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Where to put all those books?

After grappling with where to put its three new libraries, Fargo now faces another challenging task: finding a place to put all of those books when the main library closes for construction.

After grappling with where to put its three new libraries, Fargo now faces another challenging task: finding a place to put all of those books when the main library closes for construction.

Storage space emerged as a key concern Friday as library Director Charles Pace and architect Richard Moorhead laid out the timeline of the new downtown library and north and south branches for the library's Building Committee.

The entire downtown library collection - about 150,000 to 160,000 items - will need to be moved before workers can build a new library over the existing main library, Pace said.

Construction is slated to begin next fall and last 18 to 20 months.

Downtown Fargo will be without library services for at least a month while the collection is moved, Pace said.


"It can be an arduous process to go through this whole cycle," he said.

A complete lack of library services for up to two years in the center of Fargo would be a "very negative thing" for the library, Pace said. He suggested a number of options to maintain a library presence:

- A kiosk, or mall-type service, where patrons could pick up held books and maybe a few bestsellers. It would be staffed by one or two library employees. The least costly option, it could be set up in a city-owned facility such as the Civic Center.

- A storefront branch with a collection of a few thousand items and three to five staff members, either in a city-owned building or leased space.

- A large branch in a rented facility that would attempt to replicate the existing library services and functions.

The library will need at least 20,000 square feet to store the collection and provide office space for library staff, Pace said.

City Administrator Pat Zavoral said he couldn't think of any available city-owned space that large.

Pace said he has privately spoken with people who may be willing to donate the space, which would help to hold down project costs.


Finding the right building could be difficult because it must be climate-controlled with floors that support at least 150 pounds per square foot, Pace said.

The city also must figure out how to pay for the move, which will cost at $150,000 to $200,000, Pace said. The library's current operating budget will cover some of the costs. Revenue from the half-cent city sales tax for libraries also could be used, but then less would be available for the main library construction.

No library employees will be laid off during the transition, Pace said. However, some part-time employees may work fewer hours, and noncritical staff positions that become vacant won't be filled until near the end of the transition.

The new north and south library branches should help to offset the lack of services downtown, Pace said.

Construction bids are expected by late February for the 4,000-square-foot north branch in the Northport Shopping Center, Moorhead said. The estimated $116,000 remodeling project will take three months, with the doors scheduled to open in June.

Plans for the $2.5 million south branch are ready for the library staff to review, Moorhead said. He hopes to receive bids by the end of March and open the library in July 2007, although that schedule is "quite tentative," he said.

The city's lease on Southpointe, the current south branch site at 3051 25th St. S., expires in March 2007. Pace said a provision will allow the city to lease the site on a monthly basis until the new south branch is completed in Ed Clapp Park along 32nd Avenue South.

Moorhead said he hopes to open bids for the 45,000-square-foot main library no later than next fall.


But first an Ohio-based consulting firm must finish a feasibility study to determine if the library can raise enough money to complete the current plans.

The 18-month sales tax is expected to generate $12 million, but the most recent estimate for the library projects was $13.5 million, or $14.6 million including architect fees.

The consultants, Hodge Cramer & Associates Inc. of Dublin, Ohio, interviewed 24 public officials and potential donors in mid-December and will conduct more interviews next week, Pace said.

The Fargo Library Board should receive the firm's report - including concerns raised about the project and a fundraising estimate - by the end of January, Pace said. That will allow the board to set a budget for the main library project.

The city plans to host three public meetings this spring and summer to take input on the main library design, Pace said.

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

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