A major renovation project this year to make Anoka County’s Northtown Library in Blaine “a library of the future” has been given the green light.
The Anoka County Board Jan. 14 accepted a $150,000 public library accessibility and improvement grant from the Minnesota Department of Education for the project. Earlier the same day, the board’s Finance and Capital Improvements Committee authorized staff to seek bids for the project.
The renovation work has an estimated price tag in the $900,000 to $1.05 million range, with the balance of the project funding, besides the grant, coming from the money in library building fund, according to Marlene Moulton Janssen, county library director.
Under the project timeline, the Anoka County Library Board will consider recommending a contract award at a special meeting Monday, March 10, with the county board’s Finance and Capital Improvements Committee and then the full county board acting on the library board’s recommendation at meetings Tuesday, March 11, Moulton-Janssen said.
All being well, construction is scheduled to start the first week of April with work expected to take from eight to 10 weeks, she said.
The Northtown Library will be closed during construction, not only to expedite the project, but also to save money, Moulton Janssen said.
The goal is to have the Northtown Library back open in June in time for the annual summer children’s program, which is very popular, according to Moulton Janssen.
Renovation plans for the Northtown Library, as outlined by Moulton Janssen, include:
• Removing barriers to accessibility including a new family restroom.
• Installation of a drive-through book return with a conveyor system that prepares the building for automated materials handling at some point in the future.
• Creation of a service desk in a location that better serves patrons.
• Improvements to the public access computer and lighting.
• Improvements to the traffic flow in the entry.
• Expansion of the children’s room.
The $150,000 grant is earmarked to cover construction and fixture costs for the accessibility improvements, according to Moulton Janssen.
In creating “a library of the future,” Moulton Janssen said the goal is to increase flexibility in the building to ensure that “as changes occur in how the library serves its customers, we can adapt.”
For example, small conference/meeting rooms will be created as part of the renovation, she said.
They will be available for not only community meetings, but also small business/entrepreneur meetings.
And in a new teen area, three study rooms will be set aside for students to study as a group which has become an increasing trend, rather than students studying individually, Moulton Janssen said.
Adding library space designated for children will increase opportunities for parents to work with their children, she said.
“I am excited by the opportunity to use our space better and be more flexible,” Moulton Janssen said.
The project to create “a library of the future” has been discussed by the Anoka County Library Board for the past five years, according to Moulton Janssen.
The board at one time was considering either the Northtown Library or the Mississippi Library in Fridley for the project, Moulton Janssen said.
But the Northtown location was chosen because it is the largest library in the county system and also has the most traffic, anywhere from 600 to 1,000 people a day coming through the doors, she said.
“The Northtown Library provides the best opportunity to enhance our services to more people,” Moulton Janssen said. “It has significant activity.”
While the Northtown Library is closed for construction, library patrons will be directed to other county libraries in close proximity – the Mississippi branch in Fridley, four and a half miles away; the Crooked Lake branch in Coon Rapids, five miles; the Johnsville branch in Blaine, seven miles; and the Centennial branch in Circle Pines, eight miles, she said.
Peter Bodley is at