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South branch gets $1M donation

The co-founder and CEO of PRACS Institute injected$1 million into Fargo's south branch library project Thursday, a donation city officials hope will encourage more large gifts.

The south branch will be named the Dr. James Carlson Library in recognition of the Fargo businessman, library officials said.

Carlson said he was honored and "flattered" when the library's Campaign Cabinet recently approached him.

"This group came through as very genuine, very on target, and I felt extremely comfortable with them," he said after the south branch groundbreaking ceremony in Ed Clapp Park at 28th Street and 32nd Avenue South.

Fargo Public Library Director Charles Pace called Carlson's pledge "huge" because it lifts the cabinet one-third of the way to its $3 million fundraising goal.

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"Dr. Carlson has set a generous example for others to follow," said Library Board Chairman Prakash Mathew, who called it a "historic day" for the city.

Carlson co-founded PRACS Institute in Fargo in 1983 as a clinical research facility that evaluates pharmaceutical products. The company has grown to more than 530 employees, becoming a world leader in drug testing. Last year, it paid out more than $13.2 million to roughly 12,000 study participants, company figures show.

"This community has supported me. This community has supported my family. You've supported my staff," Carlson said, choking back tears. "You don't know how important that is."

Carlson, who also taught clinical pharmacy at North Dakota State University for 10 years, said the library system matches the educational environment that PRACS tries to create for its employees.

Carlson's gift is the largest for a city-owned facility since Newman Outdoor Advertising President Harold Newman donated $1.5 million in 1998 for the RedHawks baseball stadium, now named Newman Outdoor Field.

The Library Board approved a naming rights policy in September 2005 and later set the threshold for the south branch at $1 million. Pace said the naming rights aren't available for the new downtown library, but they will be available for parts of it, such as the children's library.

Construction of the 15,000-square-foot south branch and an adjoining senior center will start within two weeks and last about 15 months. The Fargo Park District donated the land for the library.

Mayor Dennis Walaker said Fargo needs nice facilities like the south branch if it wants to continue to grow and attract people to the community.

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The $2.8 million project is part of a $15.3 million effort to build a new main library, south branch and north branch. The north branch opened in July in the Northport Shopping Center.

The privately raised funds will supplement $12.65 million generated by a voter-approved, 18-month, half-cent sales tax that expired June 30.

"We will have leadership for the fundraising campaign going forward, and we couldn't have started any better or any stronger," City Commissioner Linda Coates said.

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

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