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Board: Library must be included in DMC plan

Do the aggressive changes planned by Destination Medical Center bulldoze over the Rochester Public Library?

Some library advocates worry that they do and hope to do something about it.

The library board plans to advocate strongly for inclusion of a renovated or new library as an anchor to the Destination Medical Center development plan, members said at their Wednesday night meeting.

Many have worried aloud that some draft drawings of DMC downtown infrastructure do not include the library at its current location on the corner of Second Street Southeast and Third Avenue Southeast overlooking Mayo Civic Center.

The library's director and board members met with Destination Medical Center planners this month, including DMC Economic Development Agency Executive Director Lisa Clarke, DMC master planner Peter Cavaluzzi and others.


"We had a really good conversation. We were actually there with them an hour and half," said Jan Engberg, president of the Library Board.

Engberg said DMC planners agreed they would include "wording to the effect that the Rochester Public Library is essential to a vibrant downtown — and it must be downtown."

The library, she said, needs to be part of the core of downtown.

Library advocates said a future downtown library should continue to have access to parking, a spot outside for borrowers to drop off books via drive-up and walk-up, close public transportation for those who do not have their own vehicles, a parking place for the Bookmobile, accessibility features, a street-level entrance, a loading dock, skyway access and close proximity to Mayo Clinic.

Could the library, the second busiest in Minnesota according to Board member Diane Moench, get DMC money to relocate or expand at its current location?

"We were repeatedly told this group does not do the funding," Engberg said.

Rather, it's the Rochester City Council that must approve DMC construction projects — after the formal DMC development plan is finalized.

Library Director Audrey Betcher said DMC planners emphasized that the most-recently released DMC drawings are "aspirational" in nature, not final.


Many don't recognize the expansive programs the library undertakes, such as bringing book authors to town, holding political debates and drawing 600,000 visitors annually, board members said.

For now, they said they will await publication of the DMC development plan to see whether it shows the library expanded at its current location to meet growth or in a new location altogether.

When the DMC plan is made public, the board will ask library supporters to join it in advocating for the library's needs, members said. In the meantime, they plan an education campaign to raise awareness about the library's importance and its services.

"I think we really need to advocate for the best outcome for the library no matter what it is," said Library Board secretary Lou Ohly, who also is a member of the Olmsted County Board of Commissioners. "We're part of the discussion now, and we're not an afterthought any more."


Age discrimination

The library has been notified of an age discrimination complaint due to its requirement that children younger than 10 be accompanied.

Audrey Betcher, the Rochester Public Library's director, said nobody had brought the issue up at the library before the complaint was filed to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights on Sept. 4.


The library's policy doesn't require that a child age 9 or younger be accompanied by a parent. Rather, the child is required to be accompanied in order to be at the library. An older sibling, for example, could accompany the youngster.

The Office for Civicl Rights has referred the case, as required by the Age Discrimination Act, to mediation through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

The library was not asked to respond to the complaint, Betcher said, and is awaiting updates.

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