Upgrades coming to Northtown Library

A major remodeling project is planned next year at Anoka County’s Northtown Library in Blaine.

Siblings Hunter and Annabelle Swanson do a little light reading at the Anoka County Library Northtown location Oct. 11. Hunter, 7, enjoys comics, while his sister, 11, prefers more realistic fiction.
Siblings Hunter and Annabelle Swanson do a little light reading at the Anoka County Library Northtown location Oct. 11. Hunter, 7, enjoys comics, while his sister, 11, prefers more realistic fiction. Photo by Olivia Koester

And the Anoka County Board, on the recommendation of the Anoka County Library Board, is seeking state funding to help pay for the project.

The board Oct. 8 approved submitting an application for a $395,000 grant to the Minnesota Department of Education.

That will supplement the $693,000 set aside in the Anoka County Library system’s building fund for the project, which has been approved by the county board.

The request for the state grant is through funding approved by the 2012 Minnesota Legislature for projects to remove architectural barriers for accessibility to public library buildings, to renovate or expand existing building s or construct a new building, according to Marlene Moulton Janssen, Anoka County Library director.

“We have accessibility issues at the Northtown Library,” Moulton Janssen said.

The existing book return is not accessible for the mobility impaired and plans are to install a drive-through book return with a conveyor system that prepares the library for automated materials handling, Moulton Janssen said.

In addition, the restrooms have to be renovated to come into compliance with federal Americans With Disabilities Act standards, she said.

As well, the reference desk is tucked away in an area of the library that is not easily seen and does not meet ADA standards nor does the circulation desk, Moulton Janssen said.

The plan is to merge the two into one ADA compliant desk in a visible area of the library, which will also make for more efficient staffing of the building, she said.

Resolving the accessibility issues is expected to cost $188,000 of the project budget, according to Moulton Janssen.

Another high priority of the renovation project is to increase the size and capacity of the children’s library as well as “brightening it up” through lighting and improving security, Moulton Janssen said.

Plans also call for creating a teen space that better serves young adults, adding more computers and making more technology available in the building, including increasing cabling for connectivity, Moulton Janssen said.

There are also plans to improve lighting, enhance traffic flow in the entry, reduce the height of book stacks to improve sight lines and day light, concentrate “noisy activities on one side of the building and make better use of existing space, she said.

The deadline for submitting the competitive state grant application was Oct. 17 and Moulton-Janssen said she expects to hear whether or not it has been successful by mid-December.

But the renovations at Northtown Library will go ahead with or without the state grant.

If the grant is not awarded, then the project will be scaled back to meet the $693,000 in funding that has been allocated from the library building fund, according to Moulton Janssen.

Dealing with the accessibility issues would remain the top priority and so would upgrading the children’s library area, Moulton Janssen said.

But some “less than essential” facets of the project would be eliminated such as lighting upgrades, signage and painting-trim, she said.

Construction is expected to take six to eight weeks and the library will be closed during the remodeling work, except for the meeting room, Moulton Janssen said.

Closing the library during construction will speed up the remodeling work, while keeping the library open during construction will increase costs, she said.

Computers will be moved into the meeting room during construction for library patrons to access and Wi-Fi will be available in the room, too, Moulton Janssen said.

Plans are to start construction April 1 and be open again by June 1 in time for the summer reading program to start, she said.

“The summer reading program is heavily used,” Moulton Janssen said.

The Northtown Library is the largest in the county library system and also has the most visitors, averaging 100 per hour, according to Moulton Janssen.

“Some days we have over 1,000 visitors,” Moulton Janssen said.

Peter Bodley is at
[email protected]

  • R.Hill

    Why can’t the library and news people be honest and say”Library asks for taxpayers to pay the bill”. I as a tax payer would feel better about the taking of my money at least.