Anoka County Library’s busiest branch will get a million-dollar makeover.
The Northtown branch in Blaine will close for several months starting on March 17. When it reopens in June, patrons can expect a brighter, more open and user-friendly space, said the Anoka County library director. The branch logged more than 250,000 visitors last year.
“The key is to create buildings that are warm, inviting and flexible to meet current needs of the community as well as future needs,” said County Library Director Marlene Moulton Janssen.
A critical part of the project is the addition of a drive-thru book drop. Currently, patrons have to find parking and then walk up to the front of the building to return items.
Some of the interior renovation highlights include:
• The addition of 10 computer terminals with Internet access, bringing the total to about 30.
• The addition of more comfortable, soft seating in several areas.
• The addition of four small conference rooms for public use.
• One consolidated help desk that will be centrally located. Currently, there are separate reference and circulation help desks.
• A new browsing area in the center of the library for quick trips. The area will include newly released books, DVDs, magazines and other items.
• A new teen area with soft seating.
• An improved children’s area, including a new story-time area where parents and children can read.
• Greater flexibility for future uses
The library should also appear brighter. Crews will lower book shelves from 7 feet to 5 ½ feet. The higher shelves are harder to access and create a dark, tunnel effect, Janssen said.
Crews will tear out some interior walls to create a feeling of space and openness. They’ll position furniture and fixtures to accent the skylight and windows.
In the children’s area, crews will tear out the existing story time room and replace the existing wall with a glass wall to allow for more light.
Finally, the bathrooms will be reconfigured to allow for better access by patrons with disabilities.
This is the largest Anoka County library construction project since the Rum River branch in Anoka was built in 2000. Most of the money is coming from Anoka County. A $150,000 state library accessibility grant through the Minnesota Department of Education will pay for the bathroom renovations.
The Northtown branch at 711 County Road 10 NE. was built in 1963. The 25,000-square-foot library was last remodeled in 1991.
“I am really excited. It’s going to really freshen up Northtown and make it not so dark,” said Branch Manager Ruth Hemingson. “Everything now is very close together, packed in. It’s visually very overwhelming and dark. This is going to make it feel very open and welcoming, but people will still have access to a lot of materials.”
Last year, visitors checked out 185,000 items, attended nearly 300 programs and events, and logged 25,000 hours on library computers.
The Anoka County library system has eight branches, two “On the Go” stations and a collection at the Anoka County History Center.