New Wadena City Library working toward June opening

Wadena City Library branch manager Renee Frethem said she’s “really super excited” about the additional community offerings at the new location.

A woman talking about a drive thru.
Wadena City Library branch manager Renee Frethem talks about the drive-thru option at the new library. The library is expected to open in June 2022.
Rebecca Mitchell / Pioneer Journal
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WADENA — The walls of space and opportunity are expanding at the Wadena City Library as construction progresses at their new location at the former First National Bank.

While demolition began in September 2021, and conversations on needing a bigger space began in 2013, the library plans to open in June 2022. Wadena City Library branch manager Renee Frethem said they hope to move in mid-June, sometime after June Jubilee.

The bright and many windows at the new location offer a view into the library construction, Frethem said, though you might wonder about how a bank becomes a library. The main floor includes book sections for adults, teens and children as well as a new self-checkout space. There will also be an office for Frethem, small and large community rooms, technology space and a makerspace.

Plans and a possible price tag were presented last week for the proposed new Wadena City Library. Three proposed plans were drawn up by designers from BKV Group and they were each presented by project manager Anthony Enright Tuesday, Oct. 16. Whi...

The treasured books you love will travel one block north, where their new home will be on mobile stacks. There won’t be much space for additional books, though the Friends of the Library will have an ongoing used book sale. The sale regularly happens in the spring and fall. The ongoing sale will be a free will offering.

The new location offers plenty for community outreach, from space to quietly proctor tests to hosting meetings and seeing creative works of art. Frethem said she’s “really super excited” about these additional community offerings, including classes on computer skills, how to work the library catalog and creating an email. These spaces are separate from the main portion of the library to give people the option of enjoying both books and events. The meeting rooms will be open after library hours.


“I don’t foresee us being a community center of any sort but it makes me crazy that here … the staff is sitting on top of one another, we have no place to put anything, we have no storage here for anything,” Frethem said. “But over there everything will have its place.”

A room with construction materials.
The large meeting room is one of the spaces available to the community after library hours.
Rebecca Mitchell / Pioneer Journal
A room with construction materials and an open ceiling.
The main portion of the Wadena City Library will include mobile book stacks, a self-check desk and the circulation desk
Rebecca Mitchell / Pioneer Journal

Even a drop off and pick up book area will have a place with the drive-thru remaining open for patrons to use. The drive-thru option also prepares the library to easily offer book access if the situation changes with the COVID-19 pandemic again, Frethem said.

A book drop off will also be located by the main entrance, which is near the east side of the building. The previous bank entrance will become a youth hang out spot. An exterior walkway will also allow patrons to take in the outdoors.

Frethem said people have access to several city lots for parking near the new library, including at the current library, parking behind the Pederson building, the Super One lot and street parking.

The final months of construction flurry include flooring, furnishings, painting, fixtures, technology set-up and moving the materials. The construction crews are waiting on an HVAC rooftop unit and an elevator inspection before their portion is complete. Frethem hopes volunteers will move the sorted books in a short matter of a day or two.

“It’s just a lot, a lot, a lot of planning,” Frethem remarked.

A doorway.
The new library entrance includes an indoor book drop off slot. The previous bank entrance is being transformed into a youth area for reading and talking with friends.
Rebecca Mitchell / Pioneer Journal
A bank vault door.
While the library is being transformed from the previous First National Bank, two bank vault doors will remain, including this one in the children's area.
Rebecca Mitchell / Pioneer Journal

Frethem said she enjoys the colors and fixtures at the new library, and looks forward to creating a cozy atmosphere. As well as making the building their own, such as replacing the exterior First National Bank plaques with white brick and later updating them with Wadena City Library info.


The lower level’s updates include new bathrooms and the HVAC system. The Wadena City Council approved a ‘ focused plan ’ in March 2021, which focused on the main level, adding an elevator and other code requirements.

“Really fascinated to see how much more we’ll be able to do for the community,” Frethem said.

The library is also hiring more staff. For more information, visit the library, or the Wadena City Library Facebook page .

A room with construction materials.
The new Wadena Library will include dedicated spaces for youth, children and meetings. The children's area will also have computers.
Rebecca Mitchell / Pioneer Journal
A sliding door with construction materials on the floor.
The community meeting rooms and makerspace are separate from the main library portion with a sliding door, which will be locked after library hours. The new flooring is also being added throughout the building as of April 2022.
Rebecca Mitchell / Pioneer Journal

Friends of the Library meeting

At their annual meeting on April 26, the Friends of the Library considered plans for a donor reception. Donors will be invited a few days before the library opens to a special event.

People who donated $50,000, or more, to the project also received naming rights for the different library rooms. Each room will have a plaque with the donor’s name as well as a separate plaque near the entrance for all of the donors.

The Friends, including president Karen Wallgren, vice president Marge Leslie and secretary and treasurer Julie Deiss, also discussed the project funding. The total project cost is $2.7 million. One of the options to repay the city’s 20-year bond for the library is a Local Option Sales Tax. The sales tax would be in place until the bond is paid off. It would be a 0.25 sales tax if the question passes on the November 2022 ballot.

The bond could also be repaid through property taxes if the LOST question does not pass.


“That’s the thought behind the sales tax, just because you live in Wadena, you shouldn’t have to pay for the new library. It should be paid for by everyone who uses the library that comes to town,” Frethem said.

Frethem said the library serves more than the city of Wadena with about 40% of patrons from Todd and Otter Tail counties due to their location.

A sign reading, "The future home of the Wadena City Library."
The Wadena City Library is remodeling the old First National Bank, at 25 Bryant Avenue SW, for their new library location, which is expected to open in June 2022.
Rebecca Mitchell / Pioneer Journal

Wadena County also has a half-cent sales tax for road and bridge projects , which has generated $4,746,592 for the county since 2016. The Friends of the Library said it is important to educate voters about the LOST option.

Fundraising is continuing through the Initiative Foundation , or for more information call the library at 218-631-2476.

There will also be public forums to share your thoughts and questions about the LOST option in the fall.

The Friends of the Library also approved:

  • $400 for the summer reading program, which starts June 6.
  • $800 for Giving Tree matching funds.
  • $250 for story hour coordinator Leanne Ries to use as needed.
A man working on construction.
The new Wadena City Library includes a makerspace, which will have crafts and other creative projects housed there. The makerspace faces Bryant Avenue SW and 1st Street SW.
Rebecca Mitchell / Pioneer Journal

Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in enhancing online articles as well as education, feature and health reporting.
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