Mayor’s Plans For New Duluth Library Slow Down

Ness: More Community Input Is Needed

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The dream of a new multi-million dollar downtown Duluth library is out for Mayor Don Ness — at least for his remaining months in office.

Ness now believes more community input is needed on whether to spend nearly

$35 million for a new library in a new location or spend millions to fix the current building that officials say is an energy waster, inefficient and behind the times.

“This is a personal disappointment for me because this is an issue that I would have liked to have seen completed during my time in office. But it’s much more important that the process be done well,” said Ness.

More public input meetings will happen through the fall to answer five key questions:

1)      Location – What considerations should the city keep in mind regarding location of the main library?

2)      Scope/priority of serviceAnticipating the community’s needs over the next 30 years, what are the 1-to-3 most important services the library should provide?

 3)      Branch libraries – What is the role of the branch libraries and what do they need to succeed in that role?

 4)      Cost and financing – What considerations should the city keep in mind regarding how to pay for a new or renovated library?

 5)      Library renovation priorities – If we partially renovate the current building, what are the most pressing 1-to-3 needs we should address?

The decision on the future of the library will be made in 2016 under a new mayor, which at this point in the race could be Emily Larson or Chuck Horton.

Here are their opinions on the library update:

“Libraries are a community living room, places where everyone can feel welcome. It’s also a place that inspires and contributes to lifelong learning.

Everywhere I go, people want to talk about what this space means to them and how we can best use and improve our services, including physical space.

I envision a downtown branch that offers flexible classroom space, expanded computer access, increased natural light and more youth services. An improved downtown facility, made possible through either remodeling or new construction, can be balanced with enhanced services at our branches.

Slowing this process down, while disappointing for many members of our community, allows for more public visioning, and that is a critical component to shaping good public policy while being responsible stewards of public dollars.” – Emily Larson

“I’m pleased that the Mayor has put the library plans on hold. $35 million dollars of taxpayer money, with all the needs of our community, on a project such as this deserves further consideration and frankly, I have a different plan. I would approach those involved with the new maurices building to lease space on the first floor to house the library and sell the current building and property to create an endowment fund for the libraries. Additionally I’m concerned about access to the libraries, especially for those citizens in the far western and eastern parts of Duluth (Morgan Park, Gary-New Duluth, Fond du Lac, Lakeside and Lester Park.)” What I would also pursue is scheduled mobile library/computer access to those parts of the city through something like the bookmobiles.” – Chuck Horton

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