Home>News>Local>Community Members Work to Save Carnegie Library
Local News

Community Members Work to Save Carnegie Library

The future of the historic Carnegie Library. Photo by Alex Schlee.
Alex Schlee | Staff Writer | 2-27-2012
In downtown Bemidji, a little old building sits just a short walk from the statues of Paul and Babe.  The inscription over the door identifies it as the Carnegie Library, but visitors would find no books there.  This small, 102-year-old building stopped being a library decades ago, since playing host to a welfare office, and most recently an art gallery.  Currently, the library is home to the Bemidji Community Art Center (BCAC), the Region 2 Art Council, and a couple of private studios.  However, the tenants of the Carnegie Library are looking for a new place to occupy.

“We’re in the process of trying to find a new home,” said Lori Forshee-Donnay, the executive director of the BCAC.  “We’ve outgrown this space.”

The art galleries inhabiting the Carnegie Library will be moving to a new location shortly, though where exactly this will be has yet to be disclosed.

There has been a lot of speculation on what will happen to the Carnegie Library now.  There was talk of demolishing the building, but the Bemidji City Council voted on Monday, March 19 to preserve the building.  This issue has been voted on twice before, once in September of last year, and again on the first of January this year.  At Monday’s meeting, members of the community convinced the city council that the building still had uses for the city, and the Council decided that a committee should be formed to decide the library’s fate.

A committee met on Friday, March 23 to begin deciding what will happen to the old library.  Friday’s meeting was not actually the deciding factor in the building’s fate, but rather began the planning process for what to do with it.

Lou Krenshow, the head of the committee meeting held on Friday, described the efforts of the committee as “a project to preserve the Bemidji Carnegie Library.”

Because of the enthusiasm the community showed for preserving the building at Monday’s meeting, Krenshow wants to get together a legitimate ad hoc committee.  Ad hoc means it will be temporary and focused on a specific issue. The meeting that took place on the 23rd was specifically meant to plan out the ad hoc committee and what actions it will take to preserve the library.

“The community has given us a lot of momentum,” said Krenshow.

Friday’s meeting was small; the eight active community members in attendance made up the steering committee for the preservation of the Carnegie Library.  The steering committee consisted of Krenshow, Sue Liapas, Sharon Geisen, Nicole Foss, Sandy Kaul, Cindy Serratore, Mike Bredon, and David Gurney, who joined the meeting from Arizona via conference call.

“I’m here as a private citizen because this is the right thing to do,” said Krenshow.

The steering committee’s meeting on Friday began at 2 pm.  Over the course of the meeting, several options for the building were discussed.  One of the most prominent ideas discussed was moving the building away from the road and landscaping the lawn surrounding it.  The Carnegie Library is a historical location, registered on the National Register of Historical Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior.  Unfortunately, the act of moving the building would render void the building’s historical status for a period of time.

At the steering committee’s meeting, funding for the building plans and the subcommittees needed for them were discussed.  The steering committee hopes to become a fully-sanctioned ad hoc committee.  Leadership and permanent membership of the committee are still up in the air.  Attendees suggested the position of committee chair to Krenshow, but currently, the position is unfilled.

“I think if we could fix this place up […] it would be a nice little place there on the lake,” said Krenshow.