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Cloquet library addition is nearly complete

As construction workers put finishing touches on the extension at the Cloquet Public Library, donations to help pay for furnishing the new meeting rooms, teen room and children's area continue to come in.

On June 25, representatives from Northwoods Credit Union and its board dropped by for a peek of the new facility and the large meeting room that will bear its name. They brought a larger-than-life check for $40,000 with them, with the promise of another $40,000 to follow over the next four years.

Northwoods CEO Doug Wolf said it wasn't a difficult decision to commit to the project.

"We know from our members that this type of support for the community is what they like to see us do," Wolf said.

A tour of the addition reveals a teen room with tables and chairs stacked for now. The room is visible from a brand new 360-degree central circulation desk, but sound-proofed from the rest of the library with glass and metal walls so its occupants can be noisy without disturbing library patrons.

A new children's area is easy to find, with stunning white petaled light fixtures hanging over the reading area. Better yet, there is a bathroom immediately adjacent to the children's area.

The library foundation has a room to store records and sort book donations for their ongoing and special sales each year, and a long hallway is lined with display cases that can be used for anything from books to displays by area clubs and organizations or even the Fond du Lac Reservation, pointed out foundation president Terry Anderson.

The massive new meeting room takes up the lion's share of the 7,000-square-foot expansion, which expanded the library by half its original size. The meeting room can be divided into three different spaces and includes a service kitchen. Library staff have already lined up cooking classes courtesy of Community Memorial Hospital staff for the time when activities resume at the community library.

Wolf pointed out that the library serves all of the county, not just Cloquet. It provides computer access and WiFi to those who may not be able to afford an internet connection, a place for kids to read and be read to, and a safe place for all people, he said.

Libraries are needed more now than ever, he said.

"When we see projects where we can make an impact, we do it," he said.

A history of support

Raising money from businesses and community members to support the library is nothing new.

Now 125 years old, the local library institution has endured war, fire, floods, economic depressions and recessions, and now its second pandemic (the first being the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918).

After burning in the 1918 fire, the Cloquet Shaw Memorial Library was rebuilt on Cloquet Avenue with impressive community support in 1919.

The library moved to its present location on 14th Street in 1987 after Cloquet voters passed a bond referendum for $800,000 to build the new library in 1986. Cloquet and Carlton County area businesses and individuals also made significant donations for the new library.

In 2019, after extensive studies on the justification and need for more space, the Cloquet Public Library received a state grant of $784,000 to help pay for the expansion. The Cloquet City Council also approved an additional $1.5 million and the library's Shaw Memorial Foundation dedicated $250,000 toward the construction of the addition.

The library foundation continues to work with other businesses and organizations on other donations to help pay for furnishing the new addition.

Moving forward

As of June 15, the Cloquet Library has reopened to the public with certain restrictions - things are not quite back to normal yet. Between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. users may browse the collections and check out materials, use library computers by appointment, and make copies and print. Curbside pickup will be available during regular hours.

As of right now, the library is not offering in-person programs or use of its meeting spaces. Library director Beth Sorenson said the building is ready for programs, "but COVID-19 is holding us up."

"As soon as we get word, we'll be ready to go," she said.

Although they allow patrons in the library now, they are trying to avoid people sitting inside for periods of time. The library is also offering storytime on YouTube and many other online programs, including summer reading programs for both children and adults.

For more information, or if you have any questions, call 218-879-1531, visit cloquetlibrary.org or the Cloquet Public Library Facebook page, or email [email protected].

To ensure safety, library visitors should limit their time there, maintain 6 feet of social distance, wear masks and stay home if they don't feel well. All staff are wearing masks and regularly cleaning surfaces.

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