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Bemidji's century-old Carnegie Library on the demolition block

The Carnegie Library, which houses the Bemidji Community Art Center, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Earlier this month, the Bemidji City Council voted 6-1 to plan for the future of Library Park without the 102-year-old building, which would be demolished or relocated. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Supporters of Carnegie Library spoke during the parks plan open house Tuesday evening to oppose the city's current plan to remove or demolish the 102-year-old building.

Alan Brew, chair of the Bemidji Heritage Preservation Committee, said options should be examined for keeping the Carnegie Library building as part of Library Park.

The Bemidji City Council earlier this month voted 6-1 to plan for Library Park's future without the presence of the library, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

"It would be an embarrassment for the city of Bemidji to tear down the Carnegie Library," Brew said, noting that the entrance's close proximity to the busy roadway could be changed by flipping visitor access to the rear of the building, which houses the Bemidji Community Art Center.

Brew asked that two plans be developed for Library Park, one with the old library and one with it.

"The Carnegie Library is a monument to democracy," he said. "It's an important symbol. Symbols are worth saving."

Consultant Jeff Schoenbauer said a park plan could be developed with or without the Carnegie building, but, "I think people are generally indifferent to whether it comes or goes. ...

"From a park-planning standpoint, it would be a very nice park if it was removed."

When asked how this indifference was measured, Schoenbauer said that during interviews and an open house, 10-15 people specifically spoke to the issue of the Carnegie building.

"People who weighed in on that literally didn't care," he said.

Linda Lemmer suggested that people may have the feeling that they "can't fight City Hall," especially after they saw the old Bemidji High School torn down despite objections.

"We need someone with big pockets," she said. "They don't exist in the city of Bemidji."

"We're not used to protecting our venues," said Georgia Erdmann. "With everything else we're doing, that might not be at the top of our priority list."

Char Blashill suggested that people are often apathetic until after the fact, and said they should contact the City Council with their concerns.