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Appleton, Minnesota, to move and expand public library into former high school building

A slow-moving saga to find a new and larger home for the Appleton Library is now a page-turner. City Council members approved plans that will allow for the awarding of financing and bids to refurbish a portion of the 1952 wing of the former high school early next year.

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This photo by MSR Design was shown to Appleton City Council members in May as part of a presentation on the challenges posed by the shortage of space at the library's current location. The limited space makes it difficult to offer programming at the library, to provide separation between adult and young reader areas, and meet handicap accessibility requirements. Contributed / MSR Design
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APPLETON — The Appleton Library moved to its present location within the Civic Center building just over two decades ago with the idea it would be a temporary fix until a better — read: bigger — location could be found.

It’s on track to move into that bigger location by the end of the coming year.

Appleton City Council members have approved plans to move forward with financing for a project to refurbish a portion of the 1952 wing of the former Appleton High School for the library. A 6,900-square-foot portion of the ‘52 wing will become the library’s new home.

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Architects with MSR Design, of Minneapolis, presented this possible floor plan for the city of Appleton's library in a portion of the '52 wing in the former Appleton High School building. It offers 6,800 square feet of space, or three times that now available in the library's current location in the Civic Center building. Contributed / MSR Design

“(It’s) three times the size of what we have now,” said City Administrator Willie Morales of the library’s future home.

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The city administrator said council members recently approved parameters to move forward with calling for up to $1.59 million in general obligation bonds for the project. The parameters include a project cost not to exceed $1.5 million.

The council set a 3% ceiling on the interest rates for the bonds. Northland Securities estimates the bonds will have a 2.74% true interest cost. The firm estimates that the city’s annual bond payments will be $103,442 on the 15-year issue for a total of approximately $1.55 million.

Current plans call for awarding financing and construction bids for the project in early 2022 with expectations for project completion in the October-November timeframe.

“A long time coming,” said Cindy Hendrickx, head librarian. She said the city has been working to find a long-term solution to the library’s space needs for a number of years.

At one point, the library was eligible for grant funds for a proposed project with Pioneer Public Television , but the broadcast station moved to a new studio and headquarters in Granite Falls in 2017.

For the library, the need for a new location is all about space, but the new location also offers an important advantage. It’s located near Lac qui Parle Valley School District 's Appleton-Milan Elementary School . Young students will be able to walk over to the new library location without having to cross busy Munsterman Street, which is also U.S. Highway 59 .

“We just don’t have enough space,” Hendrickx said of the library’s current location.

The current library cannot provide the desired separation between adult and young reading sections. It also lacks the space needed to provide the growing repertoire of programming the library offers and wants to offer for community members and readers of all ages.

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“A library isn’t just a book repository anymore,” she said. “It’s a community center.”

The library is very much a center point for many in the community, according to Morales. He pointed out that the library provides important access to recreation for many seniors in the community. Many of the seniors are on fixed and limited incomes and rely on the library.

Many in the community of all ages also rely on the library for access to the internet and educational resources.

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The Appleton Library will be moving into a wing of the former Appleton High School building. The Lac qui Parle Valley School District has moved the day care and early childhood programs from the building as part of its recent facilities improvement project. This photo of the building was provided by MSR Design during a presentation to Appleton City Council members on the library project in May. Contributed / MSR Design

The decision to refurbish a portion of the ‘52 wing for the library fits with a comprehensive plan by the City Council. The city administrator said there have been discussions about the possibilities of a recreational center in the facility, as well as the possibility of converting a portion into market-rate apartments. The complex also includes a gymnasium and auditorium, as well as a memorabilia room.

The Lac qui Parle Valley School District had used a portion of the building for day care and early childhood services, but moved the programs as part of its recent facilities improvement project.

Moving forward with the library project follows a series of efforts by the city to improve its fiscal position as well as invest in its infrastructure. As a sign of the fiscal improvements, the city is expecting its first clean audit in 15 years, according to Morales. He pointed out also that the city has recently obtained grant funding to improve the broadband infrastructure in the community, and it is constructing a new water treatment plant.

“It’s a great community to live in, forward-thinking,” said Morales. The library project is part of an overall goal to provide the services that will make the community a better place to live, he said.

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