Lake Elmo’s Clock Building to house library

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The days of the Clock Building in downtown Lake Elmo being up for sale ticked down to zero this week.

The Lake Elmo Library Board will pay the city $240,000 for the 7,000-square-foot space and half of an acre of land that accommodates parking for about 30 vehicles. The LELB will pay the city $60,000 every six months until the building is paid off, said LELB President Steve DeLapp.

The building is located at 3537 Lake Elmo Avenue in the city’s downtown. Once the library moves into the new building, DeLapp said the library board has several future building improvements in mind, including better handicap access, upgraded restrooms and even a coffee shop in one of the front windows.

"We want this library to be a community space rather than just strictly a place for dusty books," DeLapp said, adding that he hopes local organizations and businesses will use some of the library’s rooms for meetings.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, the LELB and any community members interested in joining will work on cleaning the new building space. The group will be removing excess counters, prep walls for painting and do some electrical work.

"Anyone is welcome to come and help out," DeLapp said. "We know perfectly well that it’s going to take community involvement in the beginning to encourage people to take ownership of the building.

As the library space comes together in the Clock Building, the LELB will move its 12,000-book collection to the renovated space.

The LELB has been diligently working toward building its library collection and finding space since its inception when the city removed itself from the Washington County library system last fall. When the city left WCL it took with it $260,000 in library levy dollars.

DeLapp said the library board’s goal is have the library open 40 to 60 hours a week, including Sundays and Mondays when most WCL branches are closed – excluding the Stillwater and Bayport libraries. The library might even be open on holidays, depending on volunteers, DeLapp added.

Lake Elmo’s library usage has steadily increased since it opened at an interim site in January. Last month, 248 people came through the door. The most popular books checked out are children’s books and adult mystery novels.

For those wanting to use WCL branches, the city has reimbursed households for the $60 card required of anyone outside the WCL system interested in using a county library. So far the city has reimbursed 450 households for their purchase of the $60 card, DeLapp said.

More than a new building

Along with finally purchased its own library building, the city has also hired a permanent library director.

Olivia Moris was selected from the top five candidates. She started her first day on the job last week.

Moris received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Metropolitan State University and got her masters degree in library and information science from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She has worked as a reference librarian and public service librarian. Currently, she is the campus librarian at Globe University.

The position is part-time, but DeLapp said he hopes the position will eventually grow in a full-time job.

Moris grew up in Lake Elmo and attended Lake Elmo Elementary and Stillwater Area High School. She currently lives in south Maplewood.

Having worked in both public and academic libraries, Moris said she is drawn to working public libraries.

"I’ve realized my heart was in the public library," Moris said.

Moris said she has been on the lookout for the right public library opportunity. When she saw Lake Elmo was starting its own library, she knew that would be the right fit.

"It’s so rare to get to build a library from the ground up because libraries all exist already," Moris said. "And Lake Elmo is very near and dear to my heart."

Her strong community focus made her stand out amongst her peers, DeLapp said.

"Olivia is bubbly and enthusiastic and the kind of person who looks very approachable. It will surprise people when they learn she is a librarian," DeLapp said. "Her first goal is to bring residents into our building and encourage residents to make the space their own."

Instead of a city library, Moris likes to think of it as a community library.

"They keep referring it as a city library, which it is, but I think a community library is a better term," Moris said. "I would like the entire community to turn to us for a place of information, fun, entertainment, meetings and whatever needs are there."