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Books, coffee, sunny spaces

Fargo library users who squeezed into the former Southpoint branch in a strip mall will soon have four times as much room and more bells and whistles.

fanciful chandeliers.

Fargo library users who squeezed into the former Southpoint branch in a strip mall will soon have four times as much room and more bells and whistles.

The $2.8 million Dr. James Carlson Library, the second of three libraries planned in the city, opens Friday. It's part of a new era in which Fargo's public library system is changing to meet the needs of its users.

The $15,000-square-foot Carlson south branch will offer more books and computers, a coffee bar, a separate teen area, conference rooms and a drive-up book drop.

"We're way beyond just book warehousing," said Beth Postema, the interim library director, standing recently in the nearly finished brick-and-glass structure at 2801 32nd Ave. S.

Workers will likely add finishing touches until the grand opening, slated for 9 a.m. Friday, said Richard Moorhead, an architect with the local firm Image Group Inc. He is working with Minneapolis-based Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle Ltd. on Fargo's library projects.

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Carlson patrons will enter the building through an elliptical foyer with designs in the floor that mimic the room shape. To the left is the Ed Clapp Park Senior Center, which adjoins the library and carries the namesake of the land where they're located.

To the right is the library, a sun-filled rectangular space. Though open and high-ceilinged, it's inviting and has distinct spaces that accommodate a range of noisy and quiet uses.

A coffee bar and the circulation desk are both close to the entrance, along with the frequently used magazines and periodicals section.

Books for adults fill shelves near the back window-filled wall. In a quiet space by the windows, patrons can plug in their laptops and access the building's wireless Internet.

The children's area has colorful carpet and space for story time. Because the library is on the edge of a park, some activities may take place outside, Postema said.

Teens have their own space here, too, with teal walls and funky carpet and lights. It's separated from the rest of the library by glass walls.

"Just a completely different vibe," Postema said.

Neither the previous south branch nor main branch had a separate teen area.

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The main branch had separate rooms for children and adult collections.

"When you walked in that front door, you had to decide right away whether you were a child or an adult," Postema said. "There was nothing for the continuum of experience."

Natural light floods the entire new library. Moorhead, the architect, said the windows have special glass that will make the place bright even on gray days, which gives it a different look and feel than previous libraries.

Decades ago, Fargoans once used a Carnegie library on Roberts Street. That library, torn down in 1970, is remembered fondly by its patrons.

"It was beautiful," said Steve Ward, a retired English professor at North Dakota State University who frequented the library in the 1960s. "It was dark and mysterious and it seemed to have been there for a long time."

Another downtown library opened at 102 3rd St. N. in 1968, but it wasn't the same, Ward said.

"There was more spaciousness in a way, in the new library, but there was also a feeling of being herded into a common room," he said.

Now that library has been razed to make way for a new main library, which will be the centerpiece of Fargo's three libraries. The main library, at $8.4 million and 52,400 square feet, is expected to be complete late in 2008.

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Along with building a new south branch, the library moved into a 4,000-square-foot space in north Fargo in July 2006.

The three are the result of private funding and an 18-month, ½-cent sales tax that raised $12.65 million.

The Carlson branch is a taste of what's to come, Moorhead and Postema said.

The main library will be more formal, but the lighting, color, and separate environments for children, teens and adults will all be the same, Moorhead said.

He likes the openness of the Carlson library because it reinforces its status as a public building. It's difficult to make other public spaces such as courthouses and performance halls feel as inviting as the Carlson library, he said.

"It's a fun building to work on," Moorhead said. "You know the impact it's going to have. ... A lot of people see the library as their space."

If you go

The Fargo Public Library plans three days of public events to mark the opening of the Dr. James Carlson branch.

- Where: 2801 32nd Ave. S., Fargo

- Friday: 9 a.m. ribbon- cutting ceremony; 10:30 a.m. storyteller Cindy Wray Lowe; Noon to 2 p.m. tours of the new library; 2 p.m. senior program: nutritionist Linda Bartholomay

- Saturday: 11 a.m. Dennis Warner family concert; noon to 2 p.m. tours; 3 p.m. teen program: anime video shorts

- Sunday: 2 p.m. Concert featuring Simon Rowe Trio

For more information, call (701) 476-4040.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Andrea Domaskin at (701) 241-5556 Books, coffee, sunny spaces Andrea Domaskin 20071112

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