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Check it out, Cannon Falls

The new Cannon Falls Public Library resides at the same West Mill Road location as the previous library, but the building was designed to better accommodate patrons' needs.1 / 2
The 7,500-square-foot Cannon Falls Public Library has a spacious design for community gathering and lounge areas.2 / 2

CANNON FALLS -- The newly constructed Cannon Falls Public Library opened its doors Monday after more than a decade of planning and fundraising efforts.

The $1.16 million, 7,500-square-foot building features computer workstations, study tables and a fireplace lounge.

"Throughout the planning process, we focused on the idea of the library as a community living room," Director Justin Padgett said. "It's a place for people to not only check out books, but it's also a unique gathering space for the community."

The old library building used to be a grocery store, which was later divided between the library and City Hall. But even after City Hall was relocated to a new building, the library was unable to expand into the opened space.

"We had multiple corridors, wide spaces and wide hallways that there was really no use for," Padgett said. "I can't put bookshelves in hallways."

Although the new library has the same square footage as the previous building, the shelves and certain walls are modular and can be wheeled around to adapt to different-sized crowds and events.

"The new building was designed to be as open as possible," Padgett said. "Most of the building is dedicated to public use."

Resident Shauna Chambers said she was impressed by the design of the new library. "It's very spacious and lovely," she said. "I'm glad it's finally open."

The process to build the new library started 15 years ago, Padgett said. A city-sponsored study found the old building would need $750,000 in repairs to make it usable. The Cannon Falls Library Foundation started to consider a new building as an alternative.

Library Foundation President Hellen Hartman began researching sources of funding for the project, Padgett said. The library plan was presented to local businesses and philanthropists, and reception was strong -- the Library Foundation raised $1.1 million through private donors.

"Once the money was there and pledged, City Council pledged its support and to fill in the rest of the cost," Padgett said.

Demolition of the old library started in June 2012. During construction, the library was reunited temporarily with City Hall in its new building, according to the Library Foundation website.

When construction was finished, library staff went about moving the collection of books into the new building.

"I would say the move went remarkably well," Padgett said.

Half of the book collection had been sent to the temporary city hall location, while the other half was put into storage. To help with the move, the library used the Sentencing to Service program, which assigns work duty to low-risk and juvenile offenders as an alternative to jail or fines.

"They did an excellent job getting all of our books in and getting the shelves back up," Padgett said. "Those ladies and gentlemen were very helpful."

A grand opening is planned for 1 to 4 p.m. March 16. The ceremony will feature various speakers and the setting of the library's time capsule and date stone. A children's program about time capsules will begin at 1 p.m.

"We're building our collection, developing programs and inviting people in," Padgett said. "We hope to get the public through the doors and more involved with the library."

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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