Northtown Library renovation begins

“A new chapter begins” for the library with the most visitors in Anoka County.

This is the slogan Anoka County Libraries is using in recognition of a project to renovate Northtown Library in Blaine, which is estimated to cost between $925,000 and $1.05 million. The county received a $150,000 state library grant through the Minnesota Department of Education, but the bulk of funding will come from the Anoka County Library’s building fund.

Ruth Hemingson, Northtown Library branch manager, and Jamie Niss Dunn, reference librarian, move the first carts of books to temporary storage so that Northtown Library can undergo a massive renovation over the next few months. Photo by Eric Hagen

Ruth Hemingson, Northtown Library branch manager, and Jamie Niss Dunn, reference librarian, move the first carts of books to temporary storage so that Northtown Library can undergo a massive renovation over the next few months. Photo by Eric Hagen

From March 17 to late June, the library that saw almost 250,000 visitors and over 500,000 materials checked out in 2013 will be closed for renovation.

Amy Hennen, a Blaine parent of two teenagers, a Spring Lake Park School Boardmember and a library volunteer, is looking forward to the updated Northtown Library.

Hennen and all other visitors will be able to drive up to the new outside drop-off box that would take her materials on a conveyor belt inside the library. She is also excited to see the new layout inside the building that will include a new reception area, a larger children’s room, a new young adults gathering area for teenagers with books and computers and study rooms where people could gather to discuss a project without bothering others trying to read in peace.

The building footprint is the one thing that will not change.

“We’re just making better use of our space,” said Ruth Hemingson, Northtown Library branch manager.

Just two days after the library temporarily closed March 17, Anoka County Commissioners, library staff and library board members got a behind the scenes look as the first cart of books was pushed off the floor into storage.

Visit these other locations while Northtown Library is under renovation
Crooked Lake: 11440 Crooked Lake Blvd., Coon Rapids
Johnsville: 12461 Oak Park Blvd., Blaine
Mississippi: 410 Mississippi St. NE, Fridley

A few staff members, including Northtown Library Circulation Supervisor Lisa Thompson, grabbed a selection of books, CDs and DVDs that library patrons had requested at the last minute. No more holds can be placed on Northtown Library material until it opens again, Thompson said.

Although the Northtown branch has the most visitors, it ranks second in Anoka County to the Rum River Library for materials checked out, which Janssen attributes to the many young families living in the area.

Hemingson was the manager at the Rum River branch in Anoka from the time it opened in 2000 until she became the Northtown Library branch manager in June 2010. She has about 30 years of experience as a librarian.

The biggest change she has noticed in the last decade is people using the Internet more to do research. Some may not have a computer at home or high speed Internet or they may want a place to work in peace, so they come to the library.

Lisa Thompson is the circulation supervisor of almost 185,000 books CDs, and DVDs at Northtown Library. The library had almost 250,000 visitors and over 500,000 materials checked out in 2013. Photo by Eric Hagen

Lisa Thompson is the circulation supervisor of almost 185,000 books CDs, and DVDs at Northtown Library. The library had almost 250,000 visitors and over 500,000 materials checked out in 2013. Photo by Eric Hagen

Thompson has been at Northtown Library for eight years. During the recession, a lot of people visited the library to use the Internet for their job searches.

More computers will be added to Northtown Library to accommodate the demand.

Anoka County Libraries in recent years has also phased out VHS tapes in favor of DVDs and gave customers the opportunity to download eBooks.

“We’ve tried to stay up with the latest trends,” she said.

In 2000, eBooks did not exist and people would have to visit a library to renew a book. In 2013, they can temporarily download an eBook through the county library’s website and they can renew books online.

Janssen said these are big reasons why the number of visitors to Northtown Library decreased from 332,984 to 247,369 in 2013 and the circulation decreased from 775,952 in 2000 to 505,821 in 2013.

The online renewals and eBook circulations are accounted for separately for the entire county library system and not individual libraries. According to Janssen, the county as a whole in 2013 circulated 160,415 items electronically and 466,926 items were renewed online.

To provide a more apples to apples comparison to 2000, Janssen showed that in 1990 at Northtown Library there were 122,333 visitors and 393,360 items checked out.

Although reading material through an electronic device may be more popular than a decade ago, library staff believe there will always be a place for the brick and mortar facilities.

Hemingson has a daughter-in-law in her 20s who has an iPad and a smartphone, but she has said she still enjoys reading a hardcopy book. Thompson said many teenagers enjoy reading graphic art novels and magazines, so the new young adult section will have plenty of these selections.

Beyond the books, magazines, DVDs, CDs and computers, the library has also expanded its community programming, according to Janssen. Five years ago, the only adult program the library offered was author visits. Today, the library offers programming to inform people about different cultures, music, history, job searching and resume writing, how to download an eBook or even how to best use the Internet.

“I see a continued need for brick and mortar buildings,” Janssen said. “What we talk about in the library field is that libraries are going to have two roles, a virtual role and a physical role.”

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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