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Nobles County Library lays groundwork for a library foundation

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe The Nobles County Library in Worthington averages more than 350 patrons daily. Plans are now under way to establish a library foundation to raise money for a new, larger facility.

WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County Library Director Julie Wellnitz was thrilled to see nearly 500 people come through the doors of the downtown Worthington building on Wednesday, but at the same time, she wished she could have accommodated the visitors better.

The local public library just wasn't built to handle such large numbers of people, much less children's programming. That's why Wednesday's Treasure Village Children's Theatre of Okoboji presentation of Snow White, which drew another 234 children, parents and others, took place across the street from the library, at First Lutheran Church.

The youth room at the library is perhaps the most used space in the building, with 1,309 children and parents attended programs during the month of April led by Children's Librarian Jackie VanHorsen.

"Then, 889 of those 1,309 actually went through the children's room in the month of April," Wellnitz said. "That youth room is very, very loved and it looks like it. We've even had comments from our Friends (of the Library) group that the youth room looks shabby.

"With those kinds of numbers, we can't accommodate -- it's not safe to accommodate -- such high numbers," she added.

Average daily attendance at the library tops more than 350 patrons, which Wellnitz called "fantastic."

With the recent reinvigoration of the Friends of the Nobles County Library group, and the discussion back on the table for Nobles County Commissioners, Wellnitz now hopes to take plans for new the facility to the next level -- raising funds.

On Tuesday, Wellnitz and Plum Creek Library executive director Mark Ranum will meet with members of the Southwest Initiative Foundation to seek approval for a library foundation to be created under the umbrella of the Worthington Area Foundation.

In mid-May, the two, along with Nobles County Commissioners David Benson and Diane Thier, had a positive meeting with Worthington Area Foundation board members.

"The Worthington Area Foundation was supportive of being under their umbrella ... but they highly encouraged us to begin with SWIF and map out the plan," Wellnitz said.

The idea to develop a foundation to raise money stemmed from some of Wellnitz's meetings with local groups and organizations about the vision for a new library.

"People would ask, if they wanted to donate money, if there was an account set up," she said. "There has never been a serious attempt at generating funds for a new library in Nobles County."

Gaining approval to develop a library foundation under the umbrella of the Worthington Area Foundation would be "much cheaper and simpler" than starting at the ground floor, Wellnitz explained, adding, "We really see it as a win-win."

If Wellnitz gets the approval she seeks from SWIF, she'd like to see the library foundation established within a month.

Money given to the entity would be used to help purchase the property, as well as build the new library, but Wellnitz said they intend to do more than just wait for donations.

"We have hundreds of ideas for fundraising," she said. "We're having to go one step at a time. Once we get the legalities of establishing the foundation over and done with, then we will focus on the fundraising piece."

Even after the building is funded, Wellnitz envisions keeping the foundation in place.

"We're going to need a large amount of funds," she said.

Wellnitz said the public understands the necessity for an updated facility, and it isn't just because of the lack of space in the youth room. The computer area is always busy.

"We are assisting with online applications, government documents for our minority groups, airline tickets are being printed -- it just runs the gamut, and kids are working on school projects," she explained. "The staff just bends over backwards to help anybody."

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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