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Cloquet Council backs library expansion grant

The Cloquet City Council backed a grant application to the Minnesota Department of Education for $1 million to renovate and expand the Cloquet Public Library. Jamey Malcomb / Pine Journal

The Cloquet City Council threw support behind a grant application to help fund a $2.3 million expansion of the Cloquet Public Library during its meeting Tuesday, Oct. 16.

Library Directory Beth Sorenson, who presented a plan for the library expansion, explained the process of applying for the $1 million Minnesota Department of Education Library Construction Grant. The application would fund nearly half of the project, with the city contributing more than $1 million and the Cloquet Shaw Memorial Public Library Foundation (CSMPLF) pitching in $275,000.

Sorenson said three studies conducted since 2014 all concluded the library needs to expand by approximately 7,000 square feet to continue to meet the needs of the community.

The current 12,000-square-foot facility is too small, and there is a shortage of meeting and study room space for the increased demand. The library’s 2018 summer reading program, for example, drew nearly 120 participants, yet they were forced to meet in a space designed for 50 people, according to Sorenson.

As part of the requirements for the grant application, Meyer Group Architecture in Duluth created a proposed renovation and addition plan to redesign the library to make the current facility compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and more conducive to children’s activities.

In the redesigned space, the circulation desk would be moved to the center of the existing building to provide better visibility throughout the library. There would be a dedicated children’s area and a permanent story time space. Library staff must erect and remove the story time stage area each time there is an event, Sorenson said.

The addition would include two new meeting rooms, study space for 10 people and a large teen room that would have study space, book stacks and a reading area. The 1,300-square-foot would also have dedicated space for video and analog games and doors to contain noise to that area.

The plans prepared for the grant application include some outdoor reading and work space, but the current parking lot has adequate space even with such a large expansion.

City Administrator Aaron Reeves said while the city has two other major ongoing projects — relocating City Hall beginning later this year and a new public works facility in 2020 — the possibility of getting state grant money made it worthwhile to explore the library expansion now.

“When you have a chance to get a million-dollar state grant, it’s hard to pass that up,” Reeves said. “It’s not going to get any cheaper. A $2 million project today, five years from now will be definitely more than a $2 million project. It we can get half of it paid for by the state and be able to get it done quickly, we should be able to keep that cost as low as possible.”

The city will learn the results of the grant application in December. Reeves said if it is unsuccessful or funded at less than the request amount, the city could put the project on the backburner.

Reeves said even if the library project is funded at the full amount, the CSMPLF would continue to raise money through a capital campaign and the city would search for other partner organizations to help fund the project.