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Wadena’s new library looks to open in October

There'll be far more than books to look at when you walk through the doors of this new facility. But books remain at center stage.

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Fixtures and signage are in place at the new Wadena Library. It has an anticipated opening date of October 1, 2022.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal
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WADENA — The most asked question at the Wadena Library these days likely isn’t where to find the fiction section, rather everyone wants to know how long before the move to the new library.

Of course, no one wants that to happen sooner than staff of the Wadena Library, including branch manager Renee Frethem, who recently provided a tour of the new library and shared about its progress.

“We’re very close, it’s just a few things left that I need fixed before I’m satisfied,” Frethem said in early August. “All in all, I’m really satisfied with the way things are turning out … not the timeline so much but, I understand.”

Frethem shared months ago that the hope was for a June opening. Now she’s hopeful for an October opening.

“I would like to see us in here October 1, if not running,” Frethem said. “I am anticipating it just as much as anybody else.”

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One of the big things they were waiting for was an HVAC unit for the addition on the building that finally arrived at the end of July. That and an electrical panel pushed things back by three months, according to project manager Justin Thorne, with Contegrity Group, the city's project management firm for the library.
"All of our inspections are done," Thorne said on Thursday, Aug. 25. "We are at the final stages where contractors are cleaning up loose ends."
He's hopeful contractors will complete their work within the next few weeks.
Much of the work has been completed. Fixtures are in place, the new elevator is operational and air conditioning is running. The parking lot is ready and provides more space than was originally thought.

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It's beginning to look more and more like a library inside the new Wadena Library, the former First National Bank building.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

Shelving, a key component of the libraries organization of books, is one area that has put a wrench in the process. When set up, the selected shelving did not meet the expectations of those involved. Without shelving across the main floor of the library – no books. And reordering more shelving is no quick endeavor. Everything takes longer to get in these days. It’s a work in progress.

Actual work at the facility in recent months has been slow moving. With such long wait times for some items, contractors have moved on to other jobs and are not always available to come back as quickly as hoped.

“When the equipment does arrive, then they are juggling projects,” Frethem explained.

Exterior concrete is complete but landscaping work has yet to be started. Leave it to garden club board members to handle that colorful side of the operation.

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The kids space has plenty of room for reading or play in a room that's separated from the main library area.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

What’s gone well in this process are the finished projects. The now complete rooms, from a large board room, to the children's area, and the maker space room, all have a new feel and there’s an excitement around the many years of use that these areas will provide.
Thorne shared that as far as remodels go, this one went smoothly without much for unexpected finds. He feels the finished product is one to be proud of.
"I think the community is really going to like it," he said.
Upon entering the new library it may appear as if it’s not much more space than the current library. Frethem points out that the new space is already filled with so many more options than the current library provides.

“Look at all the other things that we’re able to do with this space,” Frethem said. And she adds, if there is a phase two, an expansion of use in the lower level, there is room for even more programming.

“Libraries aren’t for coming in, grabbing a book and leaving anymore, it’s all the other things that we do, that we provide at no cost,” Frethem said.

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Some of the STEM technology that will be available in the new library includes this circuit kit.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

On that wavelength, the exterior of the library now includes a quote from Andrew Carnegie – “A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”

The maker space and board room area will be open to use for community education during or after hours.

“We’ve already got people that are interested,” Frethem said about use of those spaces for art education.

The basement of the library is huge, with potential for so much. Frethem said she has hopes of utilizing a portion of the basement as an escape room until needed for library use in the future.

The path to a new library
The compass needle is pointing north after last Thursday's joint meeting of the Wadena City Council and the Library Board. Looking for the best direction to take, the two groups weighed the findings of a needs assessment and site analysis by Libr...

At this point it will be utilized largely for storage and the Friends of the Library will utilize one room for full-time used book sales. The public can always bring books in and people can buy books on the honor system at all times that the library is open. It’s an addition that should provide quite a unique service in the community.

“I’ve already got a couple volunteers that want to keep this in order,” Frethem said.

Once the new building is ready for business there will be widespread announcements including in this newspaper. Stay tuned.

He's a writer, editor, photographer, truth seeker and promoter of the Wadena area.
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