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Duluth library's upgrades will limit access to books

Starting March 17, Duluth's downtown library will run something like a takeout pizza shop -- for a few months. Until early or mid-May, patrons won't be able to browse through the aisles of books at 520 W. Superior St., while a crew moves all the ...

Starting March 17, Duluth's downtown library will run something like a takeout pizza shop -- for a few months.

Until early or mid-May, patrons won't be able to browse through the aisles of books at 520 W. Superior St., while a crew moves all the stacks, puts in new carpet and furniture and applies fresh paint.

The current carpet went in 28 years ago, when the building originally opened. Since then, about 7.5 million people have entered the library.

Former library director Beth Kelly said she had been trying for the past decade to find city money to help pay for new carpet.

"It's really satisfying to see a building that's central to the community getting the care it needs," Kelly said.

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Workers will remove part of a wall on the Superior Street level near the circulation desk and consolidate all the public computers in that area.

The tab for the renovations will be $546,000. Of that, $134,000 came from the city and the remainder from private money.

Everything the library offers should remain available during the renovations, but patrons will have to ask for it.

Librarians will move the 10 public computers for Internet use to the Michigan Street level, along with an additional four to six computers for database and catalog searches, some reference books, all the magazines and some of the card catalogs.

The Superior Street lobby circulation desk will remain open as well.

Patrons should be able to do "everything except browse through the stacks," said David Ouse, interim library director. That includes using the microfilm machines and making photocopies.

When patrons want to check out a book, they can place their order with librarians after browsing through titles online. The librarians will head to the stacks and pull out the books while patrons wait.

Because the mini-library will be cramped, people will be encouraged to order books ahead of time through the library's online site or go to one of the branches to pick up the books.

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"It's really nice that the library has a system where you can order it online and they'll hold it for you," said Adele Krusz, president of the Friends of the Library Board and a volunteer at the library. "A lot of people probably don't know that, and it's quite easy to set up."

For those who prefer to browse the stacks, the city's other two libraries in West Duluth and at Mount Royal will be open six days a week, instead of five, during the renovations and will beef up staff.

Once the work is complete, all the public computers will be contained in one lab on the main floor. About 10 computers are there now, and six more will be moved from the reference section.

It's a temporary inconvenience, but the renovation will pay off, Krusz said.

"I see it really having a much more welcoming atmosphere, a much more attractive atmosphere," she said.

PATRICK GARMOE can be reached at (218) 723-5229 or pgarmoe@duluthnews.com . He blogs at www.Areavoices.com/buzz .

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