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Library branch to improve service

The Fargo Public Library begins the latest chapter in its $15.3 million overhaul today, breaking ground on a branch library that officials say will better serve Fargo's growing south side.

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The Fargo Public Library begins the latest chapter in its $15.3 million overhaul today, breaking ground on a branch library that officials say will better serve Fargo's growing south side.

Heavy construction will start within the next two weeks on the south branch library in Ed Clapp Park at 32nd Avenue South and 28th Street, north of Innovis Hospital, Library Director Charles Pace said.

The groundbreaking ceremony is at 9:30 a.m. today.

At 15,000 square feet, the south branch will more than triple the size of the existing 3,650-square-foot Southpointe library, situated in a strip mall at 3051 25th St. S.

Southpointe was busy when it opened in August 2002 and has only gotten busier, said librarian Edie Discher.

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In October 2002 - the first month that full statistics were kept for Southpointe - 7,486 people visited the library. By August of this year, visits had climbed by more than 60 percent to 12,058.

"The demands are huge down there, the growth is great," Pace said. "The current Southpointe branch just isn't able to keep up with demand."

The $2.8 million south branch will not only provide more space, but additional services not available at Southpointe.

Visitors will enter the building through an oval foyer and be given the option of going into the library, a library/community meeting room or the Fargo Park District's senior center that will adjoin the library.

The circulation desk will greet library visitors. The reference desk and computer stations will occupy the middle of the library, with the children's collection and adult collection on each side. A teen section - something lacking at Southpointe - will occupy the northwest corner, with staff offices in another corner. Plans also call for a coffee bar.

Pace said the library will have room for 35,000 to 40,000 volumes - three times more than Southpointe.

West Fargo High School sophomore Briana Morin of Mapleton, N.D., and her mother, Mary Boothroyd, said they visit Southpointe about once a week. Along with more space, the library could use a wider book selection and more computers, they said.

South Fargo resident Vernon Tate, who was doing auto research on a Southpointe computer Tuesday, said new southside and main libraries are "way overdue" for a city Fargo's size.

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Southpointe gets crowded during the after-school rush, and it lacks space for crafts and other children's programs, Discher said. The new site also will give the library greater visibility, she said.

"Even though we've been open as long as we have, people still come in all the time and say, 'How long have you been here?' " she said.

In exchange for the land in Ed Clapp Park, the city agreed to replace or provide cash in lieu of the four basketball courts that now occupy the site. The cash was used to redo the courts at Dike West last summer, and Fargo Park District officials are now determining whether to replace courts in Ed Clapp Park, said Jim Larson, the district's finance director.

The new south branch is being called the Clapp Park Library for now, but the name may change, Pace said. Library officials will announce a "substantial" donation to the project today, he said.

The library should be open in late 2007 or early 2008, Pace said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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