The major construction on the 7,000-square-foot, $2.5 million Cloquet Public Library expansion project finished in late June, but donations have continued to roll in to assist with furnishing the new space.

On July 6, the library received the first half of an $80,000 commitment from Northwoods Credit Union to sponsor the new community room that was part of the expansion.

Northwoods Credit Union board members and employees present members of the Shaw Memorial Library Foundation with the first half of an $80,000 commitment to help furnish the 7,000-square-foot expansion. (Photo courtesy Northwoods Credit Union)
Northwoods Credit Union board members and employees present members of the Shaw Memorial Library Foundation with the first half of an $80,000 commitment to help furnish the 7,000-square-foot expansion. (Photo courtesy Northwoods Credit Union)

"The library is a very important part of the community," NCU President and CEO Douglas Wolf said in a news release. "The meeting space here is very desperately needed in the community, and the library serves the whole county, not just Cloquet. And I think people have the wrong idea that libraries are dying off and a thing of the past. I think they're evolving."

The donation will help purchase chairs and other furniture in the new space, said Larry Anderson, Cloquet Shaw Memorial Library Foundation treasurer.

The foundation had planned to use $250,000 of its own money to purchase furnishing and fixtures. When cost estimates for the construction came back higher than expected, Anderson said the foundation pledged that money to ensure things like a moved circulation desk and new carpeting remained a part of the project.

The new portions of the library still needed the furnishings, but the foundation needed to get creative with funding. Anderson said the solution was to offer naming rights for donations to businesses in the community.

“We needed a whole lot of stuff — from chairs and tables to fixtures — throughout the library that we were not going to be able to do until Northwoods stepped up to the plate and committed $80,000,” Anderson said. “Since then, I think we’re pretty close to being on budget now and have most of the stuff we need on order.”

In addition to the NCU donation, Members Cooperative Credit Union donated $10,000 to sponsor a pair of reading corners, and Enbridge donated another $10,000 to purchase a portable stage.

Community Memorial Hospital donated $12,000 in refrigerators for a teaching kitchen at the library, and Minnesota Power donated $5,000 to furnish the kitchen.

“The history with the Cloquet Public Library has always been — for 125 years — a history of the public supporting their public library,” Anderson said. “These partnerships with naming options and the donations from the public and other stakeholders are precious to us. We count on that kind of support to cover things that, quite honestly, the city budget is not going to cover ... We are thrilled to be able to furnish this space and have it looking great for the next 20 to 30 years.”