Podcast: Margit Johnson on the Library Expansion Plans

Margit Johnson, Ross, TracyGriff was AWOL today, so Ross and I invited Library board member Margit Johnson to help us create an interesting and content-rich podcast focused on the library’s long-range planning, with a couple of brief forays into transportation issues and Minnesota Supreme Court decisions involving Northfield referenda. Not a poodle shoot in sight, thank God.

Items mentioned in today’s podcast include the Library’s long-range planning page on the City website; the preliminary Community Needs Assessment; and the blog entry with comments from Margit back in October. And, as a bonus, here’s a link to the time-limited discussion forum on library long-range planning that Griff moderated back in 2002.

Click play to listen. 30 minutes.

Our radio show/podcast, Locally Grown, usually airs Wednesdays at 5:30 PM on KYMN 1080 AM. You can also subscribe to the podcast feed, or subscribe with iTunes. We seek your comments and suggestions.


  1. Tracy Davis said:

    Griff, have you listened to the show yet? I know you were out of town on Wednesday.

    Margit’s gone this weekend, but said she’d check in when she returns to see if there are any particular comments or concerns she might be able to address.

    February 8, 2008
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Not yet, Tracy… but I will tomorrow on my way to and from Fbo.

    February 8, 2008
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    I found Margit’s rationale (and related discussion) for spending the $20,000 now to study the expansion possibilities of the downtown library location to be very helpful… and engaging!

    However, you and Ross trashed me for my penchant for fluff (eg, the poodle shoot) and but then were all a-twitter in a long bit about Scarlett Johansson’s shoe purchase at Rare Pair. Go figure!

    February 12, 2008
  4. Tracy Davis said:

    We’re just all ambivalent about the fluffy stuff, Griff. I deplore it and yet somehow you’ve convinced me that it actually helps the cause, whatever that is.

    February 12, 2008
  5. Ross Currier said:


    Let me help you out here:

    Poodle Shoot = Fluff

    Scarlett Johansson Buying Shoes = Major News

    Please take notes,


    February 12, 2008
  6. Margit Johnson said:

    It’s been a week since I sat in the KYMN radio station with Tracy and Ross to discuss the proposed expansion of the public library. Being gone over the weekend hasn’t advanced the discussion much…

    In an effort to promote transparency in city affairs, let me be the first to invite any and all interested citizens (are you out there?) to the final long-range planning meeting for the library’s 3-year operations plan on Tuesday, April 8 at 7 – 9 PM at the library’s meeting room. While much of the long-range plans deals with the delivery of programs and services in the next three years, it will inevitably touch on the proposed expansion, since some programs and services may be curtailed or eliminated due to lack of space.

    February 12, 2008
  7. Anne Bretts said:

    The discussions in the long-range planning meetings about services have been very exciting. Every time the conversation edges close to how and where those services could be provided, the eggshells beneath our feet begin to crack.
    I am sad that it feels like the decision already has been made to expand on the current site, without a real opportunity to explore all the options for the best space to provide services. After all, the library’s mission is to provide information and communications services to all of its diverse constituency in the northern half of the county. The mission statement does not say that its purpose is to preserve a particular piece of architecture or be a neighborhood center for nearby residents or an economic tool for one small but important business area in the city. There are many ways to use the current building, there are many locations that would serve the library’s patrons. There are many ways to improve the business district. The pieces can fit together in more than one way.
    I’m not opposed to keeping the library; I’m opposed to the narrow scope of allowed exploration.
    St. Olaf and Carleton have much history on their campuses, but they understand how to repurpose outdated buildings and create new spaces that are compatible with their traditions and architectural styles.
    It seems that the group supporting the current site is so vocal that everyone is afraid to even raise the possibility that a one-story, properly ventilated, well-lit, easily supervised, spacious and convenient library might work better.
    I would like to see some photos and descriptions of other new, old and remodeled libraries in the area to see how Northfield’s library measures up in supporting the mission of the library. Give me a list and I’ll go take the pictures and gather the information myself, no charge.
    If the current building truly is the best possible option, it will be apparent quickly. Asking local citizens to make a decision based on only one option is short-sighted and a disservice to the people who will be asked to pay for it.
    Can we not even discuss a railroad station themed library on the Q block, or maybe a Riverfront Mall library with spacious waterfront decks for outdoor reading, huge windows to enjoy the river in winter, access for all — a sparkling jewel to lure highway drivers into downtown? Can we not discuss a library/city hall civic complex on the city hall block, with shared meeting and conference space designed to allow movie nights, reading programs and other entertainment as well as business and government meetings?
    Can we not discuss eliminating the annual subsidy for the underused NCRC by adding a library to its campus, limiting the amount of new construction needed and giving easy access to seniors and the majority of school children in the city, and better access to rural users and those using NCRC services.
    Sure, there are costs involved, land ownership issues, things that could make any of the options impossible. But we won’t know what’s possible unless we look.
    The current library very well might be the best answer. It shouldn’t be the only possible answer.

    February 12, 2008
  8. Margit Johnson said:

    Thanks, Anne, for being there/here! and responding to ideas both on this site and at the long-range planning meetings. I appreciate your big picture ideas that often reside outside the box.

    Re: your comment: “I am sad that it feels like the decision already has been made to expand on the current site, without a real opportunity to explore all the options for the best space to provide services.”

    Let me restate that NO decision has yet been made to expand on the current site or any other site for that matter. The location of an expanded library is WIDE OPEN.

    That said, in ALL of the focus groups in 2005-06 numerous comments, opinions, and sentiments were expressed in support of the current building and site. Many (admittedly, not all) library patrons and Northfield citizens have very positive feelings about the Carnegie Library overlooking Division Street.

    The Library Board is trying to answer the first question first – would an expanded facility (with adequate access, parking, etc.) fit on the current site? If it DOES fit, then we can go to the subsequent questions of cost per square foot, synergy with other downtown projects and Carleton’s proposed Arts Union, future expansions if needed, etc.

    If it does NOT fit on that site, the Library Board and City will have a solid list of reasons why not. That list will be pivotal if the expansion is funded by a levy referendum. Citizens will demand to know why the library expansion would be on that site or another site, and if it moves, how the current site would be reused. Without that information, a levy referendum is dead in the water.

    So the Library Board is trying to answer the first and most basic question: will an expanded facility intended to serve the northern half of Rice County for the next 20 years fit on the current site?

    February 13, 2008
  9. Ross Currier said:

    From Margit Johnson:

    I hope that Griff will cover the Northfield Public Library meetings on
    Tuesdays, May 13 and 27, and June 10, since Ross and Tracy will be
    previously engaged with the Planning Commission (sorry about that
    scheduling; such is the plight of spring in Northfield).

    The big question is: Can the public library be expanded on its current site
    to serve the community for the next 20 years?

    MS&R Architects (of Mill City Museum, Carleton library expansion, and more
    recently, the Arts Union fame) will lead the discussion during the three

    Should be fun! *And* educational!

    May 9, 2008

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