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Sandstone Library Project nears Finish Line

The Sandstone Public Library project is nearing the finish line as staff prepares to move the final pieces into the new building.

Located on Main Street, the library will inhabit the former PHASE building on the corner of Main Street and 2nd Street.

City Administrator Kathy George told WCMP that the desire to move the library from Sandstone City Hall to a bigger building has been years in the making.

"When I was hired six years ago, during my interview, it was a high priority that they wanted to expand the library. The city was attracted to me because I had previously acquired a state library construction grant when I worked for the City of Aitkin," George said.

While exploring potential locations for the new library location, the city looked at the old Sandstone School building to include it as part of the affordable housing project they were working on with a developer at the time.

"The auditorium was not part of the housing redevelopment," said George. "We started looking at what can we do with the auditorium. We created a subcommittee with the library, Sandstone History and Arts Center, and the Old School Arts Center because all three groups were looking for space."

The committee went through half a dozen design ideas with an engineering firm; however, they found that the space would be too crowded when including the three entities and a three-story apartment building all on one property.

As leads began to dry up, the city learned that PHASE was closing its recycling facility and making some direction changes in the organization's mission. George said that she reached out to PHASE's Executive Director and proposed that the city purchase their office building to use as the new library location.

What followed was a flurry of planning to get everything in order to move forward.

"Right when we were in that planning process, looking at the budget and the building, the state released their notification that they have funded the state library construction grant, which does not get funded every year," George said.

Thankfully, they were at the right spot in the project to complete the detailed application that led to the city receiving a one-million-dollar match grant from the state to move forward.

The City of Sandstone also secured a one million dollar loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assist with the match giving the city just over a two million dollar budget to remodel the PHASE building into the new library.

George said that the Sandstone Friends of the Public Library also played a role in funding the project. Through fundraisers, the group was able to contribute $20,000 toward the new library.

In the new location, the library will be 8,700 square feet, which is more than double the size of the previous location. The location will have dedicated off-street parking, increased ADA accessibility, and facilities specifically for children and teenagers.

Carla Lydon, Executive Director for the East Central Regional Library, says the increased space provides additional community space to meet and host additional programming.

"Many times in the past a popular author or a larger program has been placed in another of our locations simply due to the size requirements for that performance. Additionally, with increased space, more people will be able to attend our popular children’s summer programming, like the Minnesota Zoomobile, a magic program, or a puppet theater performance," she told WCMP in an email.

Kathy George hopes the new library building will continue to be a community centerpiece once it opens to the public.

"The library is the heart and soul of the community. People come there for all sorts of things," George said. "People go there for internet access. With your library card, you can access all of their digital products. It's a place where the community gathers."

The Sandstone Library is slated to close to the public next week, so the final pieces can be moved over to the new location. It is expected to reopen for the public to use this summer.

Picture provided by the City of Sandstone.

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