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A Playground for Curious Minds

By Angie Laxdal

When you walk into the newly renovated Grand Forks Public Library, you may first notice the cheerful colors of the front desk constructed out of old book spines. Or, you’ll see the hot pink pop of the swirly slide—yes, there’s a slide(!)—connecting the Children’s department to the lower level.

If you look even closer, you’ll see the eyes of the people using the library.

There’s a mom strolling into storytime with a gummy-smiled baby, while the big brother skips excitedly into the Ferris-wheel-wrapped elevator. Upstairs, the animated librarians for the Children's department are already inspiring their love for stories and learning.

Off in the corner, you spy a teary-eyed elderly woman. She recently lost her husband of 33 years, and she is quietly asking a librarian for help finding books on grief. The librarian shows her compassion and kindly walks her to pages filled with comforting words.

Straight ahead in the computer area, a young woman is online, searching ways to apply for food stamps and printing a bus pass to get to her new job. You don’t know her story, but you see the worry on her face. The library gives her the access and tools needed to take this next step forward in life.

Next to her, a new American is using the computer to learn English. He is just getting settled into his new home in Grand Forks, and learning English is at the top of his list. Transparent Language, available through the library’s digital resources, is making this major life transition a little easier for him.

Spin around the room and you’ll continue to discover all the life happening in these walls. Two new friends are connecting through a video game in the Teen Zone. A group of moms are gathering for book club at the large table. A college professor is tapping his toes to rock music as he types his next book. A newly divorced man is searching for empowering audiobooks to fill his free time and bring some joy back to his days. The kids in Robotics Club are laughing and learning as they construct LEGOs upstairs.

And, that skipping toddler? He’s done with Storytime now and swirling down the hot pink slide. It’s the highlight of his day—a childhood memory that will stick with him forever. Perhaps someday he’ll live in New York City and write his own stories for Broadway.

Beyond Books

In 1892, when a group of Grand Forks women contributed $5.00 each for books, stored them in an office, and took turns as librarians, do you think this is what they envisioned?

The library today isn’t only about books. Grand Forks Public is the community’s living room. It’s where life happens. It’s a playground where curious minds come to relax, explore, grow. It’s a place for those looking for a cozy spot during the day. A place where everything is free and all are welcome. The magic of the library changes lives for the better.

Finding New Ways to Serve

Libraries are all about helping the communities they serve. So, in 2020 when Grand Forks Public had to close its doors for a few months to keep our community safe, staff had to think of new ways to serve the public.

New inventions and offerings began to take shape. Virtual programs, including storytimes, at-home craft projects, and book recommendations, reached new audiences near and far. Curbside Pickup allowed for safe and convenient access to library materials. Take & Make art kits encouraged creativity at home. Outdoor Wi-Fi access provided countless community members internet connection for school, work, and life.

The library continued to market its vast digital resources, including Libby for eBooks and audiobooks, Ancestry resources, homework help, art tutorials, language learning, and more.

From printing and technology services to State Park passes for socially distanced getaways to convenient book bundle options—library staff continually found new ways to do what they do best: serve.

A Renovated Space

Behind the scenes, a full renovation of the main floor continued, transforming the library into an imaginative, modern space. The “playground for curious minds” now includes a giant pink slide, thick wooden swings, bright lights, ADA-compliant restrooms and aisles, fresh carpet, and cozy, colorful new furniture throughout.

The library has been one of Grand Forks’ favorite places for connection, innovation, curiosity, and creativity for the past 121 years. In May of 2021, the community joyously gathered again, celebrating the library’s 121st birthday and grand reopening of the beautiful new space.

Whether you’re the mom strolling into storytime, the widow looking for words of comfort, or the professor writing his next book, know the library is a place for you. Welcome to our community’s living room, where all are invited to learn, connect, relax, or simply be. The library truly has something for everyone. G

// To view the full story, check out the digital issue here

From Issue 1, 2021

PHOTOS by Dimensions Photography LLC, Gabriel Wirtz Photography, Kim Garman Photography


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