Open and shut

By ERIK SANDIN – Stillwater Gazette

The first work-day of the new year in this city saw an end and a beginning blocks apart.

As a moving company crew cleared out the closed Washington County Library Rosalie E. Wahl branch on Lake Elmo Avenue, Friends of the Lake Elmo Library volunteers were cataloging books and setting up the new city-run public library in its temporary location at the Lake Elmo Regional Art Center on the corner of Laverne Avenue and 36th Street.

A Bester Brothers Transfer and Storage Co. crew packed and loaded books, shelves and other WCL-owned items in the Wahl branch onto trucks Tuesday. From there, the items were delivered to the WCL main library in Woodbury or other WCL branches.

"The books are all going to Woodbury and they’ll be re-assigned to other collections. They’ll stay in the system," said Wahl Librarian Joyce Schneider.

The WCL closed the Wahl branch Friday. The closure was in response to the city’s decision in the fall to pull out of the WCL and establish a city-run library, funded in part by the city’s portion of the WCL levy.

Schneider said books, shelves and other county-owned items would be removed from the leased Wahl space by Tuesday. The WCL and building landlord would coordinate remaining clean up, with the county out of the building when its lease expires Jan. 31, she added.

As the Wahl clean out went on, in a building about one block away, local volunteers were busy cataloging and shelving part of an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 volumes donated to the city’s interim library site at LERAC, said Lake Elmo Library spokeswoman Marjorie Williams.

"This is the first hour we’ve been open," she said late Tuesday morning. "We have no idea what the public’s reaction will be."

Williams admits that many Lake Elmo library users are confused by the closing of the Wahl branch and opening of the new city library.

"There’s a lot of mis-information," she said, adding that some of the confusion centers on the WCL charging Lake Elmo residents $60 to obtain a WCL card.

"This library is open to Lake Elmo residents," she said. "We certainly are not going to be charging our own residents $60 to use our library."

The Lake Elmo library is currently open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Williams said a children’s area is set up and patrons will find "a pretty good selection" of materials.

LERAC is a temporary library location, Williams said. She adds that city officials are looking at two possible permanent homes for the library: one in a building called "the clock building," and the other, in a bit of irony, at the old Wahl branch.

"That is one of our options," she said about the old Wahl site. "It depends on our costs."

For now, Williams said a library consultant would help the city refine its library collection and set up rules and policies. The library currently operates on the honor lending systems.

"When we think we’re on top of the situation, we’ll hire a full-time librarian," Williams said.

But Tuesday was dedicated to getting Lake Elmo’s city library running. Former Wahl volunteer Bernie Wilke of Lake Elmo stayed busy shelving books that were cataloged and covered with clear plastic book covers.

Matthew Linder, a freshman at the University of Minnesota-Morris, worked on setting up the library’s public computer, Wi-Fi connection and printer. Williams said the number of volunteers involved in the city library shows many Lake Elmo residents are excited by the city’s decision to operate its own public library.

"We want to keep a local profile, a local library," she said "We’re pretty pleased with how it’s going. It’s pretty exciting."