Shock and awe. That’s how Emy Johnson describes the sensation in Shoreview as the big trees began to fall outside the public library.
“People were saying, What is happening on this piece of property!?’ ” the City Council member said. “One of the many things our residents love about our community is all the mature trees, the lakes …”
She’s convinced, though, that once people experience what’s rising beside the library, built in the early 1990s, and how suited it is for today’s needs, all will be forgiven.
Mayor Sandy Martin agrees.
“It’s been a little bit tumultuous,” she said. “But as I said at the groundbreaking [late last month], to people who really mourn the loss of trees at that site I just am trying to urge that we keep our eyes on the prize: a new regional library with expanded services, better hours, new technology. I am excited. It is the perfect fit for our Shoreview campus” of civic facilities.
“Regional” means that it’s a bigger, hub-like installation, just the third in the Ramsey County system. And it’s meant to be a draw for a wide area, not just Shoreview.
Once the new place opens in 2017, the improvements will be dramatic, said Susan Nemitz, the library system director.
“With a regional library, one big thing we do is to greatly expand our space for children and teens,” she said. “Forty percent of what happens in Shoreview is children and [the existing space] really is undersized for that,” with just an odd corner of an oddly angled building.
“The other thing we’ve not been able to do is programming,” the hot new thing for libraries as some traditional functions go digital. “The programming space there is wildly inadequate.”
The existing building, with its unusual dome-like main space, will be sold to the Mounds View school district for what Nemitz calls a “nice price” — $3.4 million, which will help with the $15.8 million replacement next door.
By some standards, the replacement of a building that dates only to the early 1990s might seem eyebrow-raising. But it reflects, Nemitz said, a careful attitude to spending: that the broad set of services that libraries now seek to offer, such as ample community rooms, would happen “not everywhere, but selectively.”
Shoreview emerged from a 2008 study as the best regional site for the far north of the county, she said. It is centralized, served by public transport, visible from a busy roadway, surrounded by multifamily housing and by popular civic buildings such as a community center with swimming and a cafe.
As for the trees, Johnson said, some will be back. The county has promised a pleasing landscaping effort to make the much larger building — more than 10,000 feet bigger — fit into its suburban surroundings.
“They didn’t just bulldoze trees, they embedded our feedback into their plans, such as safety issues for people on foot between the new library and the community center,” separated by parking lots, Johnson said. “There will be a naturalized walking path and a consultant is coming in to help us make the whole campus area more walkable.”