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Inver Grove library plans are rebuffed

  • Article by: LAURIE BLAKE
  • Star Tribune
  • September 15, 2012 - 9:39 PM

Plans to expand the Inver Grove Heights library have hit a snag: Nancy Schouweiler, chairwoman of the Dakota County Board and an Inver Grove resident, is unhappy with the design.

Schouweiler served many years on the county's library board, and she's very familiar with the library, known as Inver Glen. She said last week that she was "very disappointed" in plans presented for the expansion.

The rectangular community room proposed by the architects, Perkins and Will, looks like a big box slapped on the front of the library, Schouweiler said. "This is not something I am going to be able to bring proudly back to the community," she said.

Instead of approving the plans, the County Board tabled them for more work with the architects. They will return to the library board for more discussion.

Libraries are one of the most popular services counties provide, and County Board members take particular interest in the buildings. Dakota County has nine libraries, and each is reviewed about every 10 years for possible updating and remodeling.

The county budgeted $62,000 this year to take stock of needs and prepare expansion plans at Inver Glen and the Farmington Library.

The plans presented for the Farmington Library were to the board's liking. They move on now to final design.

Inver Glen, opened in 2000, is the smallest library in the system, and "we all knew when Inver Glen was built that there would be an addition someday," Schouweiler said.

There is no question that a new community meeting room is needed, because without it the library lacks the space to offer programs the other libraries offer, she said.

But adding the room in front doesn't make the library seem bigger, she said.

"We started off the smallest library in the system," Schouweiler said, "and it still stays the smallest library in the system.

"I am not seeing that anything we are doing here is getting us anything on a par comparable to the other libraries in the system."

The 1,600-square-foot meeting room would have room for 80 people. Another 1,400-square-foot addition is planned along the east wall of the library to create more elbow room in the teen area and some quiet reading spaces for adults and children.

Library Director Ken Behringer said the library board recommended the addition design because it does not disturb Inver Glen's original design, including one of its main features, a stylized roof that looks like an open book with a lifted page turning.

Placing the meeting room on the front of the library extends the facade of the building without obstructing its main features, said Paul Neuhaus, the Perkins and Will architect who designed the library and is now presenting plans for its expansion.

The firm is happy to change the expansion plans or make the addition larger, Neuhaus said. His direction was to add between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet to the library, and the proposed design adds about 3,500 square feet.

Neuhaus said he understands the criticism about the boxy look. But, he said, when the room is built it would have windows on the north and south sides and the addition would extend out in an L shape, forming an entry courtyard for the library.

Inside architectural details with curves would give the meeting room the same cozy feeling of the main library, he said.

In Farmington

The Farmington Library, which was built as a grocery store in 1975 and was remodeled as a library in 1995, is expanding by taking over 3,500 square feet in the building that had formerly been occupied by a school.

Goals for its expansion were to bring in more daylight, add a self check-out and improve the environment for computer users. It will be repainted and re-carpeted, and furniture will be replaced or reupholstered. The library also will have a visible new space to display recent arrivals and promoted materials.

A key feature of the Farmington expansion will be to open the ceiling -- exposing electrical and air conditioning ducts -- and paint it white to create more light.

Commissioner Paul Krause asked that the entrance to the library be updated because it still has the look of a grocery store.

Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287

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