WADENA – The most frequently asked question at the Wadena library these days is probably not where to find the fiction department, but everyone wants to know how long before moving to the new library.
Of course, no one wants this to happen sooner than Wadena Library staff, including Branch Manager Renee Frethem, who recently gave a tour of the new library and reported on her progress.
“We’re very close, there are just a few things I need to fix before I’m satisfied,” Frethem said in early August. “All in all, I’m very happy with how things are shaping up … not so much with the schedule, but I understand.”
Frethem announced months ago that hopes were pinned on an opening in June. Now she’s hoping to open in October.
“I’d love to see us here on October 1 when I’m not running,” Frethem said. “I expect it as much as everyone else.”
One of the big things they’ve been waiting for was an HVAC unit to add to the building, which finally arrived in late July. That and a switchboard delayed things by three months, according to project manager Justin Thorne of Contegrity Group, the city’s project management company for the library.
“All of our inspections are complete,” Thorne said on Thursday, August 25. “We are in the final stages of contractors eliminating loose ends.”
He hopes the contractors will complete their work in the next few weeks.
Much of the work has been completed. Fixtures are in place, the new elevator is operational and the air conditioning is running. The parking lot is finished and offers more space than originally thought.
Shelving, a key component of library book organization, is one area that has thwarted this process. The selected shelf did not meet the expectations of those involved during assembly. With no shelves on the first floor of the library – no books. And ordering more shelves is no quick feat. Everything takes longer to get in these days. It’s a work in progress.
The actual work at the facility has progressed slowly in recent months. With such long wait times for some items, contractors have switched to other jobs and cannot always come back as quickly as hoped.
“When the equipment arrives, they juggle projects,” Frethem explained.
The exterior concrete is finished but the landscaping work has yet to begin. Let the garden club board members take care of this colorful side of the operation.
What went well in this process are the completed projects. The now completed rooms, from a large boardroom to the children’s area to the makerspace room, all have a new ambience and the enthusiasm for the long-term use of these areas is great.
Thorne shared that this remodel went smoothly without much for unexpected finds. He believes that the finished product can be proud of.
“I think the community will really like it,” he said.
Upon entering the new library, it may appear as if it doesn’t have much more space than the current library. Frethem points out that the new room is already filled with so many more options than the current library offers.
“Look at all the other things we can do with this space,” Frethem said. And she adds, if there’s a phase two, an expansion of use at the lower level, there’s room for even more programming.
“Libraries are no longer there to come in, grab a book and go, they’re all the other things that we do that we offer for free,” Frethem said.
On that wavelength, the library’s exterior now includes a quote from Andrew Carnegie: “A library surpasses anything a community can do to help its people. It is a never-ending spring in the desert.”
The maker space and boardroom area can be used for community building during or after classes.
“We already have interested parties,” said Frethem about using these spaces for art education.
The basement of the library is huge, with potential for so much. Frethem said she hopes to use part of the basement as an escape room until it’s needed for library use in the future.
At this point, it is mainly used as a storage facility, and the Friends of the Library will use a space for full-time used book sales. The public can always bring in books and people can always buy books under the honor system whenever the library is open. It’s an addition that should offer a fairly unique service in the community.
“I already have a few volunteers who want to keep this in order,” Frethem said.
As soon as the new building is operational, there will be extensive announcements, including in this newspaper. Stay tuned.