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Douglas County Library needs more space

A new report was presented to Alexandria City Council Monday.

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Guests can explore the many stacks of books and other resources at the Douglas County Library.
Alexandria Echo Press file photo
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ALEXANDRIA — The Douglas County Library needs more space and perhaps a new location.

That’s one of the conclusions from a Library Needs Assessment report. Two library board members, Becky Albright and Ann Carrott, presented details of the report to the Alexandria City Council Monday night.

In June of 2021, the Douglas County Library contracted with the Library Strategies Consulting Group to conduct a broad-based facility and community needs assessment.

Carrott said that the library board wanted to know what was needed, such as space, more books and more computers.

Although they are in the preliminary stages of going through the report, Carrott noted that one of the big takeaways is that the space needs of the library are critical and that the current location doesn’t offer much in the way of expansion.

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No plans have been put in place as the library board looks through all of the information.

The assessment also reportedly included not only long-range goals, like the space needs, but also short-term goals, like fixing the parking lot, which is something that is currently being worked on.

A needs assessment for the library was overdue, Carrott said. The last one was in 2008 and mainly focused on square footage needs.

This time, not only was square footage researched, but also what the community wants to see at the library, Carrott said.

The library's current location in the Douglas County Services Center was supposed to be a temporary move but now it's been there since 1991.

The building is 19,900 square feet, nearly half the size of the 39,800 square feet recommended in the assessment.

The library would like to add more study rooms, teen services, children activity areas and more, but there's simply no room, Carrott said.

The parking lot is another problem. It has 100 stalls while the study recommends between 160 to 200.

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"So we're definitely crowded," said Albright.

There's no room to expand the parking lot or the building, Albright and Carrott said.

"We are landlocked," Albright told the council.

Council members asked whether advanced technology, such as ebooks, has caused the library's activity to decrease.

"It's increasing," Albright said, adding that libraries are changing and adapting to the new technology and the amount of electronic use is high.

The library is also offering Zoom story hours, more e-materials and fast Broadband services, said Library Director Dawn Dailey.

In 2019, the visits to the library totaled 115,000 — an average of 315 visits per day. Also, 900 items were checked out. "It's a busy place," Albright said.

If the library moves to a new location, Carrott and Albright said it would remain within the city.

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The space needs are long-term goals and the library is just beginning the research. In the meantime, it's focusing on short-term needs, such as getting more directional signs. Right now, there is just one sign, Carrott said.

The library board plans to keep gathering public input about the library and its future. It also plans to form a steering committee to study long-term needs.

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Douglas County Library is located at 720 Fillmore St. in the Douglas County Services Center.
Alexandria Echo Press file photo

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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