WORTHINGTON — A draft of a new strategic plan for the Nobles County Library explores the possibilities for its Worthington branch, sets goals that include improving current facilities and expanding access for all, and outlines potential approaches for reaching those goals.
During a Tuesday work session, Library Strategies consultants Nick Dimassis and Alayne Hopkins presented a preliminary version of the library’s strategic plan to the Nobles County Board of Commissioners.
Much of the conversation focused on a potential refresh, remodel or renovation of the Worthington branch library, listed as one of the strategies for achieving the goal of improving current facilities.
“I’ve always said I would support a remodel, just not a new building,” said Commissioner Justin Ahlers.
Commissioner Robert Demuth, Jr., said that focusing on a remodel would eliminate the question of where to build, a major hurdle in previous discussion about what to do to the library. Demuth said he was in favor of a remodel.
“I think there’s 400-some participants (Library Strategies) surveyed and nobody asked for a new building,” said Commissioner Gene Metz.
During his presentation, Dimassis said the Adrian branch, remodeled in 2017, could potentially be a prototype of what the Worthington branch could look like. It could also serve as a model for the kinds of partnerships and collaborations between public and private entities that would need to happen in order to fund the work.
“You have the model already in your county,” Dimassis said. “You created it, you came up with the prototype for it, both in terms of the city, the county, the private funding as well — that's the Adrian branch.”
County Administrator Bruce Heitkamp emphasized the importance of working with the tenants renting space in the basement of the building, including the Nobles County Art Center and the Nobles County Historical Society, “not trying to push them out but trying to get an idea of their future plans.”
The Historical Society already plans to relocate its offices to the historic Armory building by Oct. 1.
Forming and maintaining positive relationships will also be key to meeting another library goal listed in the draft plan — developing strong collaborations with city and county partners.
“I don’t disagree. We need partners. But the buck stops with us,” said Commissioner Donald Linssen. “It’s a county library system, so it’s our responsibility to take the first steps and see who wants to step on.
Linssen also wanted to know what a facelift to the library might mean, noting that could potentially mean an addition, which in turn could affect parking. Because the building is on the National Register of Historic Places that will also need to be investigated.
“I don’t have a problem with revamping like they did in Adrian,” said Commissioner Bob Paplow. “I think that turned out to be a very nice facility and I think we can do the same thing with this one here.”
Another goal laid out by the draft plan is to increase cross-cultural programming and events, including increasing representation in the library through volunteers, collaborations and hiring to better reflect the community demographics.
“The (Worthington) International Festival is really what the library needs to look like every day,” Dimassis said.
The Nobles County Library Strategic Plan discussed at the meeting remained a draft and no action was taken on the matter during the work session. Any decisions will require a vote of the board, whose next meeting is Tuesday.
In other news, the commissioners:
Discussed potentially purchasing a piece of land adjacent to the Prairie Justice Center on which to build a storage facility for forfeited vehicles and vehicles that must be held as evidence in an investigation.
Discussed continuing conversations with the city and school district on ways to combat the area’s childcare shortage.
Talked about the 2022 budget and the potential financial impact of contributing more to employee health insurance for those who have family plans, in order to stay competitive with other employers.