Community Spot Celebrates Milestone

Northland Uncovered: Duluth Public Library

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It’s a milestone the City of Duluth is proud to celebrate.

“This library has changed dramatically through the years,” said Library Manager, Carla Powers.

The Duluth Public Library has been around for 125 years.

“Anything would change in 125 years, but for libraries, the changes have been particularly rapid, especially lately,” said Powers.

Since the first version of the library opened in 1890, the book selection has gotten bigger, and the aisles have gotten noiser.

“Libraries started out as a very quiet place where you would go and read a book, or check a book out to take home. They’ve turned into actually a pretty noisy place with lots of activity of all various types,” said Powers.

Before there was the library we know today, there was another option for book worms.

It was a subscription library.

“That was different because in order to use a subscription library, you had to be able to pay to be a member basically,” explained Powers.

The first building open to all was the old Temple Opera building.

In 1901, Andrew Carnegie built the Carnegie Library.

The ore-shaped building we see today down on Superior Street, was built in 1980, but the controversial design process started in the late 1960s.

“It was a long haul to actually bring it from design, to construction, to opening in 1980,” said Powers.

Many community members were worried about what a modern building would look like right next to the historic depot.

“There was quite a lot of discussion in the community at that point in time, whether the juxtaposition was something that people liked,” said Powers.

Controversy is back again, as the city tries to decide how to transition this building to the technology of today.

“This building was built before we had any computers,” explained Powers.

Just as investment and services have changed over time, the needs of the building are changing as well.

“You continue to have the expense of the books and the staff to help people use the books and the other materials, but then you add in computers, other types of materials like DVDs, and CDs, music, books on disc,” said Powers.

City councilors, library staff and community members, just want what’s best for everyone.

“It’s the community’s library, it’s not my library. I just want a building that functions well and serves the community in a positive way,” Powers.
 

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