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CITY COUNCIL: ‘Wave’ of unruly patrons disrupts library, manager says

BEMIDJI --  The Bemidji Public Library has seen a “wave” of patron behavior incidents in recent weeks, branch manager Paul Ericsson reported to the City Council on Monday.

“We’ve experienced a wave of incidents in the past month, which are more severe than the usual issues that we wrestle with,” he said.  

However, the flare-up is not attributable to the homeless problem in Bemidji, Ericsson said.  

“I note right at the top that none of the current issues fall under the poorly named ‘library homeless problem’ that I am too frequently asked to provide comments about,” he said.

The incidents center around patrons smoking on library property, refusing to turn down music and not taking cell phone calls to study rooms rather than the main atrium, he said.

Although the incidents constitute a very small percentage of overall library use, the “aggressiveness, the language, the vehemence” of the patrons was unusually inappropriate, Ericsson said.

“There is this less than 1 percent of our daily transactions that do not respond to reason or to diplomacy,” he said.  

Ericsson’s report drew concern from the council.

“I just want to say how sorry I am that your staff is having to deal with this kind of bad behavior,” Mayor Rita Albrecht said in response.  

Council member Nancy Erickson asked if the incidents were limited to a few people. Ericsson at first said no, but then added two people were particularly mean to him and other staff.

“Two of the people are persistent in their belligerence,” he said.

Ericsson said he is compiling a report on the behavior, soon to be sent to the city. He called random police patrols the Bemidji Police Department conducts in the library “very helpful.”

Lake-N-Woods to sell South Shore

The council also voted 4-2 to chose Bob Kiewatt Jr., broker at Lake-N-Woods Realty, as a realtor to help market land near the south shore of Lake Bemidji.  

The council picked from several Bemidji-area brokers who responded to a call for applications to provide multiple listing services in selling about 16 acres of land. Some of the property is owned by the Bemidji Economic Development Authority, while other portions are owned by the city itself. The city has been seeking a buyer for the land since the construction of the Sanford Center.

Mark Dickinson, owner of Century 21 Dickinson Realtors and Jerry Vargo, associate broker along with realtors Harry and Noemi Aylesworth of Real Living First Realty, were also in the running.

The property to be sold includes land near the lake as well as the former site of the Minnesota Department of Transportation office.  

Albrecht  and council member Roger Hellquist voted against Lake-N-Woods. Council member Ron Johnson was absent due to a medical issue.

The City Council, acting as the BEDA, also decided to have Lake-N-Woods sell its land, but the vote was unanimous.

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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