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Want to help design a library? South St. Paul is taking ideas with online survey

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Want to help design a library? South St. Paul is taking ideas with online survey

Residents can have a say in the design of new library in South St. Paul through Oct. 7.

Dakota County and South St. Paul are moving forward with the design process for a library merger and rebuild. They are working together with BKV Group, a Minneapolis-based architectural firm.

Located in a 96-year-old brick colonial-style building near City Hall, the library will move into a new spot a few blocks west at Marie Avenue and 7th Street. A 16,000-square-foot building will be built that will serve as a community hub as well as a library.

County and city staff have set an early timeline for the project, with September focused on community input on how the library will be used and look. One in-person opportunity will be at a display set up at the South St. Paul Farmers’ Market on Sept. 29. Residents can also fill out a survey through Oct. 7 that can be found on the South St. Paul website.

Other key dates on the timeline include:

  • October-December 2021: Develop a schematic design concept for the new library with estimated costs.
  • January 2022: Design approval.
  • January – April 2022: Design development.
  • April – June 2022: Construction documents.
  • July 2022: Project open for bidding.
  • September 2022 – January 2024: Construction.

WHY MAKE A CHANGE?

The current library building was built in 1927 and lacks space and the infrastructure to handle newer technologies. It also is in need of repairs, such as to its roof, staff said.

Other needs highlighted in the past include:

  • More behind-the-scenes space for staff to operate.
  • Updates to heating and cooling systems.
  • Larger ADA-compliant bathrooms.
  • A bigger computer hub.

Library officials said upgrades and repairs would be more expensive than a new structure — about $2 million more. Past estimates put the cost of a new building at about $8.26 million.

“We definitely need a community room,” said Kathy Halgren, the South St. Paul library director. “When we would have a real popular performer or story time personality, or someone that would bring in lots of people, there’s no place for people to be.”

Halgren also wants to see study rooms, teen spaces and an adult quiet area. In terms of outdoor space, the library will have a larger parking lot.

MERGER EXPLAINED

For decades, the South St. Paul Public Library operated independently of the Dakota County library system.

But rising costs made it difficult to remain independent, said Margaret Stone, the Dakota County library director. By switching to being county-run, South St. Paul could save around $800,000 and taxpayers $350,000, said Joel Hanson, South St. Paul city administrator.

The merger combines the South St. Paul staff and collection with Dakota County resources, which will hopefully help the library run more efficiently. Dakota County will take over operations, such as cataloging, that librarians had done in the past, allowing for the librarians to spend more time with the community.

“We have very good library staff (and) I think with the upgraded facilities, we would see an increase in service levels, just because (they are) able to do more with newer, more modern facilities,” Hanson said.

Dakota County is also considering making the library “net zero,” meaning it would produce no carbon emissions. This would be done by installing solar panels and using geothermal energy, Stone said.

As for the current building, the city has no active plans to either renovate or demolish it, Hanson said.

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