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Community brainstorms ideas for Carnegie Library

The Save the Carnegie Committee is raising funds to restore the building and move it away from State Highway 197. BEMIDJI PIONEER File Photo

BEMIDJI -- Community members rattled off ideas Tuesday for what the Bemidji Carnegie Library should be used for if efforts to move and renovate it prove successful.

The Save The Carnegie Committee concept for the building includes space on the top floor to be used for public gatherings like dances or community meetings, and space on the bottom floor to be rented out to private businesses as a means of taking in money to cover the building's operating costs. At Tuesday's public brainstorming session in City Hall, several attendees also suggested returning the century-old library to its original purpose of providing information to the public.

Mike Bredon, director of Upstream TV and member of the Save the Carnegie Committee, proposed creating a "smart room" where Upstream would install camera equipment that the public could use to document and possibly even broadcast meetings and events there. Upstream could then curate the video, Bredon said.

"Any story or moment can be archived forever," he said. "We purpose ourselves with the digital archive of the city of Bemidji."

Alan Brew, a retired BSU anthropology professor, was for devoting part of the building to the history of the American Indian peoples who dwelled for centuries on the land where the building now stands.

"That's just a great opportunity to call attention to the environment and the people who have long inhabited it," he said.

However, local hotel owner Rich Siegert was skeptical of the costs associated with renovating the building.

"You're getting up in the $450, $500 per square foot (range) to get this thing rehabbed -- I'll guarantee you, you can build any new building you want for half that price,"Siegert said. "I'm tired of subsidizing government functions here just because nobody cares about costs."

Although the Save the Carnegie Committee request for $800,000 in state bonding money was not approved to be in this year's legislative bonding bill, the campaign has so far raised $653,000 in grants and donations from both public and private sources. To learn more about the campaign, visit

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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