by Dennis Dalman
The Waite Park Public Library is one of the busiest branch libraries in the St. Cloud-based 32-member Great River Regional Library System.
As Sartell explores the real possibility of obtaining a branch library, city officials and library enthusiasts in the city have been exploring how other branch libraries function. The Waite Park Library is an example of just how a Sartell branch library might be developed and how it will function.
Also known as the “Al Ringsmuth Library” (named after a former mayor), the Waite Park facility had 3,139 registered borrowers as of Jan. 1, 2013. The majority of those borrowers live in Waite Park, with a good share of them coming from St. Cloud, Sartell and St. Joseph, according to GRRL Patron Services Associate Director Karen Pundsack.
The library is open 30 hours per week, including three hours on Saturdays and evening hours until 8 p.m. on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays.
The Waite Park library was retrofitted into the city’s old fire station, a one-story red-brick building constructed in 1963 at 253 N. 5th Ave. Waite Park was one of 14 cities that was part of the original founders of the GRRL system in 1969. Before that time, there was only the St. Cloud Public Library in the area. For many decades it was in a Dale Carnegie-funded building on 5th Avenue S. in St. Cloud. In the early 1970s, a new library was constructed on a site just three blocks northeast of the 5th Avenue site. Still later, in 2008, the current St. Cloud Library opened along W. St. Germain Street near downtown St. Cloud. It was built with revenue from the regional half-cent sales tax.
Waite Park statistics
In 2013, there was a circulation at the Waite Park Library of 138,573 borrowing transactions. The library contains 17,390 items, not counting those that can be borrowed from the Interlibrary Loan System from libraries elsewhere.
The GRRL system provides 3.1 full-time-equivalent staff members at Waite Park. All told, there are nine staff members, all part-time, Pundsack noted. They include one library-services coordinator, four library assistants and four library aides. All materials, the staff and their wages are paid for by the GRRL. The City of Waite Park pays the costs for maintaining the building and utilities, which was a total of $14,832 in 2012, according to Waite Park city records.
As far as overall funding goes, all the six counties in the GRRL system contribute, through county taxes, the costs of operating all 32 of the branch libraries. Other funds for GRRL come through private donations, individual and business contributions and some federal aid made possible through the Library Services and Technology Act.
There are 125,000 registered borrowers in the GRRL system, which serves people in a 5,000 square-mile area.
The GRRL pays for and implements all of the staffing, programs and services at all of its 32 branch libraries.
The Waite Park library alone, thanks to GRRL, offers a staggering variety of programs, services and activities. They include digital books, e-books, audio books, large-print books, videos, CDs, art exhibits, computer stations, basic computer and internet help, book clubs, Writers’ Group, Evening Book Club, Teen Mystery Night, Teen Battle of the Books, Story Hour for younger children, meeting rooms, copy machines, summer reading programs, and special presentations. For example, an upcoming special program, slated for Feb. 12, is “Stan Tekiela Presents Intriguing Owls.”
The GRRL is governed by its Board of Trustees, which is comprised of one county commissioner from each of the six member counties: Stearns, Benton, Sherburne, Morrison, Todd and Wright.
The commissioners on the board who represent the City of Sartell are Spencer Buerkle (Benton) and Mark Bromenschenkel (Stearns).
There are also nine citizen members who serve on the board from various counties.
The 32 branch libraries of the GRRL system are located in the following cities:
Albany, Annandale, Becker, Belgrade, Big Lake, Buffalo, Clearwater, Cokato, Cold Spring, Delano, Eagle Bend, Elk River, Foley, Grey Eagle, Howard Lake, Kimball, Little Falls, Long Prairie, Melrose, Monticello, Paynesville, Pierz, Richmond, Rockford, Royalton, St. Cloud, St. Michael, Sauk Centre, Staples, Swanville, Upsala and Waite Park.