for the goal of another chapter in the library's history to unfold - a new building.
The library has been a Park Rapids landmark for more than a century, initiated in 1899 when a group of women formed a library and reading club, meeting on the second floor of the fire department building.
Meanwhile, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was donating millions of dollars across the country for building libraries.
B. F. Wright of Park Rapids wrote to Carnegie asking that Park Rapids might be included in the beneficence.
In May 1908, Wright received notice the city could receive $5,000 to establish a library, with two stipulations. The village must provide a suitable site for the building and $500 must be included in the annual budget to fund books, staffing and general maintenance.
The library became a vibrant part of the community for decades. In 1990, the decision was made to join the Kitchigami Regional Library System.
The system is comprised of 10 libraries in Beltrami, Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard and Wadena counties. The Park Rapids branch has the third largest circulation, trailing Brainerd and Bemidji.
The all-volunteer Friends of the Library formed 33 years ago to support the library by organizing book sales and other tasks.
By 1994, the Carnegie-built library was running out of space for the increased number of books and additional staff; and the building was not handicapped accessible.
That same year, the Citizens National Bank building became available and the city purchased it.
Moving day saw children from the middle school, then located on Highway 71, toting books from the old building to the new.
The first computer arrived in 1995, then used for word processing and educational games.
Today, 15 computers inhabit the library, nine of them for public use.
Meanwhile, circulation continued to grow - 74,945 in 1993, 109,903 in 2003 and 116,632 in 2012.
Now, the Friends are looking for a helping hand.
Tax-deductible donations may be sent to the Park Rapids Area Library Foundation at 210 West First Street, Park Rapids 56470.
Library hours will be expanded later in February. Current hours are Monday, Tuesday and Thursday - 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday - 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Friday -9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday - 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Jodi Schultz is branch manager and Karen Zwirtz, Michelle Yliniemi, Nancy Minkel and Rhoda Jackson are library assistants.