Donations make renovation possible for Detroit Lakes Public Library

Library hopes to start bathroom renovation work soon, artistic wall also planned.

Greta Guck, Detroit Lakes Public Library director since 2019, holds a historic portrait of where she is pictured standing in the library. She noted the wood fireplace was replaced with an electric, and updates to the main entrance bathrooms are slated to happen soon.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune

DETROIT LAKES — The main bathrooms at the Detroit Lakes Public Library will soon get some upgrades thanks to an anonymous donor.

After the library completed a community needs assessment report with surveys, interviews and group discussions, it was clear that remodeling the bathrooms was a top priority. An anonymous donor approached Library Director Greta Guck and offered to expedite the project by footing the construction bill, estimated at $100,000. The city, which owns the library, paid for the preliminary work, such as the assessment report, as well as the interior and architectural design.

“We are beyond appreciative of the generosity of the donor,” Guck said. “Everything fell into place (with this project). The city is amazing and supported what needed to be done. Watching it all come together has been pretty incredible to see. The project is a true testament of the value of the library to the community.”

The start date for work to begin on the bathrooms depends on when the contractor has all materials on hand.

“The hope is to start (construction) in the winter or spring of 2023,” Guck said, adding the work will last about six weeks.


During construction, the main bathrooms will be closed, but there are other lavatories that can be used in the building.

The bathrooms date back to the 1980s. While there is a stall for people with disabilities, the current layout is not accommodating for all. Upon entering the bathroom, there is a wall that juts out to create a hallway. At the end of the short hallway, there is a 90-degree turn to enter the main part of the bathroom. Guck said the arrangement is the same for ladies and gentlemen, with the only difference being that the ladies have two stalls.

The new bathroom design will use the same space. However, upon entering, the stalls will be straight ahead, and the wall that creates the short hallway will be removed. The sinks, tiles, ceiling and lights will be replaced and a modern baby changing station will be added.

Just outside the bathrooms are two water fountains. Both are scheduled to be replaced. One will become a water bottle filler and the other will remain a fountain, Guck said.

Terry Kalil, the vice president of the Lake Agassiz Regional Library system, said the wall with the water fountains is scheduled to be tiled floor to ceiling.

“We saw the wall and then we saw an opportunity,” Kalil said, adding the need for color was identified in the community needs assessment. She explained the interior of the library was painted a few years ago, but the neutral colors lack a focal point.

“We stood there and looked at it (the wall) and got inspiration from a beautiful quilt hanging behind the front desk,” Kalil said, noting the textural elements and fun patterns were considered when it came to the plans for the decorative wall. “It will be a feast for the eye. I’m so excited about it.”

Once the bathroom construction is done, the library plans to hold a grand opening.


Original Library.jpg
The Detroit Lakes Public Library was built because of a grant by Andrew Carnegie.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Women brought the library to life in DL

The library began in Detroit Lakes in 1907 by a “group of women,” Guck said. The first library books were donated, and the library site was in the lower part of a Baptist Church.

Land parcels on the corner of Washington Avenue and Frazee Street were gifted to the library board in 1909 by E.G. Holmes. The timing was right because discussions about a potential library-building grant from Andrew Carnegie occurred the following year, according to history notes posted on a library wall.

Carnegie made his fortune in the steel industry and used some of his wealth to help cities build a library. There were 1,689 Carnegie libraries built in the U.S. between 1891 and 1919 because of the grant funding he offered, and the Detroit Lakes Public Library was one of them. The cornerstone of the Detroit Lakes Public Library was laid on May 28, 1913.

“When he (Carnegie) died, the program ended,” Guck said, adding the wealthy man provided $41.75 million in grants to build libraries, which would equate to $614 million today.

The original section of the library still stands, with the main entrance facing Washington Avenue. Upstairs, books could be found along with a checkout counter and wood fireplace. Downstairs offers a large meeting room. In the basement is where one bathroom will be located, while the main ones are closed.

In 1989, an addition was made to the library building. Walking down the main aisle to a staircase, Guck pointed to the ceiling where a line can be seen. The line looks as if it were part of the design, but she explained it is where the new addition begins. Near that defining line is also an elevator, which provides access to the lower level bathroom and main floor of the original library for people with disabilities.

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