BEMIDJI -- For a space that is normally reserved for quiet study, the A.C. Clark Library was unusually loud the past few months as construction crews undertook a remodel of the building.
The library was part of a larger construction project that included multiple buildings around campus, including Hagg-Sauer Hall, which was recently demolished. Although the library was just one piece of the much larger project, the overall cost of the campus construction was $22.5 million.
A groundbreaking will be held for the building that will replace Hagg-Sauer at 1 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16. As part of that, the A.C. Clark Library will have an open house, showing off the finished product from the recent redesign.
The renovation brings a new spin to a library that has evolved over time to meet the needs of the campus.
The renovation began in the spring, and crews worked through the summer, which resulted in a number of changes to the library. The library will now house the tutoring center, which used to be in Hagg-Sauer. They added more study rooms than they had before. They reduced the number of computers. And, whereas the staff offices used to be housed on two separate floors, they now are located on the main floor.
“I’m really excited for the collaboration that this has already brought us,” Librarian Colleen Deel said. “We are able to work now with the writing center and the math tutoring center. Before, they were sort of hidden away in Hagg-Sauer.”
Part of the goal for the redesign is that it will help foster more interaction for staff, students and other library patrons. The library has nine full time librarians and library technicians, three graduate assistants, as well as approximately 20 student workers.
The actual renovation process was a bit of a shuffle, at times, since the library remained open during the work. For a while, the library’s staff basically moved all the functions that normally are on the main floor up to the fourth floor.
While the project brought a number of structural changes to the building, it also resulted in the elimination of some materials. In fact, Deel said they weeded out approximately 60 percent of the reference material that used to be on the main level. Some of the material they discarded; others they moved into the general collection.
Although the internet has made a lot of the reference material unnecessary, they kept a number of things that still might be difficult to track down anywhere other than in a bounded book of text, such as information related specifically to Bemidji.
“There is a surprising number of pieces of information out there that aren’t on the internet,” Deel said. “Hopefully, our books kind of fill those gaps.”
Although the Internet has made the need for some physical resources in the library unnecessary, the library has tried to adapt to the changes while still meeting the needs of its patrons -- even if it’s in a different form than face to face in the actual building.
“I think we’ve kind of seen a change in how the library’s used,” Librarian Pete McDonnell said. “A lot of library information and services have gone online; we’re not necessarily just connecting with students physically in the library.”
Still, the most recent remodel wasn’t necessarily the largest renovation the library has ever undertaken. Another of the library’s renovations was in the 1990s when the school removed a large, open staircase that connected the various floors in the library. Librarian Tammy Bobrowsky said during that remodel project, they set up a satellite library in the gym of Memorial Hall.
During that time, they also stored the bulk of their collection off campus. They then would make trips out to the storage to transport books back that students may have wanted.
“It was a pretty major renovation,” Brobowsky said.