Goodbye, Greta: May 4 grand opening for DL library's new restrooms will also be a farewell for its director
The Detroit Lakes Public Library's Executive Director, Greta Guck, will be leaving on May 5 to take on a new challenge: Bookstore ownership.
DETROIT LAKES — The Detroit Lakes Public Library's head librarian is excited to be celebrating the completion of its $105,000 restroom renovation project.
The two-month project, which began on Jan. 16, included the complete rebuilding of both the men's and women's restrooms at the library, to make them wheelchair-accessible.
"They were built as part of the library's 1988 addition," said Detroit Lakes Public Library Director Greta Guck, explaining that this predated the passage of the American Disabilities Act in 1990. "They were grandfathered in (i.e., not required to meet ADA accessibility guidelines because they were built before those guidelines became mandatory)."
But a community needs assessment that was conducted by the Detroit Lakes Library Board in 2020-21 identified making its restrooms more accessible as a top priority — and an anonymous donation from a community resident made it possible .
Automatic restroom door openers, which cost $10,632, were funded by a grant from the Detroit Lakes Area Community Foundation, along with a contribution from the Detroit Lakes Library Fund. The remainder of the project was paid for by the anonymous donation, Guck noted.
Besides replacement of all the plumbing and realignment of the bathroom stalls to make them large enough for ADA compliance, the project also included replacement of two water fountains outside the restrooms with a water bottle filling station and a new, wheelchair-accessible fountain.
The design work on the project was completed by BHH Architects, based in Perham, and Theisen Design Studios of Ottertail, with Ledgestone, Inc., of Detroit Lakes serving as the general contractor. Ledgestone also used local businesses as subcontractors on the project, Guck added.
"We were very pleased with the work from all of them," Guck said, adding that she was proud of the finished product, which will be unveiled to the public at a chamber ribbon-cutting ceremony at 3 p.m. on Thursday, May 4.
But the grand opening celebration is also a bittersweet one for Guck, who has served as the Detroit Lakes Public Library's director since taking over for Mary Haney on Jan. 2, 2019. The May 4 event will also serve as her goodbye party: Guck's last day on the job will be Friday, May 5, as she is leaving her duties with Lake Agassiz Regional Library System to pursue a lifelong dream.
"I'm going to be an independent bookstore owner," said Guck in a Wednesday interview. She is in the process of purchasing The Willow Bookstore in downtown Perham.
Though the sale is not yet finalized, Guck is eager to take on this career change. "It's going to be a whole new challenge for me, but I'm excited," she said. "I've never even worked in a bookstore before, though I've always loved them."
An avid reader since childhood, Guck says that all of her travels as an adult have included visits to local bookstores and public libraries whenever possible — even when traveling abroad. Before her 10-year career as a librarian, however, Guck had originally intended to become a teacher.
"After graduating from Perham High School, I went to the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities and got a bachelor's degree in English," Guck said in a 2019 interview with the Tribune.
"Then I went back for my teaching license in secondary English, and did my student teaching." But as she was wrapping up her coursework, Guck realized that being a full-time teacher "wasn't quite for me."
So even while doing some substitute teaching work in the metro area, she was already beginning to look around for other career options.
"I had no idea what I wanted to do," Guck said candidly. "But I was spending a lot of time at the public library in Minneapolis, and that was when I realized — I love interacting with people, I love the environment that libraries provide ... it's a real melting pot, with such a diverse population, all gathering in this one spot.
"It finally dawned on me that people work at libraries," she said. "So I started researching graduate schools."
She eventually applied to and was accepted at the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire, where she earned her Master of Information and Library Science (MILS) degree from the School of Information Studies (SOIS).
"I absolutely loved it," she said of the MILS program. "Right in the first semester, I knew — this is where I belong."
She went on to work at the Minot Public Library, which is located in North Dakota, about an hour from the Canadian border.
After a couple of years at Minot as the library's technology coordinator, Guck got a job as the director of the Leach Public Library in Wahpeton, North Dakota, where she would spend the next 2 ½ years.
After nearly five years in North Dakota, Guck found herself moving back to Wisconsin, where she spent a year working at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Library in Eau Claire before finally coming back to her home state to take a job at the Detroit Lakes Public Library.
"I was hired as the youth services librarian (at Detroit Lakes) in September of 2017," Guck said, "and I did that until I became the director."
Though she said she has loved her work as a librarian, when she found out that the bookstore in her native Perham was up for sale, she couldn't let the opportunity pass her by.
"It's (being a librarian) a wonderful career, but I've also always been passionate about independent bookstores," she said. "I've always had the thought in the back of my head, but it never made sense to own my own bookstore — until now."
Guck, who moved back to her hometown when she started work at the Detroit Lakes library, said she has been making the drive from Perham to Detroit Lakes (and back again) every workday since. Now, her commute will be much shorter.
"My parents live there, three of my six siblings live there — I'm staying put," she said.
Guck said she has also been receiving advice on becoming a bookstore owner from Amy Erickson, a longtime Detroit Lakes resident who opened Bluebird Books on Washington Avenue last summer.
"That's the good thing about independent bookstores — they collaborate with each other when they can," she said, adding that she hopes this collaboration will result in more book tour stops in northwest Minnesota and similar joint ventures in the future.
If you go
What: Restroom Grand Opening/Farewell Reception
Where: Detroit Lakes Public Library, 1000 Washington Ave.
When: 3 to 4 p.m. Thursday, May 4
Who: The Chamber of Commerce will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the library's new bathrooms at 3 p.m., followed by a tour, a short program thanking all of the project donors, and a farewell reception for outgoing library Director Greta Guck, whose last day on the job is May 5. Light refreshments will be served.
How: This event is free and open to the public. Call the library at 218-847-2168 for more information.