Cloquet Public Library staff have worked throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the facility has maintained a community presence, even when they were not able to be open to the public.
During sporadic closures due to COVID-19, the library has offered curbside book pickup and virtual programming through its website and social media.
While the library is open to the public, Library Director Beth Sorenson explained that precautions such as social distancing, regular cleaning, 24-hour book quarantines and masks are still in place.
She said the library hopes to implement more community-based activities as the situation evolves, such as art exhibits and youth cooking classes in the new kitchen. However, for now, they are working with what they have safely available.
In June, the library finished a $2.5 million construction project to renovate public spaces. The project included new meeting rooms, a teen area, a children’s area, a new desk and brighter decor. What was once a cluttered space is now a neatly sectioned array of areas, all featuring large picture windows and well-lit spaces.
“I think it’s amazing,” library employee Monica Somppi said. “I love the light and the openness.”
Whether it be a fire department training or a gathering of local teens, the newly renovated building offers spacious areas for residents to remain socially distanced while conducting business in the library.
Planning initially began approximately 10 years ago, and while construction last summer may have seemed inconvenient at the time, Sorenson now believes that the project has saved the library from having to drastically limit services throughout the pandemic.
“I don’t think we could’ve provided the services that we have without the new addition,” she said. “We have plenty of room for people to come in and spread out … and they don’t feel like they’re going to expose themselves.”
The project was funded through city budget funds, the Cloquet Shaw Memorial Library Foundation, a Minnesota Department of Education grant and various community donors.
Sorenson said the library has been offering private tours to these sponsors in addition to being open to the public.
“We’re kind of making small introductions to our community,’ she said.
In addition to offering reading and research spaces, the library has begun renting out the large conference room to groups for a nonprofit hourly fee of $25 and a for-profit hourly fee of $50. So far, the library has hosted Cloquet Area Fire District training, a quilting club, blood drives and more.
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According to Sorenson, the library has also resumed in-person book sales and is planning to host summer programming for teens and adults.
“Everything is working together really well,” she said. “It’s just so many little things that we have made so much easier for the community to use, and for ourselves.”
The library offers activities such as “take-and-make” crafts and virtual storytime. This summer, the library is with staff and organizations to plan a rain garden and a teen space camp.
To learn more about library programming, call 218-879-1531 or visit cloquetlibrary.org.