Ramsey County wants the impressive $15.8 million library nearing completion in Shoreview to serve a much wider area than merely the city in which it sits. That area happens to be the richest swath of territory within the county, including the once-gated enclave of North Oaks.
Nevertheless, a nonprofit library support group — trying to assure that the regional library contains all the bells and whistles inside that are promised by the glistening exterior facade — acknowledges that it is behind on the fundraising needed to equip it.
In an interview, Sue Gehrz, executive director of the Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries, addressed both the excitement and the anxiety as the switch-over from the old library to the new nears this fall. The new library is going up alongside the old one, at 4570 N. Victoria St.
Q: From the outside, the new building looks quite a bit more impressive than the one it replaces. Have you been inside?
A: Twice, yes. It’s very light, bright, with so much glass, sunlight streaming in — a very cheerful place. Its features will be so much more wonderful than what’s been available in the older one, including a larger meeting area, and enlarged children’s and teen areas.
Q: It looks way bigger.
A: The public portion is about 10,000 square feet larger than the existing building. And the space is configured much differently; it’s much more functional. When the meeting room isn’t used, for instance, sliding glass doors can open and allow much more space for children. There are a lot of computers, and at least one, hopefully two, 3-D printers — the first came to us from the Shoreview Community Foundation.
Q: Your group is responsible for some features inside.
A: We’ve been asked to raise money for amenities that will make the library a more memorable, interesting, functional place than it could be without private funding. The county doesn’t buy art, for instance. We want libraries to be cultural spaces exhibiting artistic skills.
Q: Art can get spendy, can’t it?
A: We have some spectacular pieces that are different in each library, showcasing local artists. But the most we ever have spent is $8,000, for a bronze, three-dimensional piece in New Brighton.
Q: Where are you in fundraising?
A: We have about $56,000 out of a $250,000 goal, so we have a long way to go. We want to purchase some large interactive educational installations for children from the Minnesota Children’s Museum, running $40,000 because they have to be very durable, and a media lab with recording and editing equipment, attractive to teens but also adults.
One fundraiser, Dec. 1-3, will offer books, furniture, DVDs, lots of stuff.
A: What is the general timetable?
Q: The old library closes Nov. 23 for the move, and the new one opens Jan. 28. We’re actually still looking for corporate groups who might offer volunteers to pack up! Movers will carry it over, but we’re trying to scare up a crew for what will be a big job.